Dr. Esther M. Wilkins was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science in Health Science degree by the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for her outstanding achievements in the practice and advancement of dental hygiene as a dental hygienist, dentist, and educator for more than 66 years. The degree was awarded at the college’s commencement ceremony on May 16, 2004, at the Bayside Expo Center in Boston.
In presenting her degree, College President Charles F. Monahan, Jr., recognized Wilkins’ ongoing efforts to advance the profession of dental hygiene through scholarly research and her groundbreaking work in expanding the dental hygiene curriculum to include an understanding of the disease process, the prevention of dental caries, and the treatment of periodontal disease. He also cited her authorship of two books - including the most widely used dental hygiene textbook in the world - soon to be reissued in its ninth edition, as well as her energetic presentation of more than 700 continuing-education programs throughout the world. Monahan said Wilkins’ “unselfish mentorship of students and colleagues has made her one of the most beloved figures in the profession.”
In accepting the degree, Wilkins addressed the graduates saying, “We are all specialists in the health sciences. We all have the same common goals related to the betterment and safeguarding of the health of all people. It is an honor for me to accept this degree on behalf of all dental hygienists … around the world.” Before thanking President Monahan, she added, “We are proud that our Forsyth Dental Hygiene [program] has found a warm nest here at the MCPHS. I assure you that dental hygiene will play a significant role in the ongoing history of this college.”
Wilkins’ achievements in higher education include serving as founding director of dental hygiene at the University of Washington School of Dentistry and as a clinical professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She has been a state and national leader through her involvement as president of Sigma Phi Alpha Dental Hygiene Honor Society, The Massachusetts Dental Hygienists’ Association, and the Massachusetts Women’s Dental Society, as well as a trustee of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. We are proud to have her as a long-time member of the American Association of Women Dentists. Congratulations, Dr. Wilkins!