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Spelman College Healthcare Heroes

Spelman's Healthcare Heroes

Spelman Messenger Fall 2019Combating gun violence, tackling the AIDS/HIV crisis, addressing health disparities in Black and marginalized communities –– these are just some of the ways Spelman alumnae have forged their careers in STEM with their passions for social change.

The “Healing Hands” cover of the Spelman College Messenger features Drs. Loren Robinson Abebe, Hazel D. Dean, Juvonda Hodge, Lezli Levene Harvell, and Deborah Prothrow-Stith, who are examples of the endless possibility that amasses when one pairs their “Choice to Change the World” with medicine and health. In their respective careers, these Spelman women are shaping and shifting the ways a STEM-related liberal arts education can alleviate health inequity, analyze the social and structural determinants that affect health, cure diseases within at-risk communities, and increase Black women’s representation in healthcare and medicine.

Each of these alumnae have made innovative changes in their fields, some even shifting the organizational structure of their disciplines to promote “pipelines” and opportunities for more women of color to enter these professions. Passionate and ardent about their work, their dreams of being healthcare professionals and researchers began at a young age. As you will learn, they brought their budding interests in the sciences to Spelman, which blossomed into full-fledged careers and leading initiatives.

These women are being featured for their timeless work and dedication to the upliftment of their communities both within and outside of their careers. Through philanthropic endeavors, promoting equal access to health services, regardless of one’s race, socioeconomic or health status, or seeking to understand how institutional racism and oppression affect health disparities, these Spelman sisters truly represent selflessness and advocacy for the greater good. 

Strong Family Ties Guide Her Service to Others: Lezli Levene Harvell, M.D., C'2000

by Kendall Daniels | November 01, 2019

Lezli Levene Harvell Growing up as a proud, first-generation Jamaican-American, Levene Harvell, M.D., C’2000, was raised in a home where family helped one other and the idea of giving back was commonplace.

This philosophy continues to shape Harvell’s work and remains the driving force for why giving means so much to her.

“My mother established herself in this country before some of her siblings and extended family members migrated here. As a result, there was an expectation that you don’t go through the door and close it behind you,” said Harvell, whose parents migrated from Jamaica. “It’s expected that if you have a home that is large enough, you open your house to a relative who is trying to establish him or herself in this country. It was just how I was raised. You don’t throw things out. You send things back home. That’s how it was going to a school like Spelman. There were so many opportunities to give to the surrounding community that encompasses the College.”

Integrating Passions with Profession

A pediatric dentist and passionate food devotee based in New Jersey, Harvell is widely known within the culinary community for her successful and well-respected Iconoclast Dinner Experience. She established the fundraiser in 2015 to recognize trailblazing culinary and beverage professionals of color while benefiting students from Jamaica and sub-Saharan African countries attending Spelman College. The annual series of curated culinary events, which are hosted in New York, Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard, has raised $110,000 in scholarships since its inception.

Harvell approaches her work as a board-certified pediatric dentist with the same degree of purpose. She and her husband, Chris, founded Dental Kidz in 2009 with the specific intention of locating to a medically underserved area and creating access to care. Dental Kidz is an 8,000-square-foot, full-service, state-of-the-art dental practice located in downtown Newark. Harvell and her team of dentists provide for all children — regardless of their medical or socioeconomic status.

“When my husband and I opened Dental Kidz, one of the things we wanted to be able to provide was the highest quality of care by culturally competent providers who have strong connections to the community they serve,” she said. “Also, we’re not located in an area where parents can’t access us. We take all types of insurance. We never want anyone to feel like they cannot come to us. That was also important to us as far as creating access to care.”

Extending her Parents' Legacy 

Harvell is quick to credit her parents, former Spelman professors, as well as the tight-knit Spelman sisterhood and network for helping her become the accomplished woman and professional she is today. As the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, she found Spelman to be a safe place where she could grow, be affirmed, and vocalize her ideas and opinions while being celebrated as a Black woman. Spelman ultimately gave her the confidence and proved to be the perfect place to fortify herself as a young Black woman entering dental school and eventually the workforce.

“Education was very important to my parents, and it was always something that was stressed in my home,” said Harvell, a mother of five daughters — two of whom currently attend Spelman. “My mother worked as a registered nurse at New York University Medical Center and met female physicians who went to Spelman whom she wanted me to emulate. She felt that it was important for me to have that time at Spelman. It was a significant financial commitment, and my parents gave me that gift.”

Just as her parents blessed her with the gift of a Spelman education, Harvell remains determined to do her part by giving back to her younger Spelman sisters. Through her Iconoclast Dinner Experience, she hopes to one day have a $1 million scholarship endowment for students attending Spelman from the Caribbean or the continent of Africa.

“I would hope that what [philanthropist] Robert Smith did for Morehouse will encourage other billionaires to take a look at HBCUs and consider giving,” she said. “As for me, I would hope that establishing my scholarship and doing this work encourages other people that they don’t have to be Robert Smith or Bill and Melinda Gates to make an impact.”

Lezli Levene Harvell
By Alicia Sands Lurry, as seen in The Spelman Messenger.

Spelman Student Studies in GreeceAccording to a National Science Foundation report, Spelman College is ranked as the No. 1 baccalaureate institution of origin for Black Ph.D.s in science and engineering. Also, according to the Spelman College Fact Book, 34% of the College’s student body pursued majors in biology, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, physics, environmental science or engineering (dual degree program), and 25% of graduates received degrees in STEM disciplines. To honor some of the many STEM graduates of Spelman, we have comprised a list of healthcare professionals to highlight their achievements. These healthcare professionals include administrators, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, psychiatrists, and physicians who dedicate their lives to elevating the physical, mental and spiritual well being of others.

Expand the arrow to the right of each healthcare category below to view listings. Alumnae whose names are hyperlinked are also speakers or panelists at the Spelman College Heathcare Summit on Oct. 24-25.

Add to Our List of Healthcare Heroes

There are hundreds of Spelman College healthcare stars who are changing the world. If you are featured on this list compiled by the Spelman Messenger staff, we celebrate you and your accomplishments, as well as thank you for your contributions to providing healthcare to those in need. Feel free to share your information with us using the form on this page.
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We want to hear from Spelman alumnae in the healthcare industry. Please let us know what you are doing now and how your experience at Spelman informed your choices.   

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Healthcare Summit Speakers

Strong Family Ties Guide Her Service to Others: Lezli Levene Harvell, M.D., C'2000

by Kendall Daniels | November 01, 2019

Lezli Levene Harvell Growing up as a proud, first-generation Jamaican-American, Levene Harvell, M.D., C’2000, was raised in a home where family helped one other and the idea of giving back was commonplace.

This philosophy continues to shape Harvell’s work and remains the driving force for why giving means so much to her.

“My mother established herself in this country before some of her siblings and extended family members migrated here. As a result, there was an expectation that you don’t go through the door and close it behind you,” said Harvell, whose parents migrated from Jamaica. “It’s expected that if you have a home that is large enough, you open your house to a relative who is trying to establish him or herself in this country. It was just how I was raised. You don’t throw things out. You send things back home. That’s how it was going to a school like Spelman. There were so many opportunities to give to the surrounding community that encompasses the College.”

Integrating Passions with Profession

A pediatric dentist and passionate food devotee based in New Jersey, Harvell is widely known within the culinary community for her successful and well-respected Iconoclast Dinner Experience. She established the fundraiser in 2015 to recognize trailblazing culinary and beverage professionals of color while benefiting students from Jamaica and sub-Saharan African countries attending Spelman College. The annual series of curated culinary events, which are hosted in New York, Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard, has raised $110,000 in scholarships since its inception.

Harvell approaches her work as a board-certified pediatric dentist with the same degree of purpose. She and her husband, Chris, founded Dental Kidz in 2009 with the specific intention of locating to a medically underserved area and creating access to care. Dental Kidz is an 8,000-square-foot, full-service, state-of-the-art dental practice located in downtown Newark. Harvell and her team of dentists provide for all children — regardless of their medical or socioeconomic status.

“When my husband and I opened Dental Kidz, one of the things we wanted to be able to provide was the highest quality of care by culturally competent providers who have strong connections to the community they serve,” she said. “Also, we’re not located in an area where parents can’t access us. We take all types of insurance. We never want anyone to feel like they cannot come to us. That was also important to us as far as creating access to care.”

Extending her Parents' Legacy 

Harvell is quick to credit her parents, former Spelman professors, as well as the tight-knit Spelman sisterhood and network for helping her become the accomplished woman and professional she is today. As the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, she found Spelman to be a safe place where she could grow, be affirmed, and vocalize her ideas and opinions while being celebrated as a Black woman. Spelman ultimately gave her the confidence and proved to be the perfect place to fortify herself as a young Black woman entering dental school and eventually the workforce.

“Education was very important to my parents, and it was always something that was stressed in my home,” said Harvell, a mother of five daughters — two of whom currently attend Spelman. “My mother worked as a registered nurse at New York University Medical Center and met female physicians who went to Spelman whom she wanted me to emulate. She felt that it was important for me to have that time at Spelman. It was a significant financial commitment, and my parents gave me that gift.”

Just as her parents blessed her with the gift of a Spelman education, Harvell remains determined to do her part by giving back to her younger Spelman sisters. Through her Iconoclast Dinner Experience, she hopes to one day have a $1 million scholarship endowment for students attending Spelman from the Caribbean or the continent of Africa.

“I would hope that what [philanthropist] Robert Smith did for Morehouse will encourage other billionaires to take a look at HBCUs and consider giving,” she said. “As for me, I would hope that establishing my scholarship and doing this work encourages other people that they don’t have to be Robert Smith or Bill and Melinda Gates to make an impact.”

Lezli Levene Harvell
By Alicia Sands Lurry, as seen in The Spelman Messenger.