Sharon Nicholson Harrell, DDS, MPH, FAGD, Recipient of FirstHealth MLK Leadership Award

PINEHURST—Sharon Nicholson Harrell, DDS, MPH, FAGD, director of FirstHealth Dental, has been named the 2020 recipient of the FirstHealth MLK Leadership Award. Dr. Harrell was presented the honor during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Event held at Moore Regional Hospital on January 17.

During her keynote presentation at the tribute event, Dr. Harrell stated, “Without the vision and leadership of Dr. King, I would not be standing before you today. Because of Dr. King’s dream, I was able to fulfill mine.”

Dr. Harrell has served as the inaugural director of dental care for FirstHealth of the Carolinas since 1998, leading the delivery of comprehensive dental care to more than 28,000 underserved patients up to age 21. Under her direction, the centers have received national attention as models for delivery of care to low-income populations. The full-time flagship dental office is located in Southern Pines, and the two part-time, school-based dental offices are located in Biscoe and Mt. Gilead on the campuses of East Middle School and West Middle School in Montgomery County.

In addition to her administrative and clinical responsibilities, Dr. Harrell serves on the FirstHealth Physician Group Executive Council and is a member of the FirstHealth Provider Wellbeing Committee.

Dr. Harrell received her dental degree from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 1987 where she also serves as an adjunct professor, and she completed an Advanced General Dentistry residency at the University of Maryland Dental School in 1988. She attained her master’s degree in Public Health at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health in 1990, and has achieved Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry, the Pierre Fauchard Academy, the International College of Dentists, and most recently, the Academy of Dentistry International. Dr. Harrell was also awarded the American Dental Association Golden Apple Award for Outstanding Leadership in Mentoring for her work with high school students, dental students, dental auxiliary students from Montgomery Community College and Central Carolina Community College, and young dentists.

Dr. Harrell’s passion is expanding access to dental care for underserved children, and in 2011, the North Carolina Academy of Pediatric Dentistry awarded her the first ever Pediatric Oral Health Service Award for her work. She was selected as a recipient of the North Carolina Dental Society’s Citizenship Award, chosen as the Health Policy and Management Alumnus of the Year at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, and participated in the first Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health Satellite Media Tour.

The FirstHealth MLK Leadership Award is given to community members who embody the spirit of Dr. King’s work. During the presentation of the award, Daniel Barnes, D.O., president of FirstHealth Physician Group, described Dr. Harrell as a leader who upholds the highest ideals of service and leadership.