Vimla Sood, Tabitha Solomon, Fatima Ali Jinnah……Who among them are the first female dentists of India?
Women have a long history in the field of dentistry. Badri Teymourtash was the first female Iranian dentist. Josephrine Serre became the first women to receive the dentistry degree from the University of Tartu in the year 1814. In 1859, Emekline Robert Jones was the first woman to establish a regular dental practice in the United States.
Sai So Yeong was the first Chinese-American women to become a dentist in United States. She graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry) in 1904.
Likewise, India too has a rich history of female dentists. According to the Hindustan times (HT), an Indian English-language newspaper, Dr Vimla Sood was the first female dentist of India, who graduated in the year 1944 from DeMontmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore.
She then completed internship in New York and later attained a master degree in Paediatric dentistry from the University of Minnesota in 1955, after which she returned back to India and joined Wellingdon Hospital in Delhi, now known as Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
But the fact is that there were few other female dentists who graduated prior to her. Among them, two have been documented, Fatima Ali Jinnah and Tabitha Solomon who qualified dentistry almost two decades earlier.
Fatima Ali Jinnah became a certified dentist in the year 1923 from Dr R Ahmed Dental College (previously known as Calcutta Dental College and Hospital) located in Calcutta, Undivided India. She worked independently in a clinical setting in Bombay until 1929 when she ended her clinical practice to support and stay with her brother Muhammad Ali Jinnah upon hearing the news of his wife’s (Ruttanbai) death.
Another female dentist was Dr Tabitha Solomon, who from the same college as Fatima Ali Jinnah, graduated in 1928. She aided Dr Rafiuddin Ahmed by contributing to his publications of the Indian Dental Journal. This dentist, belonging to a Jewish community, started her very own clinic in Chittarnjan Seva Sadan Hospital and also served in the Dufferin Hospital.
One needs to correctly identify the facts after diligent and systematic investigation of the available data to reach a desired conclusion.
The undeniable fact that Fatima Ali Jinnah graduated in the year 1923 makes her the first female and a Muslim dentist of Undivided India followed by Tabitha Solomon who graduated five years after her.