PINEHURST – Dr. Kristina Coffield closed her eyes as she presented the first-ever Pediatric Oral Health Service Award from the North Carolina Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (NCAPD)
Sharon Nicholson Harrell, DDS, MPH (left), received the first-ever Pediatric Oral Health Service Award from the North Carolina Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (NCAPD). She is pictured with Kristina Coffield, DDS, a pediatric dentist who spent a year working with Dr. Harrell at the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers before opening her own pediatric practice. Dr. Coffield presented the award to Dr. Harrell.
To have looked at Dr. Sharon Nicholson Harrell as she talked about her friend and mentor and her numerous contributions to children and oral health would certainly have meant tears, Dr. Coffield says.
“I was really honored to present the award to Dr. Harrell,” says Dr. Coffield. “I think so highly of her.”
Dr. Harrell, director of the FirstHealth of the Carolinas Dental Care Centers in Moore, Hoke and Montgomery counties, received the inaugural Pediatric Oral Health Service Award during an event held in Chapel Hill earlier this fall. She describes the award as “an indescribable honor.”
“It’s been my joy and pleasure to give back to dentistry by working to ensure that underserved children get the dental care that they need,” she says.
The NCAPD is made up of professionals who are committed to the dental health care of children, adolescents and special needs patients through patient care, education, research, advocacy and communication. According to Dr. Eugene Howden, Dr. Harrell embodies each of these characteristics through her work with the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers.
A retired Chapel Hill pediatric dentist who now lives in Pinehurst, Dr. Howden nominated Dr. Harrell for NCAPD award.
“There are glowing reports about the kind of person she is and how she serves the children in three counties,” Dr. Howden says. “We decided that because of what she is doing, she would be the first to receive this award. She truly is a compassionate, great provider of pediatric dental services.”
A number of now-established pediatric dental care professionals have either worked with Dr. Harrell at the three FirstHealth clinics or have completed clinical training rotations under her guidance there. One was Dr. Coffield, who spent a year with the centers as a staff dentist while awaiting her appointment to a pediatric dental residency.
“I was just straight out of (dental) school,” Dr. Coffield says. “She was a great role model and taught me so much. My colleagues all think so highly of her, too. She’s an all-around solid, wonderful human being and a good leader for her team as well as a mentor for those just starting out.”
According to NCAPD President E. LaRee Johnson, DDS, MS, the organization’s membership was pleased to present its first Pediatric Oral Health Service Award to Dr. Harrell. “Her years of advocacy for children’s oral health, hard work and camaraderie in dentistry have made her the perfect recipient for this prestigious award,” Dr. Johnson says.
A native of Rockingham, Dr. Harrell received an undergraduate degree in chemistry and her doctor of dental surgery degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After earning a certificate in advanced general dentistry from the University of Maryland College of Dental Surgery, she returned to UNC-Chapel Hill for a master’s degree in public health.
She began her career as a staff dentist with Family FirstHealth Corporation in York, Pa., and then became dental director for the Cumberland County (N.C.) Health Department in Fayetteville.
She has been director of the FirstHealth Dental Care Centers since the program’s creation in 1998.
A Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and the Pierre Fauchard Academy, she is an adjunct professor with the UNC School of Dentistry. She and her husband, Michael Harrell, make their home in Pinehurst with their young son, Brandon.