Alumni Spotlight


 Did you know that in 1987 Congress declared March as national Women’s History Month?

Ida Gray Nelson Rollins(1867-1953) was the first African American woman to graduate from dental school. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1890 she opened a practice in Cincinnati and later another in Chicago. The first African American male to graduate from a dental school was Robert Tanner Freeman in 1869, from Harvard. In 1970 Harold Howard was the first African American graduate from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry.   Five years later, African American Women’s dental history was made at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry with the graduation of Dr. Madeline Hicks in 1975.

Dr. Hicks had read about Dr. Ida Gray Nelson Rollins when she was in elementary school, her grandmother would read to her from a book, ”Sayings and Doings of the Race”, that included the story of Ida Gray. Young Madeline wrote her own name in that book. In Junior High School Madeline completed a career exploration in dentistry and medicine, choosing dentistry as her preferred career.   

Dr. Hicks is a graduate of Indiana University, where she earned a degree in biology. She also completed studies and received a teaching certificate to teach grades k-12 from the University of Louisville. She taught ninth grade for one year in the Louisville Independent School System, before beginning dental school 1971.  Her mother and father were both educators.

Dr. Hicks built a successful private dental practice that thrived for more than 29 years here in Louisville, Kentucky.  After shoulder surgery in 2004, she chose to end her private practice. Since then she has taught part-time at the University Of Louisville School of Dentistry for the past 15 years. The remainder of her time is spent in community service and ministry.  She earned a degree in Discipleship and Family Ministry with a minor in Worship from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky in May of 2016.

Dr. Hicks recalls the first day at U of L as a freshman dental student where she became aware that she was the only African American, and one of only three women, in her class. Later, she learned that she was the only African American student in the whole school. “I felt fairly isolated during the first few weeks of classes.  I did not know anyone in my class before I enrolled. I was married and lived off campus.  So I did not know any of my classmates from the dorm either.  But after our first Gross Anatomy tests, the ice broke…I began to study with one of my classmates and I started to feel more at home.” There are many challenges in dental school.  “The biggest for me was that I was the first person of color with whom many of my classmates had ever had a conversation with. I was kind of an experiment for them. It took about two years before many of these students accepted the fact that I was a good student who could be trusted for accurate information. Over all, I have some really good memories from dental school.  We worked hard.  But my class mates were a lot of fun, too. I really appreciate the time and effort that the faculty put into helping us become knowledgeable and confident practitioners. I am now grateful that I was put in the position of opening the door of this school for other people of color and women in particular. It was a tough road in some respects.  But I think this is a role that I was destined to undertake. Today, it is so rewarding to see the friendships and the racial and gender diversity in the classes. The world is much easier when we learn and work together. Stereotypes are broken.  We learn that even though we have cultural differences, we are more alike than we are different in the realm of humanity. Appreciation for our individual strengths and differences work to make our global dental community stronger!”

Dr. Hicks began Open Mouth Ministries in June of 2007 with a free concert to celebrate the release of her first CD, “After the Third Day, songs and prayers for spiritual healing."  Open Mouth Ministries is a ministry of Restoration and Empowerment through the love of Jesus Christ.   The theme of the ministry is, “From Dentistry to Ministry, Music and Message That Heals the Heart.”

Dr. Hicks is the mother of one son, Chester, Jr., (Charlita) and the grandmother to their three children, Elijah, Elana, and Malachi. Dr Hicks is a lifelong learner, musically gifted and has a heart for service and mentorship. Dr Hicks opened the door and held it open for the rest of us with her grace, dignity, teaching, professionalism and mentorship. Thank You Dr Madeline Maupin Hicks for all you have done and continue to do for the people you serve.

- Dr. Sherry Babbage, Coordinator of Diversity and Inclusion, ULSD

Read a full-length interview with Dr. Hicks at