Introducing: 28 Days of Black Excellence
Over the past three decades, Dr. Rand Harlow has been an integral part of the UIC community as a student, resident and faculty. As a young boy he knew that he wanted to become a dentist and he achieved his dream with the help of many mentors along the way. Dr. Harlow received his D.D.S. in 1992 and went on to complete a General Practice Residency Program at the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Medical Center, followed by a residency in Geriatric Dentistry. He then completed an Advanced Program in Prosthodontics at UIC. During his career he has served as the inaugural director of Predoctoral Implant Education, coordinator for the Predoctoral Implant Clinic where dental students provide implant therapy for patients, and director for the Advanced Prosthodontics Specialty Program. He is currently department head of Restorative Dentistry at the UIC College of Dentistry.
For decades in Chicago, UIC has been an integral part of the university experience for generations of Black and African descent students, faculty and staff. UIC’s Black Excellence series lifts up these stories. It brings the promise of today into conversation with a rich history of excellence that made today possible. So tune in every day during Black History Month 2022 and journey with alumni, faculty and staff from the past, as they share some of their fondest memories, their stories of resilience, of overcoming challenges, and as they offer a bit of sage advice. Our history and legacy of Black Excellence and belonging is captured with graduates from the early 1970s to our more recent departures in 2017. Graduates who have gone on to become a U.S. ambassador, non-for-profit leaders, a provost, authors, entrepreneurs, faculty members, engineers, and so much more. Join us to celebrate UIC’s legacy of Black Excellence, visit UIC.edu and look for “28 Days of Black Excellence.”
Tariq El-Amin 00:01
Welcome to Black excellence at UIC Office of Diversity, Equity and engagement with Dr. Aisha El-Amin
Recording of Dr. Martin Luther King 00:09
[Applause] Believe in yourself and believe that you’re somebody.
Clips from 1995 movie Panther 00:17
That we study and master a bunch of different things.
Why are you here?
Study and master a bunch of different things.
I’m proud to introduce our new Minister of Information
Aisha El-Amin 00:26
I’m Dr. Aisha El-Amin
Tariq El-Amin 00:29
Welcome to Black Excellence.
Aisha El-Amin 0:34
Greetings, UIC family and friends. Welcome to UIC’s “28 Days of Black Excellence.” I am Dr. Aisha El-Amin, and I serve as the associate vice chancellor for equity and belonging. It’s my great honor to celebrate the history of UIC’s black excellence with powerful, inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alumni and some of our faculty and staff in the past. Each day we’ll have a new guest and today I am excited to welcome Dr. Rand Harlow, who graduated in 1992 from the College of Dentistry and has been up to some some great things since then. And so, I’m just going to hand the mic over to Dr. Harlow and ask if you’ll first kind of tell us about yourself where you’re from and what have you been up to since you left us at UIC?
Rand Harlow 1:30
Sure, sure. Well, first of all, thank you for having me Dr. El-Amin. I appreciate the invite. It means a lot to me because I’ve been a UIC product for many, many years. And actually I’ve never left since since I got here. I thought a little bit about myself. So I’m from Chicago. Born and raised in Chicago. I grew up in Hyde Park, went to Kenwood Academy for high school. Kenwood grad I see you smiling there.
Aisha El-Amin 2:04
My sister was Kenwood. I went to CVS. I wasn’t quite Kenwood, but I love my Kenwood people.
Rand Harlow 2:12
So I went to Kenwood then went to undergrad at Northwestern University in Evanston. So never, never really went too far away from Chicago. And then came back to UIC for dental school. After I graduated in ’92, I spent a couple years at the VA hospital doing a general practice residency program. And that’s where I kind of fell in love with working with older patients and patients that needed complex dental care. So I came back to UIC and did an advanced prosthodontics program, it’s called, where we learn how to do complex reconstructions, dental implants, things like that. And then afterwards, stayed on faculty here and stayed on as faculty, and just kind of moved through the ranks. At first I was a general faculty member, where I supervised students. And then I got an opportunity to be one of the managers for what we call our group practices. And so I was a group practice manager. After that, I became the implant director. At the time, we were starting an implant program. Dental implants were a little bit new at the time and so, we wanted our students to learn how to do them. So I was the initial person that started that program. Eventually, I went up into my own specialty and started teaching as an associate director for the advanced prosthodontics program, and then eventually became the director of that program. And then just a few months ago, I became a department head of restorative dentistry. And that’s kind of my pathway. I’ve always been at UIC since that time. And it’s been a good run. I’ve enjoyed it. There have been obviously some challenges and things like that that happened along the way. But I wouldn’t do anything differently if I had the chance.
Aisha El-Amin 4:13
Wow. So first I have to backup, you know, a few seconds to thank you too. As a veteran, I appreciate you being in that space and serving veterans in the way that you have. So I have to give you just high accolades for that.
Rand Harlow 4:29
Oh, no problem. That was one of the best two years of my life. I mean, it really kind of set the tone for what I wanted to do. So, yeah. And thank you for your service.
Aisha El-Amin 4:39
Oh, I love that. Thank you so much. And so you have just a very, very unique perspective because you were able to be here as a student, you’re a faculty member, so your perspective is very extensive. And you’re a Chicagoan, right? [Laughter]. So all of those things, you know, I think a lot of our faculty, of our students, can relate to. As you look back at your, first of all, your journey, did you always know that you wanted to be a dentist? It sounds like you knew it and you just, I mean, moved so, so beautifully through that kind of journey. Was that the case?
Rand Harlow 5:20
You know what, I wish I had a fantastic story, you know, but I honestly became interested in dentistry probably when I was 12 years old. I had braces, and I actually had braces at University of Illinois in the orthodontics department. And I thought, wow, this is kind of cool, you know, all the tools and the advanced technologies that they use. And so I told my mom, at that time, and my dad that I wanted to be a dentist and so they supported me in it. And I really never wavered. I mean at some point I did. You know, you get to college and you have friends who are going to medical school and so yeah, come on, man, you know, you should go to medical school. And so for a minute, I kind of thought well maybe I should go into medicine, but it actually I just, you know, I maintained that course. I was in a program called CHAMPS, the Chicago Area Health and Medical Careers Program. I’m sure you’re familiar with that program. I was also in a program here at UIC called Dental Explorers for minority students that were interested in dentistry. I never really wavered. I just did, that was my path. And I just kept going and, you know, it ended up well for me, I think, yeah.
Aisha El-Amin 6:41
Wow, that is beautiful. So, as you look back on that journey, and your connection with UIC throughout, what are some of the fondest memories? Whether that be from your time as a student, or even as a faculty member, and all your different, you know, administrative positions as you continue to grow in those spaces.
Rand Harlow 7:06
You know, my first fond memories are from dental school, and not that all the memories were fond. [Laughter]. But I think about my classmates, a couple of them that work here at the school, that we still, we decided that we were going to stay the course in dental education, and the fun times that we had. You know, we were in school and we laugh about them and joke about them to this day. You know, and just getting through dental school is tough. Any healthcare professional school is tough. And so when you go through it with some people and a group of people that you really like and enjoy, you know those are fond memories for you, even though it was tough getting through. As a faculty member, I think, you know, obviously getting to know other people, making connections, having really good mentors, as you’re going through the process is really important. And so, those I have fond memories of establishing relationships with people, mentorships. And then, you know, also the different positions I’ve had, nothing is boring, nothing’s ever boring. So, I have really enjoyed the ride of having a different position as a faculty member here. And being in some roles where I was the initial person to start programs and to start various initiatives in the school. So those those have all been really fond memories. But they go all the way back to dental school with my buddies that I hung out with in first year. And there were three African American males in our class, no females. And that was it. And the three of us, we had to be tight. And we had to make it work, because we had to support each other to get through some tough times back then. So yeah.
Aisha El-Amin 9:04
Wow. So you had your tribe, I love it. I love it. So, as you look back at the challenges, and how you overcame those challenges, and other folks that are watching this that may be on their journey right now. And they’re, as a student, they’re trying to hit those books, as a faculty member, they’re trying to figure out how to continue to grow in different roles in administrative spaces. What is some of those pieces of advice that you can offer to folks?
Rand Harlow 9:42
Well, I would say, the first thing is, don’t give up, you know, times are always gonna be hard and challenging. So, but, you know, most people can overcome these challenges and so you definitely have to have a resolve that if things aren’t going the right way, if there’s a roadblock, and you have to find a way around it, and you know, you just have to have that resolve. Definitely, I would say mentorship is really, really important. You know, when I was in dental school, there were not a lot of faculty members that I could look up to mentor, certainly, there was no one that looked like me that I could, you know, have as a mentor. But there were a few people that said, “hey, we like Rand, we’re gonna help him out, we’re gonna mentor him.” I also had to look outside of the space, I had mentors in my life that weren’t necessarily in dentistry, but they gave me some good guidance. And that’s really important to have people that support you, whether it’s family, whether it’s friends, whether you know, someone in the community to reach out. No one gets to where they are without help. I mean, I had a lot of help getting to where I was starting with my parents, to mentors that guided you through school, through faculty mentors. So to me, that’s a crucial thing. You know, don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to approach people and ask for help, because we need help sometimes. So faculty mentorship, I mean, and that, that goes, even when you’re, you know, not only when you’re a student, but when I became a faculty member. I had some phenomenal mentors, when I was here. That helped me along the way, and helped me get through some tough times, quite frankly. Times where I had doubts about whether or not I wanted to continue as a career educator. And those people were crucial for me. So I would say definitely mentorship and find more than one mentor. That was just so crucial for my development as a person.
Aisha El-Amin 11:59
So, when everyone is reaching out to you to be their mentor, I’m just gonna, you know [Laughter]. You set yourself up nicely. No, no, I’m joking. I know that, it’s very funny because several people submitted your name. And so I know that that mentorship that you’re talking about.
Rand Harlow 12:23
I was wondering where you all got my name from. I’m like, well okay.
Aisha El-Amin 12:29
Several people submitted it. So you are mentoring folks, and people do see you and they are encouraged and inspired by you. And I want to thank you for sharing your journey with us, sharing your advice, and being part of UIC’s legacy of excellence.
Rand Harlow 12:46
Well, thank you very much. You know, like I said before, I’ve enjoyed the journey at UIC. You know, from when I first came in as a student, then as a resident and now as a faculty, UIC has grown as a university, in diversity, in the support, and it’s a really wonderful place to be. And I just encourage everyone, like I said, to seek mentorship, and seek networking opportunities, and dare to dream because you can do whatever you want, if you really put your mind to it, and if you have the help and support behind you. So, I appreciate the opportunity and thanks so much for having me.
Aisha El-Amin 13:32
You heard from Dr. Harlow. Dare to dream. Thanks again.
Rand Harlow 13:36
Tariq El-Amin 13:38
Thanks for joining us find more inspiring and informative conversations with UIC alum, faculty and staff at blackresources.uic.edu. That’s blackresources.uic.edu.