A significant childhood event was key to Harlyn Susarla, D.M.D., choosing a career in health care. It inspired her desire and determination to pursue a role in public health and, ultimately, pediatric dentistry.
"When I was an infant, I sustained a substantial third-degree burn to my right leg," Dr. Susarla said. "Consequently, as a small child, I spent a lot of time in doctor's appointments and hospitals. Fortunately, my health care providers made it so that going to see the doctor wasn't scary; they made me feel safe."
Although she doesn't remember the actual experience of being injured or the initial hospitalization, Dr. Susarla does recall the many years of follow-up treatments. Having spent her childhood in the care of specialists working to ensure proper healing and to preserve her ability to walk helped her build empathy for children who interact with health care professionals.
"Because of my own experiences with health care providers, I was able to recover from my injury and have a life of a typical child," she said. "I always knew in the back of my mind that whatever I did, I wanted to be able to give back to others; a career in health care was a natural fit."
Dr. Susarla has since built a commendable career as a board-certified pediatric dentist and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She is also a 2022 ADA 10 Under 10 Award recipient, recognized for her advocacy in children's oral health and strong commitment to service.
Dr. Susarla lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and two daughters. In April, she joined the staff at Seattle Children's Odessa Brown Children's Clinic. She also works in private practice at Ballard Pediatric Dentistry one day a week.
An English major with a math minor at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, she later earned a master's degree in public health from Boston University and then a dental degree from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 2013. She completed her residency in pediatric dentistry at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 2016.