Hibret Hailu Benjamin

So when a local lab technician appointed as a “dentist” pulled her tooth in a traumatic procedure, the then 9-year-old Benjamin vowed not to see another one go the same way, and to someday find better care. That care came at age 13 when, during the worst of Ethiopia’s civil war, Benjamin and her parents moved to San Francisco. One of her mother’s first acts in their new home: make Benjamin a dentist appointment. 

“That was when I met my mentor and ‘tooth fairy,’” says Benjamin. “My new dentist didn’t leave a dollar under my pillow; instead, she managed to keep all my teeth in my head.” The experience convinced Benjamin to abandon plans to become a physician (her parents’ hope) and pursue dentistry instead. “I knew there were many children and adults who also had experiences with poor dental care and whose endings weren’t as lucky as mine. I wanted to be able to give back,” she says. 

My mentor and ‘tooth fairy,’ didn’t leave a dollar under my pillow; instead, she managed to keep all my teeth in my head.


When Benjamin discovered her dentist was a UCSF alumna, she knew where she wanted to get her degree. Despite language barriers, she worked hard academically and earned admission to the School of Dentistry. Four years after graduating, she discovered a way to honor her heroine, opening her own family practice in San Francisco named the Marina Tooth Fairy. 

Benjamin devotes a great deal of time to learning new techniques and technologies to better serve her patients. The mother of a young son, she also volunteered for four years on the board of directors of the San Francisco Dental Society. “UCSF prepared me to be the dentist I’ve always wanted to be,” Benjamin says, “one with excellent training and grounded ethics who gives and receives respect and gratitude equally with her patients.” 

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