May 2024

Dental Grads: Tell Them UMB Sent You

May 21, 2024    |  

A sense of accomplishment, gratitude, and a commitment to compassionate patient care filled the air at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry's (UMSOD) Honors Convocation on May 17. Held at the Hippodrome Theatre, the ceremony celebrated the hard work and dedication of the newest class of dental and dental hygiene graduates.

School of Dentistry graduates read the Convocation Oath.

School of Dentistry graduates read the Convocation Oath.

With the notes of “Pomp and Circumstance” filling the room, family and friends clutched colorful bouquets as they craned their necks trying to catch a glimpse of their graduate processing down the aisle robed in the lilac and black academic regalia of the dental profession.

University of Maryland, Baltimore President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, conferred the degrees and praised the graduates' accomplishments. “I know you are each very proud of each other, and the faculty and staff are very proud of you,” Jarrell said. “But there’s a whole lot of other people in this room that are even more proud of your accomplishments,” he said, motioning to the packed theater.

Samantha Vernet beamed while extolling her cousin Laurie France, who was one of four graduates to complete the Clinical Dental Hygiene Leader dual BS/MS degree.

“It’s been a testament of her perseverance and endurance,” Vernet said. “There were some tough times and some good times, so seeing her being able to finish is really awesome.”

(See photo gallery below.)

During welcoming remarks, UMSOD Dean Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA, praised the Class of 2024’s technical skills while emphasizing the importance of connecting with patients. “It is of utmost importance to strive for excellence in your clinical work,” he said. “But it is equally important to learn to treat patients with empathy and compassion.”

UMSOD graduates learn to work with patients by serving the oral health needs of Baltimore and other Maryland communities. During the last fiscal year, faculty, staff, and students provided clinical care — on and off campus — for more than 21,500 patients.

The dental hygiene graduates were recognized first, with Suzanne Burgee, RDH, BS, MS, clinical instructor and academic director of the Dental Hygiene Program, commending their diverse backgrounds and their dedication to improving access to oral health care. “This exceptional group has representation from Vietnam, Egypt, Thailand, the Philippines, Ecuador, Brazil, Italy, Haiti, and China,” Burgee said.

Julia Boras, president of the dental hygiene Class of 2024, encouraged her classmates to prioritize the human connection in their practice. “We must remember that we’re not merely treating teeth. We are caring for individuals, each with their unique fears and aspirations and needs,” Boras said.

During the doctoral hooding ceremony, Justin Tabatabai, DDS, president of the dental Class of 2024, reflected on the ups and downs of the four-year journey, which started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was all worth it, because here we are today at the end of our wild ride,” he said. “Soon-to-be dentists graduating from the world's first dental college.”

In all, 140 graduates walked across the Hippodrome stage eager to take the next step toward a fulfilling career improving lives through oral health.  

In her closing remarks, Burgee left the graduates with a powerful call to action: “I ask you to be creative, be ethical, and be kind. Work together with other professionals outside of oral health to close the gaps in our health care systems so no one is left behind. Now it’s your turn to go make the world a better place. And tell them UMB sent you. Congratulations.”