The University of Maryland School of Dentistry (SOD) celebrated its white coat ceremony for the dentistry Class of 2019 and dental hygiene Class of 2017 on Monday, Oct. 12, in historic Davidge Hall. The world’s first dental school, in its 175th anniversary year, celebrating such a ceremony in the oldest medical school building still in use for medical education made for a momentous occasion, noted Mark A. Reynolds, DDS '86, PhD, dean of the SOD.
First-year students of health professions traditionally receive white laboratory coats at the beginning of their education, as a symbol of joining the community of professionals who provide care to others.
“The white coat each of you holds has traditionally been a symbol of the most fundamental elements of your profession,” Reynolds told the 154 first-year students gathered – 134 dental students and 20 dental hygiene students. The coat is an indication that “we hold ourselves to the highest ethical and moral standards,” Reynolds added. Photo gallery
Families were able to watch the proceedings from home using a live web feed of the event, and Reynolds announced that 112 viewers were tuned in at the start of the ceremony.
Excited students lined up on the sidewalk outside of Davidge Hall just before the ceremony, holding their white coats draped over their arms. Alise Senderak, ‘19, said her parents back home in Hartford, Conn., were excited to watch the live web feed of the event. “We’ve worked really hard” for the first weeks of dental school, she said. “This is a good way to honor how far we’ve come in the short time we’ve been here.”
Azie Dinghra, ’19, said his parents – including his mother, an orthodontist - in Springfield, Ohio, also were excited to watch the live feed online. “I’m very excited and a little nervous,” he said of the ceremony. His mother had advised him against becoming a dentist, and had inadvertently become his inspiration, he joked: “My mom told me not to, so I had to!”
Snigdha Kalvakolanu, ’19, always wanted to be a doctor, but as the years passed the field of dentistry called to her. “I’ve loved art since I was a little kid,” said Kalvakolanu, who goes by her initials, SK. “Dentistry mixes both art and science. This is where I want to be.”
During the ceremony, students heard greetings from distinguished alumni including Edwin Morris, DDS ’74, president of the Maryland State Dental Association, Tamara Dulan, DDS ’94, president of the Maryland Dental Society, Bradley Trattner, DDS ’88, president of the alumni association, and Melvin Kushner, DDS ’66, vice chair of the Board of Visitors.
Mary Beth Aichelmann-Reidy, DDS, associate professor at the SOD and past president of the American Association of Women Dentists, also spoke, as did Nair Velez, DDS, assistant professor and faculty advisor to the Hispanic Student Dental Association at the SOD. The students heard from Hwanhee Park, ’17, president of the Student Dental Association, as well.
Each speaker evoked the honor and tradition associated with the white coat, and the responsibility it bestows upon its wearer. Marion Manski, RDH, MS ’88, associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Program at the SOD, delivered remarks wearing the white cap that dental hygienists and hygiene students wore when she was learning her profession.
“This journey is going to be challenging,” she told the students of the years of education ahead of them. “But it’s going to be so rewarding.”
The students stood and donned their coats in unison at the end of the ceremony, before reading aloud the professional oath of their profession. It begins: “Being admitted to the profession of dentistry/dental hygiene, I pledge myself to the service of my patients, my community, and my profession. The health and well-being of my patients will be my first consideration.”