September 22, 2017
A total of 122 students, 70 members of DMD Class of 2021 and 52 members of the DMD Advanced Standing Class of 2019, received their white coats, marking their eligibility to enter the patient care environment, on Sept. 22, 2017. Students begin seeing patients their first year under the College’s curriculum.
The White Coat Ceremony is an annual tradition marking the matriculating class of students entering the dental profession. It celebrates the choice to pursue a life in service to the health of society. During the ceremony, College of Dentistry deans and faculty members cloak students in their first white coat as a symbol of the trust bestowed upon them to carry on the healing profession of dentistry.
Dr. Toni Roucka, ’90, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, was master of ceremonies. She noted that “the first White Coat Ceremony was held in the fall of 2003, and now it is considered a rite of passage for each class.”
Dean Clark Stanford spoke next, and said it was a “wonderful, joyous time for students, families, and spouses.”
He told the students that the program they have embarked upon is designed not only to provide a dental education, but “to improve emotional intelligence as well—to allow you to put yourself in the place of the patient.”
Quoting Plutarch, a biographer and essayist from ancient Greece, Dr. Stanford said, “A mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
Dr. Stanford asked the students “to reach out to your colleagues. Unlike in your previous schools, you are not in competition with your peers. You are in competition with yourself.”
He talked about core values the students should keep in mind: respect of patient autonomy, justice, veracity, competence, integrity, professionalism, and compassion.
“The white coat symbolizes the transition of a lay person into the health professions,” Dr. Stanford said. “Never forget that we are here to provide the best in patient care.”
Speakers from several dental organizations followed.
The first was Dr. Susan Bordenave Bishop, President, Illinois State Dental Society (ISDS) Foundation, and USA Regent, 8th District, International College of Dentists (ICOD).
“Congratulations,” she told the students. “This is a great day in a great school which provides a great education.”
Dr. Bishop noted that the foundation sponsors educational events and programs, Clinic and Research Day awards, scholarships, and the Mission of Mercy, in which disadvantaged persons receive dental treatment, and to which “everyone here is invited,” she said.
She noted that she also represents the ICOD USA Section, a Fellowship honor society for dentists committed to community service and humanitarian programs. “We help the College by providing some funding for the Guatemala rotation,” she said.
Dr. Bishop concluded with the advice, “Always do what is best for the patient and you will always be a great dentist.”
Dr. Muzammil Saeed, ’03, spoke next. He is President-Elect of the Illinois Academy of General Dentistry. An alumnus, he recalled that when he was a student at the College, “All I wanted to do was graduate and never look back. But when I do look back, I see it was a great time and I got a great education.”
He offered what he called “simple advice: take small bites. Don’t try to do too much at once.”
Dr. Saeed noted that “the profession of dentistry truly is a lifetime of learning and the AGD is here to help.
“You will be faced with many ethical challenges,” he added. “Your moral principles will always help you make the right decision.’
Dr. Saeed concluded, “Always stay hungry and always stay involved.”
Dr. Kirk Noraian, President of the Illinois Section, American College of Dentists, told the students, “As President I humbly come before you as a colleague and friend to talk about excellence.
“Entering the clinic is one of the most important times of your career,” he continued. “You will remember lessons learned there when you least expect it.
“Strive for excellence every day; you will never tire of your chosen profession,” Dr. Noraian said.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel—even though sometimes you’ll think the power went out,” he continued. “But know that we left the light on for you.
“Seek out mentors in school and after graduation, and pay it forward after graduation,” Dr. Noraian concluded. “May your white coat remind you to always do your best.”
Dr. Phillip Fijal, Loyola ’86, was the final speaker from organized dentistry. At the time of the ceremony, he served as President of the Chicago Dental Society.
Although he graduated from the Loyola School of Dentistry, “I’m an adopted UIC alum,” he noted.
The CDS, Dr. Fijal said, is “the largest component dental society in the country. On behalf of our 7,000 members, I’d like to congratulate you for reaching this milestone.”
Dr. Fijal recalled that when he was in school, classroom work preceded clinical work, and “when it was finally time to make it to the clinic, I was both nervous and excited. In the clinic, you will be taught patient care and you will quickly put it into practice.
“Always remember, every patient is someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter,” he concluded. “Take care of them as if they were your own.”
Students then received their white coats from College faculty. Their names were announced by Dr. Priscilla Chang, ’07, Clinical Associate Professor, Restorative Dentistry, and Dr. Adriana Semprum-Clavier, Clinical Director, Advanced Standing Program. Dr. Seema Ashrafi, ’93, MS Histology ’94, Periodontics ’99, Clinical Director, Advanced Standing Program, led the faculty recognition. Dr. Caswell Evans, Associate Dean for Prevention and Public Health Sciences, led the students in the Dentist’s Pledge. Dr. Roucka presented pins and offered closing remarks.
A reception for students, families, and faculty followed at the College.