By LAURIE KAISER
Published August 10, 2023
Ninety-five students who are entering the School of Dental Medicine 2027 class donned white coats and walked across the stage Aug. 4 at the Center for the Arts.
The annual rite of passage, the White Coat Ceremony, ushers Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) students into the four-year program that will enable them to become tomorrow’s dentists, periodontists, oral surgeons and orthodontists.
Before the ceremony began, the lobby was buzzing with excitement; the pride of the students’ parents and other guests, many holding flower bouquets, was palpable.
“It’s an honor for me to welcome my first class as dean,” said Marcelo W.B. Araujo, who took the helm of the School of Dental Medicine on May 15, in his opening remarks. “The dental profession is one of loving what you do and giving back to the community.”
During the ceremony, faculty members cloaked each student in a white coat, the symbol of clinical service and care. At the end of the ceremony students, in unison, took a pledge of professionalism.
“The coat may weigh less than 2 pounds, but its weight is immeasurable,” said Tammy Thompson, associate dean of academic affairs for the dental school. “It’s a symbol of the profession and the knowledge and trust that you must earn from your patients.”
Several of the students were cloaked by a parent or sibling who is working in the dental or medical field.
The class also includes first-generation students such as Cindy Lopez-Dominguez, a Puerto Rico native and 2019 graduate of Hunter College who was attending the ceremony with her mother, brother, husband and best friend. She said that UB was an easy choice for dental school.
“UB’s core values align with mine, especially its commitment to outreach,” said Lopez-Dominguez, who has spent the last few years working as a dental assistant. “I benefited from community outreach and want to give back.”
The class includes three sisters — Chao Jing Pan, Chao Si Pan and Chaoqun Pan, who are also first-generation students starting their dental journey together. Ranging in age from 20 to 26, the sisters were born in China before immigrating to Queens, New York.
Chao Si and Chao Jing graduated from UB this past May, while Chaoqun received a dental hygiene degree from the New York City College of Technology in 2019. She worked as a hygienist while completing her bachelor’s in chemistry before moving to Buffalo. She received a master's degree in oral sciences in May.
“The fact that these three young women all chose and were accepted into UB speaks to the dental school’s reputation and their academic acumen,” said Mary Bush, associate dean of student affairs for the dental school.
Of the more than 2,000 applicants for fall admission to the Class of 2027, only 95 were accepted.
In her address during the ceremony, Bush noted the diversity, talent, job experiences and interests of the students.
They represent 18 states and 12 countries, speak 22 languages and have undergraduate degrees as varied as petroleum engineering and exercise science. They have worked as teachers, emergency medical technicians and fitness instructors, among many other professions.
“We have entrepreneurs in this class, including an owner of a charcuterie business, an owner of a photography business and a business that sells painted customized shoes,” Bush said. “We also have a worship leader, a model and a podcast host. Several of you have served in the armed forces, and we thank you for your service.”
Among the class are numerous athletes representing multiple sports, including a figure skater who competed in the 2018 winter Olympics. Bush also noted that many of the new dental students are proficient with their hands — an important skill for the profession — in pursuits such as drawing, painting, woodworking, small engine repair and play a host of musical instruments.
She also noted that this class has a heart for community service, volunteering with charitable organizations such as the American Heart Association and the Ronald McDonald House, along with domestic violence shelters, refugee centers, suicide crisis lines and soup kitchens.
“You have also volunteered around the world in medical and dental clinics,” Bush said. “And you have assisted those needing help at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Good Neighbor’s Clinic, and Compass House — all right here in Buffalo. Class of 2027, you are a remarkable group.”