Class of ’18 Says Goodbye, Gets Ready for the Future

Graduate Chelsea Walters holds her diploma at RSDM’s convocation ceremony.

RSDM grads received their lilac hoods at Monday’s convocation ceremony, symbolizing their entry into the dental profession.

Lilac is the official color of dentistry and the hoods, draped over the students’ graduation gowns, were lined with scarlet, Rutgers’ signature color.

At the ceremony, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Vice Dean Kim Fenesy shared the class statistics, an annual tradition. She reminded them that 91 predoctoral students were chosen from  2,000 applicants. The entire class totaled 146, including  postgraduate students earning certificates and  international dentistry students, who completed dental school in another country and enrolled at RSDM to earn a license to practice in the U.S.

According to Fenesy, 60 percent of the class were the first members of their family to graduate from college. For 48 percent, English is their second language.  During their four years at RSDM, seven students were married and seven  gave birth. Some held unconventional careers and hobbies before dental school, including a student who managed an organic blueberry farm and another who was a professional rugby player.

Both  Cecile A. Feldman and RSDM Alumni Association head, Dr. Robert Shekitka,  touted the school’s reputation for training highly accomplished students, due, in part, to the school’s intensive clinical experience.“Program directors across the country continue to tell me how well-prepared you are, that the breadth and depth of your skills are far above others,’’ the dean said.

Added Shekitka, “I meet residency directors, public health employees, and others, and the theme of their comments are  always the same: You guys perform at the highest level, and they enjoy having you. They want you.’’

Class President Ryan Zigman attested to students’ hard work by listing the many requirements they fulfill to get their DMDs.  “You spent 2,000 hours in lectures, 3,000 in clinic and preclinic, took 200 exams and 66 clinical competencies,’’ he said.

Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor (RBHS) Brian Strom told grads that finishing dental school was proof they have an essential quality  needed for success. “Grit,’’ he explained, referencing a book by psychologist Angela Duckworth, subtitled “The Power and Passion of Perseverance.’’ Without it, grit they wouldn’t have made it.  “While enthusiasm is common, endurance is rare,” he declared.

Also at convocation was the presentation of the Stanley S. Bergen Jr. MD Award of Excellence, which is given to the student who best exemplified outstanding academic accomplishments. This year’s winner was Shannen Wilson.

At the senior awards ceremony last week, faculty members were also recognized. The Excellence in Research Award was given to Dr. Scott Kachlany, an associate professor in the Department of Oral Biology. Dr.Hind El-Hammali, an instructor in the Restorative Department, received the Excellence in Teaching Award.