Members of Class of 2022 Give the World a Better Smile

A photo of Class of 2022 at NJPAC

RSDM Class of 2022 received their degrees at an in-person convocation ceremony held in Newark’s New Jersey Performing Arts Center May 16. One hundred twenty-seven students obtained DMDs, and 27 students earned postgraduate degrees.

“The Rutgers School of Dental Medicine has a proud tradition of preparing the nation’s leading dentists, dental researchers, [and] dental educators,” said Dean Cecile A. Feldman at the event. “The Class of 2022 is one that I am immensely proud of.”

Emphasizing how the pandemic changed the world, Feldman said, “… you have transformed into remarkable people who’ve taken on the commitment of serving others.” She also offered three pieces of advice to the graduating class: take pride in RSDM; adapt in the light of science and evidence; and follow one’s passion, which will yield to accomplishment, fulfillment, and happiness.

Cheered by families and loved ones, members of the Class of 2022 walked up to the stage to officially become doctors.

Receiving the lilac hood, representing dentistry, with Rutgers University’s red lining, is “one of the proudest moments one can have, as, to a graduating student and to their families, it symbolizes years of hard work and sacrifice,” said Vice Dean Kim E. Fenesy, and added that support of families, friends, and faculty members made this event possible.

The class was hooded by Assistant Professors of Restorative Dentistry Hind El-Hammali and Donald Lapine. Thirty-three family members with doctoral degrees hooded their own graduates.

Photo of Modupe Coker receiving the 2022 Excellence in Research Award.

Assistant Professor in Oral Biology Modupe Coker (center) received the 2022 Excellence in Research Award.

At the ceremony, Assistant Professor in Oral Biology Modupe Coker received the 2022 Excellence in Research Award. “This award, sponsored by the NJ Health Foundation, is particularly meaningful because Dr. Coker was chosen by fellow research faculty,” said Narayanan Ramasubbu, associate dean for research.

A native of Nigeria, Coker is an expert in dentistry, epidemiology, and public health. With over 100 publications, her work focuses on the oral microbiome, especially on the impact of HIV exposure. She was recently featured in Nature’s Pediatric Research along with her article about pandemic inequities on children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Professor Gaetano “Guy” Spinnato, who passed away Feb. 14, posthumously received the 2022 Excellence in Teaching Award, selected by RSDM students.

“He was admired for his teaching prowess, surgical skills, and charismatic personality,” said Emily Sabato, associate dean for academic affairs. “Guy had incredible enthusiasm and energy, and he was always happy to lend a hand to anyone who needed it.”

Spinnato’s daughter Gabriella Hamilton accepted the award in his honor, and the audience gave her a standing ovation.

Photo of Jacob Elias, Class of 2022, receiving the Stanley S. Bergen, Jr., MD, Medal of Excellence.

Jacob Elias, Class of 2022, received the Stanley S. Bergen, Jr., MD, Medal of Excellence.

Jacob Elias of Class of 2022 won the Stanley S. Bergen, Jr., MD, Medal of Excellence, a prestigious award given to an exemplary graduating student from each Rutgers Biomedical Health Science (RBHS) School. Elias is the first dentist in his family and is headed to a general practice residency at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Presenting Elias’s award, Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Programs at RBHS Denise V. Rodgers said: “In his personal statement in applying for a general hospital residency, Jacob described the lessons of selflessness and confidence he learned working alongside his dad in construction. His father counseled him on making it a priority to create positive and memorable experiences for people: Give them something to smile about.”

The ceremony concluded with remarks from engineer-turned-dentist and president of Class of 2022 Michael Masino.

“If this school has taught me anything, it’s that time is one of the most valuable things,” said Masino, who left the stage with a standing ovation from his fellow classmates. “So, follow your dreams, pursue your passions, and remember to hold those dear close to you. All of you, take a look to your right and take a look to your left. You have a new family, and they will never forget about you. We are going to change the world for the better. Together. One smile at a time.”

Click here for a gallery of photos from convocation. A password is required to download photos. For any questions, contact Lynn (Chai) Lim at