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Graduation celebrations are looking a lot different this year as many schools continue to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty and attendees’ families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many other universities that have postponed in-person ceremonies to promote social distancing, the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry honored its graduating class in a virtual awards ceremony.
Students and faculty celebrated June 14 via Zoom to honor graduates of the Doctor of Dental Surgery, International Dental Studies, Endodontic Residency and Dental Hygiene programs.
“It was a unique graduation and I felt the same pride as I would have felt during an in-person graduation,” said class of 2020 graduate, Chintan Patel, DDS. “I invited my entire family, even family in India, to watch the livestream on YouTube.”
Dr. Patel, a graduate of the International Dental Studies program, was recognized for several awards during the ceremony including first place for the OKU Endodontics Practice Area Award. The award was presented in honor of the 22nd annual OKU-Sutro Excellence Day ― a program that provides opportunity for the Dugoni School family to share research, clinical and community service achievements.
As the first dentist in his family, Patel’s next step after obtaining licensure is to become an associate dentist before eventually opening a private practice.
Fellow graduate Stephanie Martini, DDS, says she’s also grateful for the school’s efforts to quickly adapt and still find a way to honor students’ accomplishments.
Dr. Martini, who will be working in San Francisco as an associate dentist, received the CDA Outstanding Senior Award during the ceremony. This award recognizes students for significant contributions and leadership in organized dentistry.
As the evolving COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the way dentists interact with patients, Martini is confident in her skills to adapt.
“For me, the ‘new normal’ is coming right at the beginning of my career in private practice, so the most comforting thing is knowing that I’m starting out this way and not having to make many adjustments to what I already knew in an office,” she said.
The school plans to have an official commencement ceremony for graduates at a later date.
Graduating dental students can now apply for licensure with passing scores on the WREB and ADEX manikin-based examinations.
The news was announced May 28 after CDA staff, in coalition with California dental school deans and dental student delegates, spent weeks advocating for a pathway to timely dental licensure since patient-based licensure examinations had been postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing health crisis.