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Behind the Smile: Senior Sendoff

Published: May 03, 2021 by Kyle Rogers

Dental student Michael Jones recounts his time at UTHealth School of Dentistry at a “Senior Sendoff” edition of Behind the Smile: Stories in and out of Dentistry.
Dental student Michael Jones recounts his time at UTHealth School of Dentistry at a “Senior Sendoff” edition of Behind the Smile: Stories in and out of Dentistry. Photo by Brian Schnupp.

The Dental Class of 2021 looked back on their time as students during a “Senior Sendoff” edition of UTHealth School of Dentistry at Houston’s live storytelling series, Behind the Smile: Stories in and out of Dentistry.

The “Senior Sendoff” edition of the series took place April 21 in the courtyard of the Denton A. Cooley, MD, and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS, University Life Center. See photos at Go.uth.edu/BTSSenior-photos.

From the lowest lows to greatest triumphs, stories ranged from first-year shenanigans, funniest moments, obstacles overcome, and future outlooks. Anecdotes about classmates shared with the audience talked about waxing teeth on weekends, how one classmate said he enjoyed walks on the beach and another who invited themselves to a professor’s daughters’ violin recital, and even roasting one classmate for sitting on the instrument he was struggling to locate during simulation clinic.

In order of appearance, fourth-year student speakers included:

  • Quincy Walker and Casandra Barnes;
  • Michael Jones;
  • Haider Imran, Dental Class of 2021 vice president;
  • Anamika Khosla;
  • Chad Abrams, Dental Class of 2021 president;
  • Ariane “Annie” Huet, Behind the Smile student emcee;
  • Jared Hatch;
  • Lejla Zoronjic;
  • Sandra “Camila” Perez;
  • Jennifer Imani;
  • Nadia Tishler;
  • Kelley Joo.

Faculty members who spoke to the senior class, included:

  • John Valenza, DDS, dean and distinguished teaching professor;
  • Shalizeh “Shelly” Patel, DDS, MEd, distinguished teaching professor and Behind the Smile faculty emcee;
  • Dan Bentley, DDS, clinical associate professor;
  • Gary Frey, DDS, professor;
  • Juliana Barros, DDS, associate professor.

“I gave you your very first lecture, and I’m so proud of the journey you’ve had to get to his point,” Frey said. “Many times, when you’re a first-year student and you feel overwhelmed, I tell you, ‘Just wait, pretty soon you’ll turn around and it’ll all be over.’ Well, we’ve reached that point. Now, I can tell you it’s that time; you’ve made it. I look forward to watching you succeed in dentistry forever.”

Patel and Whitney Vrazel, DDS ’19, introduced Behind the Smile in 2018 as a way to help students, faculty, staff, residents, and alumni connect by sharing stories. UTSD was the first U.S. dental school to embrace storytelling as a tool for mental health awareness.

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