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Classes of 2024 honored at School of Dentistry’s 119th graduation

Published: May 13, 2024 by Dylan Allen

Scott R. Makins, DDS ’80, MS, makes a heart shape with his hands while delivering the inspirational message at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 119th Commencement Ceremony.
Scott R. Makins, DDS ’80, MS, delivered the inspirational message at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry’s 119th Commencement Ceremony. Photo by Jacob Power Photography.

UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry welcomed 179 graduates — 102 doctorate of dental surgery, 45 advanced education, 21 bachelor of science in dental hygiene, eight registered dental hygienists, and three master of science in dental hygiene — of the Classes of 2024 to its alumni base during the 119th Commencement Ceremony on May 10 inside NRG Arena.

Photos from commencement can be viewed on Flickr, and a replay of the ceremony is available on YouTube. A digital version of the commencement program is available online.

Scott R. Makins, DDS ’80, MS, adjunct associate professor of endodontics, kicked off the ceremony by encouraging the graduates to look within themselves and the accomplishments they’ve achieved thus far for inspiration. He reminded the classes that their story is ongoing, and that story involves healing a population with the tools obtained during their time at the School of Dentistry.

“We’re so proud of you, and there’s no shame in being proud of yourself,” said Makins. “You’re passing from the phase of worshipping the grade to striving to gain current and advanced knowledge while enhancing your skills. Be patient with yourself, do your best, and always strive for excellence.”

The commencement address was delivered by Executive Director of the American Dental Association Raymond A. Cohlmia, DDS. With a pedigree in dentistry and passing the passion down to his three sons, he shared pieces of his vast wisdom attained from a life in the field.

He also instilled confidence to heal through the narratives of three of his patients who “represent the heart of what we do and how much our profession makes a difference.” He told stories about when these patients visited him but didn’t necessarily need dental treatment. Rather, what they needed more was faith in themselves, a listening ear, and hope for the future — aspects of dentistry he noted are often overlooked.

“The power to heal is never taught in a textbook, it’s never taught in a lecture, it’s never taught in the classroom,” he said. “It lies within each of your hearts and in all of our responsibilities as professionals. Welcome to the world’s greatest way to help so much of our human needs. Welcome to the profession of dentistry.”

Dental Class President Andrew Roberts, DDS ’24, and Dental Hygiene Class President Nghiep (Lucas) Ly, BSDH ’24, addressed their respective classes.

UTHealth Houston President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, conferred the degrees and certificates along with delivering welcome and congratulatory remarks.

Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs Robert Spears, PhD, called the names of the School of Dentistry graduates to the traditional tune “Pomp and Circumstance,” and, in several instances, graduates were presented their certificate, diploma, or hood by a family member or significant other, some of whom are alumni of the School of Dentistry.

Faculty hooders for the ceremony were Christopher S. Daniel, DDS, MD; Amity L. Gardner, DDS; Joe C. Ontiveros, DDS, MD; and Marilia M. Sly, DDS, MSD.

Elizabeth Hunsaker, DDS ’85, president of the UTSD Alumni Association; and Harold A. Henson, RDH, PhD, past-president of the UT Houston Dental Hygienists’ Alumni Association, led The Dentist’s Pledge and the Dental Hygiene Oath, respectively.

In his closing remarks, Dean John A. Valenza, DDS ’81, shared the secret accomplishment one gains in their time at the School of Dentistry: Learning to Learn.

“In addition to all the knowledge and technical skills that you’ve gained, learning to learn is a skill you now possess that will serve you far beyond the walls of UTSD,” he said. “It’s the ability to adapt, evolve, and thrive in an ever-changing landscape. It’s about staying curious, embracing challenges, and relentlessly pursuing growth.”

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