UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry welcomed over 100 dental students from the Dental Class of 2024 to the health care profession during its DDS White Coat Ceremony in early February.
The landmark ceremony saw family members join the second-year dental class Feb. 5 in the Denton A. Cooley, MD, and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS, University Life Center. Due to the ongoing COVID-19, the event was offered in a hybrid format with attendees in the room, in additional seating in the fourth-floor classrooms, and viewing online via Cisco Webex. Photos from the White Coat Ceremony can be viewed on Flickr, and a replay of the event is available on YouTube.
The 2022 ceremony was the School of Dentistry’s first White Coat Ceremony since 2019 and as a result marked the first time the event took place in a dental class’s second year. Originally scheduled for August 2020, the event was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In years past, the White Coat Ceremony was held at the end of Orientation Week just days before the first day of fall semester classes.
“I think all of you know we’ve had to postpone [the White Coat Ceremony] for better than a year and a half, and we recognize completely what this class has had to go to get to this day,” said Professor Robert D. Spears, PhD, associate dean for student and academic affairs, to begin the ceremony. “They’ve survived a hurricane, a big ice storm, COVID, and of course it’s only fitting that the last couple days we had another ice storm here in the state. If any class can survive whatever we throw at them, this is the group that can do that, so kudos to them.”
Dean John A. Valenza, DDS ’81, said one of the most important measures of the School of Dentistry is the achievements of its graduates and the impact and legacy they leave in this world. He noted alumni have served as presidents of local, state, and national dental societies and organizations; chairs of boards of regents and heads of national dental education and dental research associations; continued or entered military service; led overseas mission trips and become leaders of their communities; and started successful companies outside of dentistry and even patented new devices.
“Currently, [UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry] graduates include a U.S. Congressman, a brigadier general and current chief of the U.S. Army Dental Corps, the director of the National Institution of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the immediate past chair of the American Dental Education Association, an NFL referee, and yes, even a couple dental school deans. So, students, why do I share this with you today? To hopefully inspire you as to what exists in so many who have come before you.”
Valenza also reminded students of the symbolic importance of the white coat ceremony and what this rite of passage means as they go forward in their journey as health care professionals.
Alumnus W. Kenneth Horwitz, DDS ’61, welcomed the 2024 class to the profession and encouraged the practice of ethical dentistry during his keynote speech.
“These years in dental school will be exhilarating, frustrating, meaningful, dreadful, fulfilling, and very humbling, but you are to be congratulated for having chosen and been chosen to be a part of one of the finest professions in the world,” Horwitz said.
Students were split into two lines and coated by designated faculty and alumni in attendance as the 104-member class and several second-year enrollees from the DDS Class of 2023 donned their white coats for the first time.
Professor David F. Fray, DDS ’79, president of the UTSD Alumni Association, led students through The Dentist’s Pledge. Attendees also heard from Michael J. Anton, DDS ’87, president of the UTSD Family and Friends Association, as part of the program.
The UTSD Alumni Association provided the personalized white coats for the ceremony. Event sponsors included the UTSD Family and Friends Association, Texas Section of the American College of Dentists, Greater Houston Dental Society, and Houston Academy of General Dentistry.