UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry welcomed 106 students from the Dental Class of 2026 to the profession at The W. Kenneth Horwitz Professionalism and Ethics Lecture and Luncheon.
The DDS Class of 2026 was joined by School of Dentistry faculty, alumni, donors, and friends for the inaugural offering of the event on Aug. 10 in the Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center. Photos from the luncheon can be viewed on Flickr, and video of the event is available on YouTube.
In years past, the White Coat Ceremony was held at the end of Orientation Week just days before the start of the fall semester. In light of recent changes, the decision was made to move the White Coat Ceremony to the dental class’ second year while maintaining the tradition of welcoming students to the profession with an ethics and professionalism lecture and recitation of The Dentist’s Pledge.
“One thing that we talked about when we said we were transitioning the White Coat [Ceremony] from Orientation Week to the middle of the second year, was let’s be sure we do The Dentist’s Pledge now [at the welcome luncheon],” said Dean John A. Valenza, DDS ’81. “Some have said let’s wait until students are more formally into direct patient care, but your time as a professional starts this week.”
Associate Dean for Student and Academic Affairs Robert D. Spears, PhD, MS, provided opening remarks, speaking not only about the importance of the event, but the impact that he hopes it will have on students throughout their careers.
“This really is a landmark event,” said Spears. “It’s an introduction to the profession, ethics, professionalism, and all the things that the white coat and the dental profession expect out of you. So much of what we’ve talked about during Orientation Week might be things that we forget about tomorrow, next week, or whenever. We’re not expecting the aspects of ethics and professionalism to be things that you’ll forget.”
As the keynote speaker, alumnus W. Kenneth Horwitz, DDS ’61, welcomed the 2026 class, encouraging the practice of ethical dentistry and dedication to the profession. He challenged students to exhibit the moral courage of standing up in the face of adversity.
“The future of our profession is in your hands,” said Horwitz. “Treat it thoughtfully and not without fear of making the wrong decision. Trust your instincts and let truth be your guiding light.”
Valenza closed out the luncheon by leading the recitation of The Dentist’s Pledge.
At the event’s conclusion, Spears dismissed the room for dessert and the opportunity for students to mingle with other attendees.
“Start that process of getting to know people in organized dentistry and the people who contribute so much to what we do at the school,” Spears said.