UConn Dental Students Ready for Patients

Second year dental students recite an American Dental Association pledge during a white coat ceremony on Friday marking their transition from theoretical to clinic-based learning. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Second year dental students recite an American Dental Association pledge during a white coat ceremony on Friday marking their transition from theoretical to clinic-based learning. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

It’s out of the classroom and into the clinic for the UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2021.

The dental school held a ceremony on Friday awarding new white coats to 47 second-year students to represent the milestone of starting their training with actual patients.

“Being in clinic and seeing patients is kind of what we all thought we’d be doing when we got here, and now that we’ve got the book stuff out of the way, it will be nice to actually start learning the skills that we’ll use for the rest of our lives,” says Kenneth MacCormac.

To this point, the students have been spending their time studying alongside their medical school counterparts.

“The first 18 months was arduous and very challenging, with the whole biomedical curriculum,” says Shiyuan Mao, who is leaning toward pediatric dentistry but is open to other specialties. “Now we can put it into practice and learn about patients’ medical history and their diseases, and translate it in the way we can perform dentistry and the way we treat their oral health and hygiene. That is really what we came here for.”

The students already have their patients assigned to them. Each will manage a group of 40 to 50 patients throughout the rest of dental school.

“Each and every day, even though you may feel challenged and frustrated, please remember why you’re here,” Dr. Sharon Gordon, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine, told the students in Patterson Auditorium Friday afternoon. “You’re here to serve your patients, even if they may be a source of the challenge and frustration before you. Please treat your patients as you would want you and your family members to be treated – with the utmost respect and compassion. And never forget that there’s a tremendous trust and faith in us among those that we care for.”

The dental school has traditionally held a white coat ceremony in August for first-year students. The tradition followed by some dental schools of holding a clinical white coat ceremony for second-year students is an idea that Gordon, who arrived last summer, brought to UConn.

Family and friends did not attend, but video of the ceremony was streamed.

Dr. Joseph Gargano, a 1980 graduate of the UConn School of Dental Medicine, member of the school’s alumni board, and an adjunct faculty member, was the invited speaker. He urged the students to let their white coats “remind you of your professional obligations as outlined by Hippocrates: Lead your lives and practice your art with forthrightness and honor.”

The ceremony concluded with the students reciting an American Dental Association professional pledge derived from the Hippocratic Oath, the Prayer of Maimonides, and the 1947 Declaration of Geneva.