UConn Shines at New England’s Largest Dental Meeting

First year students Patricia Hare and Frank Amaefuna took home gold at the 11th Annual American Student Dental Association (ASDA) District 1 Debate. (Dr. Steven Lepowsky photo)

UConn School of Dental Medicine students recently attended the 2020 Yankee Dental Congress—New England’s largest dental meeting—and came home with more than just new knowledge about the field of dentistry.

UConn takes top spot against Harvard in annual student debate

First year students Patricia Hare and Frank Amaefuna took home gold at the 11th Annual American Student Dental Association (ASDA) District 1 Debate. The debate, hosted by the Massachusetts Dental Society, had teams from Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and the University of New England.

For the first round of the debate, Patricia and Frank faced students from Tufts and argued the merits of a “flipped classroom” model in dental education. While it was difficult to prepare for the first debate, Patricia and Frank sought assistance from faculty and other resources.

“It’s funny to think about it, but at the end of the day what we showed was the efficacy of the flipped classroom model because at the start of the process, we used articles and online sources that we found ourselves or that faculty provided to us and then engaged in numerous discussions surrounding the topic, giving us the ability to think more critically through our reasoning,” Frank said.

The pair from UConn quickly learned that they were finalists and had to face Harvard in the final round.

The topic? Cannabis and its use in dentistry.

With only 10 minutes of prep, the team argued the theory and ethical consequences of incorporating cannabis into dentistry. After the intense exchange with Harvard students, the judges named Patricia and Frank the winners of the competition.

According to Patricia, they would not have been as successful if it weren’t for the support from faculty and fellow classmates cheering them on from the sidelines.“It was really great to have Dr. Lepowsky and so many UConn students there to support us,” said Patricia. It made taking home the win that much sweeter. We had met with some of the faculty leading up to the debate and it was great to follow-up and tell them the good news!”

The School of Dental Medicine celebrates with Patricia and Frank after the debate win. (Dr. Steven Lepowsky photo)


“Throughout our conversations,” Patricia continues, “Dr. MacNeil kept telling us, ‘Keep preparing for the first round but go in with the confidence that you’ll make it to the finals. You will.’ Our faculty are so supportive and they really helped us take it to the next level.”

After the win, Patricia and Frank look forward to helping next year’s team prepare for the debate.

Big honors for UConn students

Every year, concurrent with the Yankee Dental Congress meeting, the New England Section of the American College of Dentists presents senior dental student awards to a deserving senior dental student from UConn, Boston University, Tufts University, Harvard University, and the University of New England. Each recipient, as nominated by their respective schools, was selected on the basis of outstanding performance in academics, leadership and initiative.

Eric Ress, class of 2020, was presented with this year’s American College of Dentists Senior Student Award. Eric, who will be entering the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency program at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, was presented with the award by interim dean Dr.Steven Lepowsky.

Dr. Steven Lepowsky and Eric Reiss. (Dr. Steven Lepowsky photo)

“For the past 3 ½ years, Eric has distinguished himself in terms of academic achievement, leadership at the local and national level, research and community engagement, and as a result, is most deserving of this recognition,” Lepowsky said.

In addition, Eastern Dentists Insurance Company (EDIC) presented Mariamma Chaluparambil, class of 2020, with the Lamont MacNeil Educational Impact Scholarship. This award is made to a fourth year UConn School of Dental Medicine student who has exemplified outstanding leadership and academic qualities while actively participating in the dental community. Mariamma received her award during the opening ceremonies of the ASDA Debate.