Honoring the Class of 2020—Virtually

The class of 2020 during their White Coat ceremony on August 25, 2016. (Kristin Wallace photo)

This year’s unprecedented circumstances did not stop the School of Dental Medicine from honoring the class of 2020 for their academic achievements.

The School of Dental Medicine released a pre-recorded awards ceremony for the class of 2020, featuring well-wishes from faculty, an announcement of awards, and photos and videos to commemorate the graduating class.

This awards ceremony is typically held the weekend before commencement. This year, commencement will occur virtually on Monday, May 11th.

Dr. Steven Lepowsky, interim dean, kicked off the virtual awards ceremony.

“About one thousand, three hundred and sixty days ago, you began a journey with us that will now culminate in the receipt of the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree in just a few more days from today,” Lepowsky said. “Undoubtedly, the journey has had some highs as well as some lows, but you persevered and, through incredible hard work and dedication, you are now ready to enter the next phase of your journey as a dental health care professional.”

Lepowsky also called the class of 2020 “trailblazers,” noting that the class was the first to complete the new team based biomedical sciences curriculum, and also the first class to “face a global pandemic head-on.”

Dr. Al Natelli, president of the Connecticut State Dental Association and volunteer faculty member at the School of Dental Medicine urged the graduating class to consider joining organized dentistry, such as the American Dental Association.

“Organized dentistry represents your profession. You’re becoming a dentist. You’re going to get your degree. You’re going to be licensed. You’re one of us now. The organization represents you nationally, at the state level, and at the local level.”

Natelli noted that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, organized dentistry has been on the forefront communicating important information on a variety of topics to dental professionals, including PPE, practice management, federal programs, patient management, mental health, and more.

Dr. Sree Raghavendra, pre-doctoral clinic director, congratulated the graduating class, saying that it has been a privilege to have been a part of the class’s education.

“I am grateful to be part of the journey. I have enjoyed working with all of you through ups and downs, and I know you will leave here stronger. Saying goodbye is very bittersweet, you will always be part of our UConn family,” said Raghavendra.

Dr. Donna Paolella, associate dean for admissions, offered her congratulations and reflected on how far the class has come since they first came to the School of Dental Medicine for their admissions interviews.

“I am so proud of all of you and all that you have accomplished over the past four years,” said Paolella. “It was almost five years ago when the dental admissions cycle opened for the class of 2020. I remember inviting you all for interviews and meeting you for the first time. I was so impressed. I knew that this class would be special. And you are. And you have been.”

“I wish you the best and please know that we will always be here if you need us,” Paolella concluded.

Dr. Jacqueline Duncan, interim associate dean for clinical affairs, compiled words of congratulations and well wishes from faculty in prosthodontics to share with the graduating class.

Dr. Eric Bernstein, interim associate dean for academic affairs, noted that the class of 2020 was the first to experience a brand new curriculum. The end of their dental education also posed a new challenge.

“Four years ago you started in the new M Delta curriculum,” said Bernstein. “This curriculum relied on a flipped classroom model. None of us knew just how flipped the end of your dental education would be.”

Bernstein continued: “This unprecedented time created many opportunities for us to explore new ways of being and being and doing your dental education. And we did it together. And we all persevered. Always look for the path forward, continue persevering, and do it together. You deserve tremendous thanks from us and you’ve earned the many great successes that are yet to come.”

Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students wrapped up the speaking program with a recap of the past four years, showing photos and videos of the students as they navigated the new curriculum as first-year students. Arteaga also showed off photos of the new clinics, equipment, and classrooms that the class was able to enjoy during their time at the UConn School of Dental Medicine.

Arteaga also announced the residency placements of the class of 2020, as well as the awards they’ve received for their academic achievements.

“We are here to celebrate and recognize and applaud you—the class of 2020—for your hard work and all of your accomplishments throughout these past years, being the first class in the M Delta curriculum and the first class to graduate virtually,” said Arteaga. “We definitely emphasize the pinnacle of the sweat equity in these years that you have given into the best award that every student will receive—the Doctor of Dental Medicine.”

The full list of awards and residency placements for the class of 2020 is below:

Adzenyah, Akosua

Interfaith Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY

Arif,  Yumma

Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Providence, RI

Badziai, Anastasiya

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

  • American Academy of Periodontology Award

Balloch, James

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

  • American Association of Endodontists Student Achievement Award

Barbar Joseph

State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY

Bernstein, Jillian

Danbury Hospital Dental Services, Danbury, CT

  • Horace Wells Senior Student Award from the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology

Bibber, Erin

Ohio State University/Nationwide Childrens Hospital, Columbus, OH

  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Certificate of Merit
  • The Eleanor J. Bushbee Senior Dental Student Award

Borgueta, Mica

Advanced Education in General Dentistry

  • Olmstead Prize in Geriatrics

Brainard, Danielle

Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT

  • American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry Student Award of Merit
  • American Academy of Oral Medicine Award

Brodeur, Felicia

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

Camiel, Ross

Boston University – Goldman School, Boston, MA

  • American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Dental Student Award

Chaluparambil, Mariamma

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

  • 2019 ASDA Award of Excellence

Chen, Henry

University of California – San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Dalal, Tapan

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

De La Torre, Liana

Ascension Macomb Hospital, Detroit, MI

DeFilippo, Anthony

Morristown Medical Center, Morristown, NJ

  • Academy of General Dentistry Senior Student Dental Award

Dinesh, Anjali

Montefiore Medical Center/Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY

  • Surender Nanda Memorial Award

Donovan, Callan

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

  • American Association of Orthodontists Award
  • International Congress of Oral Implantologists/Dentsply Student Achievement Award

Estrada, Demitria

Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT

Etemad, Lily

Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

  • Allan B. Reiskin Award
  • South Park Inn Dental Clinic Award

Faraj, Mohaad

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

  • Hanautm Best of the Best Prosthodontic Award
  • Phi Chi Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon 2020 Inductee

Figueroa-Ortiz, Jeremy

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

  • Health Careers Mentorship Award
  • The Dr. Loeb Prize Fund

Fitzgerald, Daniel

State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY

  • American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Dental Student Award
  • International College of Dentists Student Leadership Award

Gambino, Dominic

Danbury Hospital Dental Services, Danbury, CT

  • The Alumni Relations Award

Greco, Brian

New York Veterans Administration Medical Center, New York, NY

  • American Academy of Implant Dentistry Student Award
  • Northeastern Society of Periodontists Award
  • Phi Chi Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon 2020 Inductee
  • The Quintessence Award for Research Achievement

Harris, Lisa

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

Jimenez, Richard

New York University Langone Health, Tacoma, WA

  • Health Careers Mentorship Award

Keller, Emily

Mountain Area Health Education Center, Asheville, NC

Kosakowski, Maciej

New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Campus, New York, NY

  • Academy of Dental Materials Award
  • Academy of Osseointegration Outstanding Dental Student in Implant Dentistry
  • American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology Dental Student Award

Kwok, Abraham

New York University Langone Health, Flatbush Family Health Center, Brooklyn, NY

Lutaaya, Alfred

Danbury Hospital Dental Services, Danbury, CT

  • Academy of Operative Dentistry Award
  • American College of Prosthodontists Achievement Award

Millington, Grethel

New York Veterans Administration Medical Center, New York, NY

  • Academic Achievement Award 2020 Sponsored by the Provost’s Commission on the Status of Women, The UConn Alumni Association, and the Women’s Center
  • Kohrman Award
  • Phi Chi Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon 2020 Inductee
  • The Quintessence Award for Clinical Achievement in Periodontics
  • The Quintessence Award for Clinical Achievement in Restorative Dentistry

Morrin, Robert

University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

  • Connecticut Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Award
  • Richard G. Topazian Prize
  • International College of Dentists Student Humanitarian Award

Okafor, Chidinma

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Ouyang, Huiyao

Flushing Hospital and Medical Center, Flushing, NY

Pacelli, Ashley

Danbury Hospital Dental Services, Danbury, CT

Parisi, Daniel

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT 

Peracchio, Nicholas

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY

  • University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine Professional Development Award

Pray, Nicholas

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

  • Special Care Dentistry Association/Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities Award

Quevedo, Bridget

University of Connecticut Business School, Hartford, CT

Quinones, Erica

New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY

  • Commencement Student Speaker

Ress, Eric

University of Florida – Jacksonville, Jacksonville, FL

  • American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Dental Implant Award
  • American College of Dentists Outstanding Student Leadership Award (Yankee Dental Congress)
  • American Prosthodontic Society Award
  • Friends of the School of Dental Medicine – Fox Award
  • Phi Chi Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon 2020 Inductee

Roh, Samuel

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT

Rudman, Jessica

Texas A&M University, College of Dentistry, Dallas, TX

  • American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology Award
  • Phi Chi Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon 2020 Inductee
  • The Pierre Fauchard Academy Award

Salm, Eric

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY

Sharma, Ambika

University of Louisville, Louisville, KY

  • American Association of Public Health Dentistry

Shenoi, Aarya

West Palm Beach Veteran Affairs Medical Center, West Palm Beach, FL

Staples, Ryane

San Antonio Military Medical Center, San Antonio, TX

Sullivan, Emily

San Antonio Military Medical Center, San Antonio, TX

Tsui, Stephanie

Hartford Hospital, Hartford, CT

  • Robert G. Levine Award
  • The Brian D. Stone Memorial Award

Ward, Zachary

University of California Los Angeles Dental Center at Venice, Venice, CA

Zambrello, Matthew

University of Connecticut, Farmington, CT