Honors for UConn at Yankee Dental Congress

Dental student presenting poster
Ethan Cope, a second-year student at the UConn School of Dental Medicine, explains his research to a poster presentation judge at the 2019 Yankee Dental Conference in Boston Feb. 2. (Photo by Dr. Sharon Gordon)

Imagine being a young dentist and having a patient say this about you:

“His consideration and real concern of every detail – down to the graduated color of the crowns, his respect for the resident oral surgeon who placed the posts, and the creators of the crowns – illustrates his professionalism beautifully.”

Except this patient is talking not about a dentist, but about a student – Basem Gayed, member of the UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2019, who had assisted with the placement of two new implants.

Basem Gayed, UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2019 (Photo by Janine Gelineau)

“His love of learning is evident in the great deference he shows to the faculty who have guided him,” the patient’s letter went on to say. “He has every reason to take pride in his work.”

The American College of Dentists has a similar point of view, presenting Gayed with its Outstanding Student Leader award at the 2019 Yankee Dental Congress in Boston. It’s one of the highest student honors a dental student can earn.

“Basem was representative of the ACOD principles of high achievement, strong leadership, and high ethical standards,” says Dr. Sarita Arteaga, UConn School of Dental Medicine associate dean for students. “That letter from the patient is an example of why he was chosen.”

Gayed’s family emigrated from native Egypt during his childhood. He took a liking to science and majored in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Massachusetts, where he made the dean’s list every semester. But the path to dentistry had yet to reveal itself.

“Becoming a dentist was never on Basem’s radar until he had a dental emergency at the age of 18, which required him to see a dentist for the first time,” says Dr. Sharon Gordon, dean of the UConn School of Dental Medicine. “Basem’s first experience at the dentist was the spark that led him to pursue dentistry as a profession.”

Gayed, who’s been class president since his first year, is preparing for his next chapter: residency training in pediatric dentistry with the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

“Basem and all three of his brothers all came to this country and each is on a professional trajectory,” Gordon says. “It really is the American dream.”

Additional Accolade

UConn dental students also brought home honors as winners of the American Student Dental Association District 1 Dental School Challenge, earning UConn’s ASDA chapter a $1,000 prize.

First-year UConn dental students Jay Kim, Alex McKenna, Sara Feltz and Kathryn Forth
From left: First-year UConn dental students Jay Kim, Alex McKenna, Sara Feltz and Kathryn Forth attended the Yankee Dental Conference in Boston Feb. 2. (Photo provided by Dr. Sharon Gordon)

“It involved a scavenger hunt at the Yankee Dental Congress, as well as a picture contest,” says student Alex McKenna.

McKenna also paired up with classmate Jay Kim to take part in a debate with Tufts University counterparts over licensure exams. They argued in favor of post-graduate-year residencies, known also as “PGY-1,” as an optional pathway toward obtaining an initial dental license.

“Our primary argument in favor of the PGY-1 was that our current patient-based exam raises ethical concerns, particularly with respect to the process of finding a patient who would fulfill the criteria for the procedures being evaluated,” McKenna says.

The students knew the topic in advance, but did not learn which side they would have to argue until the debate started.

“Part of our argument was, if implemented effectively, it can prove to be a great opportunity to give back to the community by improving access to care,” Kim says. “Plus, practitioners can further develop their clinical competencies while having the opportunity to incorporate new technologies and research into their practice.”