MARKING A MILESTONE: School of Dental Medicine graduates inaugural class

Friday, May 8 was a milestone day for a group of students who have seen many firsts over their four years at East Carolina University.

The inaugural class of Pirate dentists celebrated together on Friday during commencement at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and again at a more intimate hooding ceremony in Wright Auditorium on Saturday. Students receiving a doctoral degree wore hoods in addition to caps and gowns to mark their academic achievement.

“As the inaugural class, you have helped build and shape the school,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “And we are incredibly proud of every one of you.”

“Always remember who you are, what you stand for and where you’re from.”

New traditions were also established with the first class’ commencement: a ceremonial mace for the school, lilac and black robes, and the recitation of class pledge.

“My voice will comfort, my hands will heal and my heart will be open to all,” they said in unison, led by Dr. Michael Scholtz.

Scholtz is the dental school’s assistant dean for extramural clinical practices, and he coordinated the establishment and operation of eight community service learning centers across the state. ECU dental students spent their fourth year of school at those centers in Elizabeth City, Ahoskie, Lillington, Robeson County, Davidson County, Sylva, Spruce Pine, and Brunswick County – caring for patients and exploring life in rural communities.

Many of the 2015 grads have already pledged to return to those areas. Among them is Kyle Duncan, who will return home to Mitchell County to practice, and Christin Carter, who plans to work at a public health center in Surry County.

At least 15 others are entering residency programs or private practice in the East.

“You’re from North Carolina – you represent its wonderful history and spirit,” said Dr. Richard Valachovic, president and CEO of the American Dental Education Association and keynote speaker at the dental ceremony.

“You’re entering an incredibly vibrant and wonderful profession. The possibilities before you are endless.”

The class also left a parting gift to the patients served by ECU. Each graduate donated to an endowment to fund patient care, which currently stands at more than $32,000.

“Our dedication to following our school’s mission extends beyond our years here,” said Kelly Walsh, vice president of the Class of 2015.

The class also presented an inaugural faculty award to Dr. Nisha Ganesh, division director of predoctoral clinical education, and Dr. Kentaro Ikeda, oral medicine section chief.

“You’re welcome to come back home anytime,” Chadwick concluded. “And come back often. Whether it’s to Ross Hall (in Greenville) or to a community service learning center in your area.”

Story by Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services