The East Carolina School of Dental Medicine ushered in a new academic year on Aug. 23 during its 10th annual Fall Convocation—a decade to the day after the school first opened its doors to students.
“Today is a historic and significant day in our school’s history, when our inaugural class began. It was a day filled with anticipation, excitement and hope—just as today is,” said Dr. Greg Chadwick, the school’s dean, as he welcomed students, faculty, staff and residents.
He also welcomed the Class of 2025 and shared the school’s dedication to their success and reiterated the students’ commitment to serving the state. The first-year class officially began its dental school journey Monday after spending a week on campus for orientation, activities and service projects.
“To the class of 2025: We welcome you to a school that saw in you—your passion and potential—and decided we wanted to play a role in your future,” Chadwick said. “You join a school steeped in history, resilience, discovery, mission, vision and service. Especially service. When you chose the ECU School of Dental Medicine, you made a commitment not only to your education and future profession, but to the people of North Carolina.”
The audience heard greetings from school representatives including Assistant Dean Dr. Margaret Wilson; Dr. Stevan Thompson, chair of the Faculty Council, clinical associate professor and division director of oral-maxillofacial surgery; Dr. Caitlin Ferguson, a 2020 graduate and current first-year pediatric dental resident as well as several other students and staff.
Ferguson gave words of encouragement to the school’s newest class.
“Your four years of dental school will be the most challenging and rewarding experience; enjoy it,” she said. “The saying that the days are long but the years are short holds true for dental school. Some days will be more difficult than others, but that first day in clinic, all your hard work will pay off. You’ll never forget your first restoration or the smile of your first denture patient.”
ECU Chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers gave a keynote address that assessed the place of higher education in a changing world, making connections between business and education that the dental school draws strengths from.
Rogers was a supporter of the school when he served as ECU’s chief of staff before he took a position with the American Council on Education and returned to the university as chancellor earlier this year.
The School of Dental Medicine, he said, was founded on principles of re-invention and innovation, taking an existing model for education and patient care and making it daringly different.
“During the eight short years I was gone, the School of Dental Medicine have grown exponentially—in tangible ways, visible and measurable by the lives made better and the discoveries transformed into innovation,” he said.
Rogers went on to share anecdotes about learning to drill a tooth during a session in the school’s simulation lab weeks earlier, a task that made him reaffirm his respect for the profession of dentistry and better understand the need for public trust of higher education and clinical care.
Our mission at ECU is focused on you and what you do. It’s focused on driving forward to deliver on student success, to serve the public, and transform eastern North Carolina,” he said.
Rogers shared more about some of the top priorities for higher education, ECU and the school itself, emphasizing that the dental school meets its mission of service to the state in remarkable and numerous ways.
“I want to leave you with a call to action—to continue being part of a school that is living and working the mission of ECU,” he said. “Let your experiences here during the coming year shape you and guide you toward what you were meant to be. Grow and learn, and set out to make life better for those you meet, one smile at a time.”