On Friday, May 20, 2011, before a very proud and enthusiastic crowd of family, friends, and college faculty and staff, 81 candidates received their Doctor of Dental Medicine degrees and 36 dentists received certificates or graduate degrees in Advanced Dental Education at the UF Center for the Performing Arts during the 36th Annual Commencement of the University of Florida College of Dentistry.
Special guests included Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., president-elect of the Florida Dental Association and Gerald K. Weaver, D.M.D., president of the college’s Academy of Alumni & Friends.
Teresa A. Dolan, D.D.S., M.P.H., professor and dean of the college, led the ceremony and expressed her thoughts about the member of the class, sharing a letter from a grateful patient who received treatment from Chelsea Tucker, D.M.D. The patient said he would miss Tucker as his dentist and described Tucker’s “self-assurance and confidence, her wit and charm, her professionalism and technical experience.”
“I am certain that each graduate on this stage had a similar, positive impact on a patient’s life and just as Chelsea touched this particular patient, our students have had impact locally and across the globe. During these challenging economic times, they provided high quality dental care to our patients, many of whom have nowhere else to turn for their care,” she said.
She lauded their volunteer service work locally, through the Alachua County We Care Program, and their international work in other countries including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guatemala. Dolan also noted that many of the graduates conducted award-winning research projects and presented work at national and international research meetings.
“Our student organizations have also been recognized for their outstanding projects, including the Student National Dental Association’s Impressions Program which is designed to assist underrepresented pre-dental students to become stronger dental school applicants, ultimately enhancing the diversity of our student body and our profession,” she said.
David J. Kosek, D.M.D., Ph.D., who served as class president all four years for the 2011 DMD Class, gave the class address. He began by thanking family and friends for their support, “We have a lot to be thankful for and you are at the top of our list.”
He thanked his class for being a phenomenal and cohesive group, and the residents and fellows for having, “run the gauntlet before us and helping to guide us through.”
Kosek also mentioned the impact that the DMD class in other countries on mission trips, and in communities across Florida as they rotated through different clinics as part of their education. He expressed confidence that faculty and staff had molded and shaped the members of the class into first-rate dentists and that the future of dentistry is in good hands with the Class of 2011.
The college’s two Teachers of the Year, Indraneel Bhattacharyya, D.M.D., M.S., basic sciences teacher of the year, and Ulrich Foerster, D.D.S., clinical sciences teacher of the year, were honored during the ceremony.
Alex Fetner, D.M.D., praised Bhattacharyya’s colorful and entertaining lectures about diagnosing oral pathologies that brought the subject alive for the students, calling him an amazing teacher and person.
Jenna Godwin, D.M.D., described Foerster as an unwavering advocate, coach and friend to the Class of 2011. She said he truly understands his students, pushes them to strive for excellence and has a genuine conviction for the profession.
Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., who earned his dental degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said, “You have no idea how lucky you are to be Gators. I am a Kangaroo (the mascot of his alma mater).”
Sabates welcomed the graduates to the dental profession and spoke about the importance of participating in dental organizations after graduation, “Don’t just write a dues check but get involved to ensure a great future for the profession.”
He advised the graduates to never let anyone come between them and their ethics or principles adding, “A good dentist makes a living. A great dentist makes a difference.”
Gerald K. Weaver, D.M.D., who is a member of the college’s Class of 1979, had two sons participating in the graduation ceremony. Robert Weaver, D.M.D., completed his Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry and James Patrick Weaver, D.M.D., received his Doctor of Dental Medicine.
“One of the greatest achievements for the members of this class was getting in the class,” he said, pointing out that for each one accepted to the class, there were 19 other qualified applicants to the college. “Despite how qualified you were, dental school was still very challenging and difficult, and you should be proud that you are graduating from one of the best dental schools in the world.”
Weaver welcomed the class to the Academy of Alumni and Friends, and encouraged the graduates to seek help from fellow alumni as they begin their career. He also shared one of the lessons he’s learned in practice, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Following a spirited rendition of the University of Florida’s alma mater led by Laura Benjamin*, Class of 2012, and Dale Benjamin, D.M.D., Class of 2009, the graduates followed college faculty out of the UF Center for the Performing Arts and into the Florida sunshine, and their future.
To see all of the photos from commencement, please visit the college’s Facebook site.
* Laura’s husband, Gary Benjamin, was graduating during the ceremony, and Dale Benjamin is Gary’s brother, which just serves to highlight how multi-talented our Gator Dentists are!