The mom of the College of Dentistry

Extraordinary Person profile: Censeri AbareAssistant director for academic support services Censeri P. Abare helps Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry students plan their academic careers — and gives them life lessons along the way.

By: Dorothy Hagmajer

When is the best time to get married in dental school?

It’s probably not in the syllabus. But for Censeri P. Abare, assistant director for academic support services for Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry students in the College of Dentistry and unofficial “D.M.D. mom,” the question is nothing out of the ordinary — and neither is her nickname. Abare is responsible for a little of everything, from developing predoctoral courses and rotations to planning the dental students’ white coat ceremony and clearing students for graduation.

Like most positions, however, hers evolved over the years ­­—­ in this case, to include a little more administrative duty and a lot more student involvement.

“I try to help them in any way that I can,” Abare said. “I like to think I’m very supportive. I don’t try to put any roadblocks in their way because they have enough of those just trying to get through.”

The process of completing a degree in dentistry is full of details, ranging from those that are very obvious (dental students interact with patients much earlier than medical students do, and thus require appropriate preparation) to the subtler and more finite (is there ever a “good” time to have a baby?). Once you add the stress of academic performance into the mix, it’s no wonder students need a “mom,” who, by this point, is all too familiar with the pleasant chaos.

“They get all excited and start talking in dental jargon,” Abare laughed. “I can understand every third word. But I try to help them with the more mundane stuff of school, and I think that’s how the mom thing came up. They’ll say, ‘Go ask Censeri, she’ll know!’”

In her 29 years with UF’s College of Dentistry, she’s seen just about everything — and more than her fair share of students graduate. Though the students in each cohort are different, the feelings they elicit in her once they cross the stage remain the same.

“I always feel like I’m going to cry, and I don’t, usually, but I always feel like I am because I couldn’t be happier for them,” Abare said.

Abare plans to retire in summer 2017. The secret to her own success — as well as that of her successor’s — centers on one thing: flexibility.

“No two students are alike, and no two students’ situations are alike,” Abare said. “Going to dental school is such hard work. I have listened to them and I know what they go through; I know how hard it is, and I’m so happy for them that they have gotten to this point. They are going to go out there and be the best people.”

This story ran in the February 2016 issue of the UF Health’s The POST.