49th Annual UFCD Commencement

Download the 2024 UFCD Commencement Program here    |   Watch the archived livestream of the ceremony here

banner and facultyThe University of Florida College of Dentistry celebrated its graduates during its 49th Annual Commencement Ceremony on May 17, 2024, at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on the UF campus in Gainesville. The DMD Class of 2024 included 92 new dentists one of whom, James Seung Jin Jang, also earned his doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D. Another 62 graduates completed advanced education training in one of 13 advanced dental education programs offered at the college.

Dean A. Isabel Garcia led the ceremony and opened by complimenting the graduates on completing the rigorous course of study required in dentistry, especially since this class started their dental education in August 2020.

“Throughout your years in dental school, we could see the confidence, adaptability and focus reflected in your class. You’ve accomplished so much, you’ve bested every challenge and we are so proud of all of you,” Garcia said.

Commencement speaker at podium
Arjeet Tipirneni, president of the DMD Class of 2024

Arjeet Tipirneni, president of the DMD Class of 2024, delivered the commencement address and he also noted the way COVID-19 impacted their experience and complimented the school and its administration for their efforts as well.

“COVID-19 may have framed the start of our education, but we did not allow it to define us; we take challenges head-on. While all the protocols, rules and restrictions are just a memory now, it was what had to be done. Even amidst the pandemic, we started our degrees on time, and we finished on time. This is a true testament to the resilience of our faculty, staff and college leadership who stretched themselves thin to help us get to this very day,” Tipirneni said.

Tipirneni also noted that the class had a 100% first-time pass rate on the Integrated National Board Dental Examination.

While the majority of the new dental graduates will go into practice immediately after graduating, 25 are planning to continue their education by entering residency programs in general dentistry, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics or radiology. Four members of the class will serve as members of the U.S. military. Daisha Alston, Taylor Kelley Clayton and Kathryn Raver will serve with the U.S. Army and Jeniveve Howard with the U.S. Navy.

UFCD was honored to have three special guests as part of the commencement program: Daniel T. O’Keefe, Lance A. Karp and Bethany Douglas.

Guest speakers at UFCD Commencement
From left: UF Board of Trustees Member Daniel T. O’Keefe; UFCD Dean A. Isabel Garcia; FDA Speaker Bethany Douglas; and AAF Speaker Lance Karp.

One guest performed a key role in commencement – the conferring of degrees. Daniel T. O’Keefe, a member of the UF Board of Trustees, has served on the board since 2018 and was recently reappointed to another five-year term. O’Keefe conferred degrees upon the candidates for the degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine first, and then for the candidates who completed master’s degrees in advanced dental education specialties, “with the accompanying rights, privileges and responsibilities.”

Following the conferring of degrees, each of the 154 graduates walked across the stage as their names were read, to cheers and applause from family and friends echoing through the auditorium.

Deborah Dilbone, D.M.D., professor emeritus, retired earlier in 2024 after serving on faculty for 30 years. She was invited by the DMD Class of 2024 to read their names as they were hooded on stage. Dilbone was followed by Roberta Pileggi, D.D.S., M.S., who is a professor and chair of endodontics, and associate dean for advanced and graduate education. Pileggi read the names of the advanced education graduates from endodontics, operative and esthetics, orthodontics, pediatrics, periodontics, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and the advanced education in general dentistry, or AEGD, graduates from Seminole/St. Petersburg. Rodrigo Souza, D.D.S., who is the program director for the AEGD program based in Hialeah, read the names of the Hialeah program graduates.

Lance A. Karp, D.M.D., earned his dental degree in 2000 from UF and spoke on behalf of the college’s Academy of Alumni & Friends. He welcomed the graduates into the dental profession and centered his comments on, “togetherness in dentistry,” encouraging them to stay involved with the college and the university, and to remain in contact with one another as the years move by, as well as getting involved in organized dentistry to support the profession as a whole.

“In a world that is constantly evolving, we must embrace change and innovation. Stay ahead of the latest advancements in our field. Embrace the challenges that lie ahead. Never stop learning, never stop growing, and never lose sight of the incredible potential you have to make a difference in dentistry,” Karp said.

Bethany Douglas, D.M.D., spoke to the graduates on behalf of the Florida Dental Association. Douglas earned her dental degree and completed an endodontics residency at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University.

A Georgia native, Douglas noted that she and the graduates have many things in common, although “it isn’t being a Gator fan,” but rather that “we will all be guiding our patients to improve and maintain their oral health. We are also responsible for advocating for our profession and supporting our colleagues.”

She encouraged the new dentists and specialists to remember that they have an enormous network they can call on when they need support or guidance to help solve clinical or practice-management related challenges, “On behalf of the more than 6,200 actively participating Florida Dental Association members and over 160,000 members of the American Dental Association, we are here for you.”

Douglas then led all dentists at the event in reading The Dentist’s Pledge before turning the program back to Dean Garcia.

Graduate on stageGarcia underscored the import of the dental pledge and that it supports and sustains the integrity of the dental profession, “we must always ensure that that our patients’ health and well-being come first and conduct ourselves in a way that inspires others and engenders respect at work, at home and in our community.”

Garcia closed by saying, “When I look at you, our bright, talented, and caring graduates, I hope that you will always treasure this day and remember that service to others is job number one. I am proud to be your dean and will be proud of the career you build, the lives you change, and the way you will represent the profession of dentistry.”