The Class of 2020 was presented on May 30 in a virtual commencement ceremony. Dean Russell S. Taichman, D.M.D., D.M.Sc., presided to confer the Doctor of Dental Medicine degrees.

Bhakti Desai and Parker Alison headshots.Bhakti Desai, class president and Parker Alison, class vice president and Dean’s Medal recipientA compilation of messages from school and campus leaders, alumni, and organized dentistry leadership, the service incorporated many of the traditions associated with the school’s on-campus commencement.

Mark Abere, D.M.D., opened the event with the National Anthem. A Class of 2019 alumnus who sang the anthem at each of the last four commencement ceremonies, Abere returned to honor those who came behind him in the midst of a challenging situation. He said he wanted to help make the event special for a class who had their final year cut short from the normal routine.

Mark R. McIlwain, D.M.D., M.D., alumnus and president of the Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama, delivered the traditional Lister Hill Lecture. Among messages that encouraged graduates to treat people well, be true to themselves, and engage in lifelong learning, McIlwain shared an example of a man in the shadows of history who allowed others to step on his shoulders to help a younger generation and improve the human condition.

A few new elements were added to the ceremony in an unprecedented time. The event featured a message from Class President Bhakti Desai, who encouraged her classmates to stay connected as part of a larger UAB School of Dentistry family. Desai said she felt honored to be part of the ceremony. She shared, “It was an opportunity for the class to gather one last time before taking the next steps in our careers and celebrate this incredible accomplishment together.” Desai also introduced assistant professor George Ford, D.M.D., F.A.G.D., who was requested by the class to deliver a Last Lecture. Ford’s message, do it because it is the right thing to do and good things will follow.

Mark AbereMark Abere, D.M.D., Class of 2019The Dean’s Medal was presented to the Class of 2020 Vice President Parker Alison in recognition of his outstanding scholarship and leadership. Alison, an exceptional scholar and leader, held key roles within several student organizations and community service efforts.

Assistant Dean Carly Timmons McKenzie, Ph.D., announced graduate names. Then, Shandra Keith Coble, D.M.D., assistant professor and predoctoral director and clinic director in the Department of Endodontics, led the class in reciting The Dentist’s Pledge professional honor code.

Dean Taichman concluded with the declaration of degree and closing remarks before a montage of graduate messages closed out the event. “One of my favorite parts of the ceremony was watching the many thoughtful messages from our graduates as they bade farewell to each other and to UAB,” said Taichman. “It was great to see our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and graduates and their families who attended our Zoom watch party. We look forward to seeing everyone in person soon.”

The school plans to hold an in-person ceremony in December.