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Maysara Nassar arrived at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Dentistry (SOD) with no connections to the city or the state. A native of Egypt who grew up in Corpus Christi, TX, Nassar entered dental school during the Covid pandemic’s limited-contact period, and the first time he saw his new home was when he arrived on campus as a D1 student.
Maysara NassarSince then, Nassar has become an avid supporter of the UAB SOD. Not only is he the Class of 2025 president, but Nassar has helped establish a special awards program dubbed the Triple Crown to honor three SOD members – one faculty, one staff and one student – each quarter. The first set of awards was handed out in mid-March 2024.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I first came to UAB, but I couldn’t be happier,” Nassar says. “I enjoy the family nature of our classmates and the faculty and staff. Dental school is a tough transition, and it takes a nurturing culture to get you through. The faculty and staff have done a great job in helping the student body mesh together.

“And I couldn’t be prouder of my classmates. They’re friends and family. It’s a group that has grown together, and I can see us being friends and colleagues for years to come. You see the same thing in our alumni base. The dentists that UAB graduates are very well trained, but they also are very much of a family here.”

Nassar did not immediately apply for dental school after graduating with a degree in biology from the University of Texas-Pan American (now known as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley). Instead, he spent several years working as a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Texas. But he had friends who were dentists, and he became intrigued by the profession after volunteering to help at their clinics.

“That was the first time I really got to see the health-care side of things,” Nassar says. “I liked the continuity of care you are able to provide as a dentist. You see patients regularly and you are able to develop a rapport with them. It’s similar to teaching, where I would see my students grow throughout the year.”

Nassar says he also became interested in the profession after working in various school systems throughout Texas and noticing the wide disparity of care available to students depending upon where they lived.

“A lot of those communities were like where I grew up in Corpus Cristi, where there was a lack of access to care,” Nassar says. “They either were unable to afford it, or they just didn’t understand the importance of dental care and how much it affects the rest of your health. My goal is to help bridge that disparity gap for some of those communities.”

Before then, Nassar will spend at least three years working as a dentist in the United States Air Force. He accepted an Air Force scholarship after discussing the opportunity with UAB faculty members Brent McClenny, D.M.D., and James Broome, D.D.S., who both served in the Air Force.

“I never would have thought about going that route if it wasn’t for them. They were instrumental in that happening,” Nassar says. “I gravitated towards them at first because of how accommodating they were in teaching us hand skills. I learned about their Air Force background later, and it was inspiring.

“I learned a lot from them about the training that is possible through the military, and then they helped me get through the application process. That is an example of the nurturing aspect from the faculty here.”

Nassar says he has received that type of support and encouragement throughout his time at the UAB SOD, beginning with admissions director Carly Timmons McKenzie, Pd.D. “I’m forever grateful to her,” Nassar says. “She is the one who gave me a shot for an interview.”

All of which is why Nassar wanted to establish the new Triple Crown recognition. The first set of honors went to Gayle Shaffer, D.M.D., M.S. (faculty), patient coordinator Elsa George (staff) and Jennifer Proctor (student, Class of 2025).

“We want to recognize people who are doing exceptional things and are truly making a difference,” Nassar says. “It takes a whole team to get our jobs done. The idea is if we encourage that mutual support and collaboration, then a rising tide will lift all ships. We’re trying to have all these positive experiences together. That’s one of the things I love most about the UAB School of Dentistry.”