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UAB School of Dentistry honored over 150 Doctor of Dental Medicine graduates at its recent commencement ceremony. Held for the Class of 2021, the June 5 event also included members of the Class of 2020 who returned to celebrate in-person following a virtual ceremony last year.

Dean Russell S. Taichman, D.M.D., D.M.Sc., presided over the ceremony, which included messages from school leaders and prominent leaders in organized dentistry.

“Commencement is a significant milestone, but it wasn’t that long ago we wondered if we were going to be able to hold an in-person ceremony,” said Taichman. “We were dealt a set of circumstances this year that were far beyond our control. But quite remarkably, our students’ education proceeded along the normal trajectory. And while it took a lot of strategic work, we enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate with our graduates and their families in our first event in more than a year.”

Zack Studstill, M.Ed., D.M.D., executive director of the Alabama Dental Association, delivered the traditional Lister Hill Lecture to the graduates. Studstill, who will be inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame in September, was instrumental in expediting the safe reopening of the practice of dentistry in Alabama following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Karter Smith accepts Dean’s Medal during Class of 2021 Commencement ceremonyThe ceremony also featured inspirational words from 2021 Class President Karter Michael Smith, D.M.D. and 2020 Class President Bhakti Desai, D.M.D. A welcome to new graduates from the dental alumni association was extended by president-elect Ben Ingram, D.M.D.

“UAB School of Dentistry is built upon a longstanding tradition of educational and clinical excellence, service, and scholarly achievements, Taichman added. “We were proud to acknowledge the outstanding academic efforts, leadership, and service of more than 40 student award winners during the ceremony.”

The Dean’s Medal, awarded to a member of the graduating class for outstanding scholarship and leadership, was presented to Karter Smith.

In addition to the Dean’s Medal, Maninder Kaur, B.D.S., M.P.H., M.S., announced several other awards during the ceremony. Kaur is chair of the student awards committee.

Among those awards, Smith also received the American Student Dental Association (ALDA) Student Leadership Award. The award is given by the School of Dentistry faculty to a graduating student who, having demonstrated leadership qualities as a student, has potential to become a future leader within the profession. The faculty believe the awardee possesses the motivation and dedication to pursue the betterment of the health of his or her patients and the advancement of the standards of the profession. The ALDA Award of Excellence, honoring the spirit of volunteerism and recognizing student leadership and participation in service to their school and local community, was presented to Danielle Ho.

The Volker Award, named for dentist, noted scientist, educator, and college administrator Dr. Joseph F. Volker, was given to Hannah Mackenzie Kidd. Volker served as the first dean of the School of Dentistry, first president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and first chancellor of the University of Alabama System. The award is given to a graduating student who has worked for the good of the school and student body. The recipient is selected by a vote of the graduating class.

Eight Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU) dental honor society inductees were recognized. Students are elected to OKU membership on the basis of scholarship and professional stature. Honorees were Joshua David Byrd, Nicholas Caylen Conley, Sydney Page Harnden Larsen, Mary Elizabeth Massey, Kathryn Parker Riley, Brigitte Barnes Trego, and Jacob Troy Wolkow, as well as International Dental Program (IDP) alumni member Bhumika Patel.

Two awards were presented on behalf of the International College of Dentists. Gail Marie Hoffman received the Student Leadership Award which honors a graduate who not only demonstrated conspicuous leadership during his/her student years but has great potential to continue to do so. The Student Humanitarian Award honors a graduate who exemplified and demonstrated passion for altruistic humanitarian service as a student and has great potential to continue to do so. The award was presented to Abena A. Lamptey.

A full list of 2021 awardees was published in the commencement program.