The 2024 Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence

April 10, 2024    |  

2024 Dean's Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence recipients (Photo credit: Matthew D’ Agostino / UMB)

In 2021, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) established the Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence to celebrate and support outstanding student leaders who aspire to have a positive impact on their communities. Each year since then, two remarkable dental students have received the honor. 

Now the University of Maryland School of Dentistry is pleased to announce that this year four students have been selected as recipients of the 2024 Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence.  

“Supporting our outstanding students so that they can maintain their focus on academic excellence and professional development is a priority for the school,” said Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, UMSOD dean and professor. 

“Every year, I am impressed by the range of achievements, contributions, and aspirations of the students considered for this honor. This year, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to expand our support and celebrate four highly deserving 2024 recipients.” 

Read about the four student leaders who are the 2024 recipients of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence by clicking their names below:

Allison Keyes
DDS Class of ’24

Marilyn Okine
DDS Class of ’25

Allison Orlosky
DDS Class of ’24

Justin Tabatabai
DDS Class of ’24


Allison Keyes, DDS Class of ’24

Allison KeyesWhen fourth-year dental student Allison Keyes describes her experiences at UMSOD, she begins with her patients.  

One young man grew from being frightened of dentists to feeling comfortable enough to hug Keyes when his treatment was complete. A second, who had had a tongue piercing for years, volunteered that, after learning how it could affect her oral health, she was removing it. Still a third, after receiving a partial denture, announced that he finally felt confident enough to embark upon job interviews. 

“Through my clinical experiences, I have fostered genuine connections. I’ve learned that listening and having the patient’s best interests at heart are key guides to clinical care,” 

 said Keyes, who is one of four recipients of the 2024 Deans’ Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence. “Altogether my experiences at dental school have reinforced my commitment to working to improve patient care and help others.”   

Now in its fourth year, the Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence is designed to recognize and support students who succeed within the classroom and clinic, demonstrate promise as leaders throughout the school and community, and aspire to continue in public service. 

While growing up in Olney, Md., Keyes, who holds bachelor’s degrees in communication and biological sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park, was influenced by her orthodontist’s passion for his job and willingness to share information. “When he interacted with patients, it was easy to see how he valued them and made them feel like they were his only patient,” she said. “When I said I was interested in dentistry, he said: ‘You can shadow as much as you want, just show up.’” 

Another early experience – this time as an undergraduate volunteer at a Mission of Mercy (MOM) event -- cemented a commitment to working for greater access to oral health care. (In 2023, Keyes also volunteered as a student clinician at the MOM held at the Universities at Shady Grove in Montgomery County.)  

At UMSOD, Keyes, who is the vice president of the DDS Class of 2024, has immersed herself in building community, research, and advocacy. As a former participant in the Summer Research Training Program, she worked under the guidance of Mary Anne Melo, DDS, MSc, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Comprehensive Dentistry, evaluating the physical properties of a double network hydrogel, which is relevant to dental materials with respect to drug delivery. She also is co-president of the Student Research Group, which works to create a community for student researchers.  

Keyes volunteered through the UMSOD Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion last summer as a facilitator during the orientation for the entering first-year class; and served for two years on the American Student Dental Association Maryland chapter’s Legislative Liaison Committee lobbying for bills such as health insurance coverage for dental procedures for individuals with congenital anomalies. She has served on the UMSOD Student Affairs Committee (2020 - present) and the Admission Committee (2022 - present). 

Keyes hopes to one day operate a private practice, as well as teach in a university setting and continue working on behalf of underrepresented populations. She is deeply appreciative of being selected for a Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence. “I was so surprised and grateful. It is such an honor,” she said.  

After graduating, Keyes will enter UMSOD’s Advanced Education General Education post-doctoral program. “I really have enjoyed and appreciated all the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met here,” she said. “Our class began dental school in the pandemic, which was not ideal. Despite the uncertainty, I have learned that dental school truly is a team effort, and, as students, we are learning to use our hands to improve the lives of others and to work together to improve our community.” 

Marilyn Okine, DDS Class of ’25

Marilyn OkineWitnessing the effect access to oral health care can have on an entire family catalyzed Marilyn Okine to apply to the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD). Now in her third year, Okine is among four recipients of the 2024 Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership and Excellence. Established four years ago, the honor recognizes and nurtures students who excel academically and clinically, demonstrate leadership potential within the school and community, and aspire to contribute to public service. 

Before arriving at dental school, Okine was a nutritionist at multiple Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHC) in southern Maryland. Her experiences there offered her a first-hand opportunity to observe “the impact of disparities in health and how complex it is to address these issues,” she said. “When a dental clinic was added to the services provided at the FQHC, I saw the tangible changes it made. The increase in access to dental care had a positive impact on people’s lives.” 

The daughter of Ghanian immigrants, Okine was born and raised in Gainesville, Fla. She attended the University of Florida where she majored in nutritional science, initially intending to pursue a doctorate and a career in research. As an undergraduate, Okine spent a summer conducting research in Ghana. After graduating, she took a position that allowed her to conduct research at National Institutes of Health for two years before taking a position at the FQCH.  

While at UMSOD, Okine has served as the University Student Government Association representative for the Class of 2025. In this role, she attends university-wide meetings and advocates on behalf of dental students. 

Currently, Okine serves as vice president of community relations for the American Association of Public Health Dentistry’s Community Outreach and Engagement organization, which aims to engage dental students in dental public health issues. She also served from 2022-23 as community service chair for the UMSOD chapter of the Student National Dental Association, which fosters a sense of community and aids in the advancement of underrepresented minority students within the field of dentistry.  In these roles, she is responsible for helping to build community by organizing public service activities in the Baltimore area ranging from volunteering at food banks to environmental clean-up events. She also has volunteered as a tour guide for prospective students and alumni, served as a student representative for the admissions committee, and participated in many community health screening events. 

Upon reflecting on the past year, during which she began her clinical training, she said, “The pre-clinical courses were great preparation for the daily challenges and experiences in patient care. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked with such great clinical faculty.  Every day when I am in clinic I always leave with more knowledge and have seen tremendous growth in myself this past year.”  

For Okine, being selected for the Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence will help lessen the financial challenges posed by dental school. “I worked hard to gain acceptance into dental school and continue to have the same level of commitment and dedication during my time at UMSOD,” she said. “I am grateful to be one the recipients of this distinguished scholarship.”   

Allison Orlosky, DDS Class of ’24

Allison OrloskyWhen Allison Orlosky first learned of the University of Maryland Three-Year Arts/Dentistry Program, she recognized it as the perfect fit. As a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), she saw an opportunity to fast-track her entry into the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD), earning a Bachelor of Science in Combined Program Dentistry by the end of her first year of dental school. This innovative path allowed her to pursue her passions in bioengineering and oral health without the delay of completing a traditional degree first.  

“This unique program, which had not been pursued in a decade, offered me the chance to leap into dental school, my ultimate goal, without the prerequisite of a conventional degree, such as the one in bioengineering I was pursuing at UMCP,” she explained.   

After completing her studies at UMSOD, Orlosky, now one of four 2024 recipients of UMSOD’s Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence, will embark on the next phase of her journey. She plans to join an Advanced Education General Dentistry Program in San Diego and serve in the U.S. Navy.  

Established four years ago, the Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence aims to recognize and nurture students who excel academically and clinically, demonstrate leadership potential within the school and community, and aspire to contribute to public service.  

Orlosky's enthusiasm for dental innovation stems from her belief in the intersection of dentistry and bioengineering. She views dentistry as a field where innovative techniques can be harnessed to benefit others, a sentiment reinforced by her experiences in dental school.  

Her interest in oral health was sparked during her youth, witnessing her twin brother's orthodontic treatment. She was captivated by the complexity of his case and the meticulous care provided by his orthodontist, which fueled her passion for engineering and medicine. While a high school student in Clarksville, Md., Orlosky began working as an intern as well as shadowing at this Howard County orthodontist’s office, which she continued throughout her undergraduate studies. 

During her academic journey, Orlosky worked as a graduate research assistant and assumed various leadership roles, including serving as an ambassador for the Reed-Yorke Health Professions Advising Office at UMCP and holding positions in student organizations at UMSOD, such as president of the Tau Sigma Military Dentistry Society, president of the Gorgas Odontological Honorary Society, and vice president of the Orthodontic Interest Group. Her involvement extended beyond campus, volunteering at events like Special Smiles for Special Olympics athletes and the Mission of Mercy.  

Orlosky is grateful for the opportunities afforded to her through the scholarship. She eagerly anticipates serving in the U.S. Navy, providing dental care to those in need, and leveraging her background in bioengineering to drive innovation in dental technologies, making dental care more accessible to diverse communities.  

Justin Tabatabai, DDS Class of ’24

Justin TabatabaiWith a mother who graduated in 1993 from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) and a father who graduated in 1992 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, fourth-year dental student, Justin Tabatabai, is well-acquainted with the health professions.  

But when he was choosing between medicine or dentistry as a career, a conversation with a UMSOD graduate during a University of Maryland College Park lacrosse game helped tipped the scales. 

“I met him at a home lacrosse game, and he said, ‘Why don’t you spend a week in my office?’” said Tabatabai who, at the time, planned to pursue medicine. “Of course, I had both my parents as mentors. But having someone not related to me take a genuine interest in my future and share his life with me was inspiring, too.” 

The opportunities provided by dentistry to forge meaningful relationships with patients also appealed to Tabatabai, who is a 2024 recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership and Excellence.  

“Recently, I said goodbye to one of my first patients,” he said. “I first saw her maybe 18 months ago. She had several teeth that were unrestorable, so she needed extractions that we then had to let heal. Finally, I delivered dentures to her, and she said, ‘I am so grateful I was assigned to you. I will miss you.’ And we took a selfie.” 

Tabatabai, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in neuroscience at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), served in leadership roles while an undergraduate including as a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society; president of the Maryland Men’s Lacrosse Club; recruitment chair of the Phi Delta Epsilon Professional Fraternity; and vice-president of Race Logistics for Miles 4 UMD Charity 5K Run.  

While at UMSOD, Tabatabai served four years as president of the DDS Class of 2024 and was a member in 2020-21 of the University of Maryland, Baltimore President's Student Leadership Institute, a program that exposes students in different fields to contemporary leadership and professional development issues. He also participated in the American Dental Education Association’s (ADEA) American Dental Career Fellowship Program (ADCFP). As part of the program, he analyzed patient care surveys collected in UMSOD’s pre-doctoral clinics. The school then selected him to present his findings at the 2023 ADEA ADCFP conference. Tabatabai went on to gather clinical research about the success and survival rate of crowns across traditional and digital modalities, earning him a spot to present at the 2024 ADEA ADCFP conference.  

His original research findings informed his understanding of how patients experience oral health treatment and instilled in him a deep appreciation of academic dentistry – and how it can shape and improve the future of dentistry, he said.  

As president of a class that began its dental education during a global pandemic, he learned firsthand the importance of working as a team. “We onboarded during 2020, and everyone worked as a team to come out on the other side,” he said.  

“It was very emotional and humbling to connect with classmates, faculty, and administrative leaders to problem solve and optimize our experiences. I remember working so much with [Karen Faraone, DDS, MA, now-retired associate dean of student affairs]. She kept us safe and organized, and we managed to make it to graduation! Her leadership stays with me.”  

After graduating from UMSOD, Tabatabai will begin a one-year general practice residency program at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, DC. 

Looking ahead, he said, “my plan is to stay in Maryland in private practice. I think ultimately my life journey will bring me back to academia. I have had such a wonderful experience at UMSOD with so many faculty and administration members.” 

Thanks to UMSOD’s Scholarship Supporters

The Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence is supported primarily by UMSOD’s “Socks for Scholarships” fund-raising effort launched in late 2019. 

“This scholarship represents a community-wide investment in the future of our outstanding students made by hundreds of alumni, faculty and friends,” said Mark A. Reynolds, DDS, PhD, UMSOD dean. “I am deeply grateful for that — and I am proud that these highly deserving students will serve as ambassadors of the school.”

If you’d like to support UMSOD’s Dean’s Scholarship for Leadership & Excellence, please visit: