Despite the disruptions and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Maryland School of Dentistry’s (UMSOD) Student National Dental Association (SNDA) received several national awards last summer in recognition of its fundraising, public service work, and outreach aimed at encouraging students in underrepresented populations to pursue careers in oral health.
Four of the awards were presented in June during SNDA’s annual (and, this year, virtual) conference:
- SNDA’s 2021 Chapter of the Year Award in the category of large chapter, in recognition of the group’s outreach programs, mentorship, and fundraising. This is the eighth consecutive year that UMSOD’s chapter has won first or second in the national competition.
- The National Dental Association’s (NDA) Legacy of Excellence Award, in recognition of the group’s overall and continued achievements. NDA is a professional organization that promotes oral health equity among people of color.
- SNDA’s Video Scrapbook Competition, first prize, in honor of the best video depicting a chapter’s events and memories from the academic year.
- The 4th Annual Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions and community outreach. This is the second consecutive year that the group has received this award.
“I am extremely proud that our SNDA chapter has continued its remarkable tradition of excellence, whether serving the community, mentoring and encouraging the youths of the Baltimore area to pursue careers in oral health, or supporting their student peers,” said Mark A. Reynolds, DDS ’86, PhD, UMSOD dean and professor.
“These remarkable students were undaunted by the pandemic, each staying focused on their studies while adapting standing programs and developing new ways to serve and educate our community neighbors.”
At first, the idea of planning and executing myriad events during a pandemic was “very scary,” said fourth-year dental student Ashley E. Reid, MS, who served as the chapter’s 2020-21 president. “We faced a lot of out-of-the-box scenarios. We had to be flexible while making sure we were serving the community.”
In the end, “teamwork and listening to the needs of the community helped us,” she added.
The SNDA’s Chapter of the Year competition is based upon a chapter’s success in fundraising, performing community service, and launching new initiatives. Additionally, each chapter is assessed on how it executes three standing national programs: Impressions Day, in which pre-dental undergraduate students visit dental schools to learn about the dental school experience; a holiday canned food or toy drive; and an oral cancer walk.
UMSOD’s Impressions Day, although held virtually in April, drew more than 100 participants and included a Dental Admission Test boot camp.
“I am thrilled that SNDA was able to adapt its programing so that UMSOD could offer so many undergraduate students a chance to learn about the experience of attending dental school,” said Andrea Morgan, DDS, MS, clinical assistant professor and director of student advocacy and cultural affairs. “I am even more delighted that their efforts have been recognized on a national level.”
Faced with the pandemic, SNDA retooled its approach to programing — seeking projects that could be offered remotely or completed outdoors. For example, through the Bridge to Academic Excellence Program, a collaborative community service project of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, SNDA members tutored middle and high school students who were attending school remotely.
The chapter also earned two other honors:
- The Diverse Dental Society’s Pandemic Oral Health Safety Video Contest, first place, which included a $1,500 prize. Awarded by the Dental Diversity Society, which comprises the Hispanic Dental Association, National Dental Association, and Society of American Indian Dentists, it recognizes successful efforts to increase awareness among minority populations of the critical link between oral health and overall health, particularly during a pandemic.
- The Forging and Fortifying Partnerships for Health Equity Virtual Video Competition, second place, which includes a $300 prize. Presented by NDA’s Presidential Inauguration Gala Committee, it recognizes efforts to increase awareness and sensitivity toward racial injustice.