Congratulating the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD) Class of 2021 for its clear “ability to swiftly and gracefully adapt and innovate,” Mark A. Reynolds, DDS ’86, PhD, UMSOD dean and professor, said that the School’s newest graduates possess “the qualities of leadership and professionalism that will distinguish them throughout their careers.”
Reynolds’s remarks came during UMSOD’s Honors Convocation, a ceremony held annually to recognize the “hard work, personal and financial investment, and commitment that each of you, our graduates, has dedicated to the oral health profession.”
The Convocation, which this year was a prerecorded, online ceremony, was one of many graduation-related events held during the week of May 17-21 — either as virtual or small in-person events that reflected new protocols imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The festivities included a virtual Evening With the Stars awards ceremony on May 17 and an in-person Military Commissioning Ceremony held May 21 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
The Universitywide Commencement traditionally organized by the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) was canceled for the second year in a row because of COVID-19 safety protocols. Instead, UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, addressed all Class of 2021 members from Leadership Hall in the Medical School Teaching Facility as part of a celebratory video released May 20.
Jarrell also addressed UMSOD’s dental and dental hygiene graduates during the School’s virtual Convocation, saying that the day’s events held great meaning.
“It is tough enough to get through professional school during ordinary times. I am certain that it has taken you an extra dose of flexibility and adaptability under these conditions to stay the course and complete your studies,” he said. “Your resiliency amid this global pandemic is commendable. I thank you for your great accomplishment and persistence.”
During the Convocation, Reynolds presented Francis G. Serio, DMD, Perio ’86, MBA, with a University System of Maryland Honorary Doctor of Public Service.
As founder and co-director of the Dominican Dental Mission Project, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free dental care to the residents of rural Dominican Republic, Serio has spent nearly four decades working to expand access to dental care, as well as serving as an academician and dental practitioner.
“Dr. Serio’s tireless commitment to educating future oral health care providers and expanding access to oral health care to those in need has significantly improved the lives of many,” Reynolds said.
Other speakers at the Convocation included Melvin F. Kushner, DDS ’66, chair of the UMSOD Board of Visitors; Shari C. Kohn, DDS ’90, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors; Sheryl L. Syme, RDH, BS ’88, MS ’93, associate professor and director of the Dental Hygiene Programs; and student leaders.
“Look to yourself for power,” Kohn said to the graduates. “You have been given the means to succeed. You must take these tools and make yourself a life with dedication to your profession,” she continued. “You’ll find, as I have, that your degree will serve you well.”
Nine small, in-person hooding and pinning ceremonies also were held May 20-21. Members of each of UMSOD’s eight General Practice groups and the dental hygiene graduates, wearing their academic regalia, processed into the School’s auditorium where they were met by Reynolds and other school leaders and faculty.
“Although this physical gathering may be small in relation to those of other years, it holds great significance,” Reynolds said to the each of the small groups.
“This ceremony marks the graduation of a class whose members have shown beyond any doubt remarkable tenacity and resilience. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they have adapted: Studying remotely, completing research, performing virtual community service, exceling in patient care — and above all, succeeding.”