“I almost cried,” said Charles Coleman, PhD, of the moment he placed the purple velvet hood of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry over the head of his daughter Sarah Nia Coleman, DDS ’22.
Adding to the poignancy of the moment was the fact that Sarah Nia’s 87-year-old grandfather William Brown, MD, assisted in the hooding wearing full regalia that exactly matched what he wore during his graduation from Howard University School of Medicine several decades earlier.
“It meant so much for me to be able to get out here and participate,” said Brown, who relied on an intricately carved walking cane to get across the stage.
Coleman was one of 147 graduates in the dentistry class of 2022 who celebrated their convocation at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theater on May 20, 2022.
Perseverance, innovation, challenge, and ultimately gratitude were the dominant themes for the DDS class that went virtual seemingly overnight at the end of their second year. They overcame what looked to be impossible odds by conducting their entire D3 clinical year online.
Mark Reynolds, DDS, PhD, MA, dean of the School of Dentistry, congratulated the students on their extraordinary accomplishments. “Convocation day affirms the commitment, dedication and hard work each of you has made to the oral health professions,” he told 13 BS in Dental Hygiene candidates and 134 Doctor of Dental Surgery candidates.
Jazmin Jones, president of the Dental Class of 2022, said her class rose to the occasion and pushed through challenges through “grit, adaptability and a willingness to do hard things.”
Jones also acknowledged dental hygiene students whose two-year program started and ended during the pandemic. “If our class felt like fish out of water at that moment in time, I can only imagine what the dental hygiene class of 2022 felt like,” she said. “What a shocking welcome and what courage to take on an educational challenge at such an unprecedented time.”
Patricia Meehan, DDS, associate dean for Academic Affairs and assistant professor, Department of Advanced Oral Sciences and Therapeutics, administered the convocation oath. She praised the class of 2022 and said the day was particularly special because the ceremony was in person after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. “This class has been incredibly flexible, patient, understanding and just good natured in terms of all of the challenges they’ve faced,” said Meehan.
Omar El-Sayed, DDS ’22, said the overall success of the class of 2022 would not have happened if not for the support they gave each other. “We ate ice cream together. We studied together. We got up early, stayed up late. None of this was possible without our classmates.”
His thanks also extended to faculty who went above and beyond to ease the adjustment to virtual learning. “Faculty members were always available. You could email them late at night, early in the morning. They were always responsive,” Syed recalled.
Justin Maxwell, DDS ‘22, Summa Cum Laude of the class of 2022, who is embarking on a career in dentistry after a successful stint in the Major Leagues was joined at the ceremony by his wife, three children and a bevy of family members and supporters. He thanked his family and agreed that his classmates were an integral component of his success. “Everybody was supportive for the last four years and we’ve really worked well together. I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate in our professional careers.”
For Coleman, who is headed to a general practice residency at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, gratitude is triple fold. “I’m grateful for the hard work of my family, my hard work, and for the amazing patients who let me serve them in the Baltimore community. I wouldn’t be here without them.”