Following closely on the heels of the 130th anniversary of the UCSF School of Dentistry's founding on September 7th , the Class of 2015 was welcomed to Parnassus Heights and to the study of dentistry at UCSF in a White Coat ceremony on September 21st in Cole Hall. It was the culmination of an intense eight-day orientation known at the School as the "Introduction to Dentistry".
Characterized repeatedly by Dean John D.B. Featherstone and Associate Dean for Education and Student Affairs Dorothy Perry as, by multiple measures, likely the most diverse class of dental students ever admitted to the School, the Class of 2015 brings a wide range of personal, cultural and academic experience to campus as they begin their studies. Importantly they also bring a strong dedication to the highest level of scholarship and service, and a profound personal investment in their chosen profession consistent with the oldest and greatest traditions of the School, now well into its second century of excellence.
The majority of the new class are women, and several come from groups traditionally underrepresented in the health professions. Many began their lives outside of the United States, representing seventeen countries of origin. And a number of those born in the US and elsewhere also speak languages other than English. The traditional academic backgrounds and paths to dentistry are well represented, as are a few unusual undergraduate majors, and though the class attended institutions all over the United States, about half come to UCSF from schools within the University of California.
Following words of welcome from Associate Dean Perry, Dean Featherstone shared a few anecdotes from his own journey with the class, along with his thoughts about discering what's most important as they begin their momentous academic climb over the next four years. "Work hard, play hard" he reiterated, offering a philosophy of complete personal and professional dedication. Commending an attitude of humility and appreciation for fellow classmates, instuctors, friends and family, he invited the students to stand and offer a round of applause to those who came to support them at the ceremony, and in the long years of sustained effort and focus that led up to that remarkable moment. The response was emotional, ebullient, and sustained.
UCSF Dental Alumni Association President Mary Porteous offered her own words of welcome to the incoming class, followed by Past DAA President and Alumni Medal of Honor recipient Pamela Alston, who delivered a stirring keynote speech, among other things touching on the significance of the white coat in the health professions. Her appeal to treat patients as special people and to think well beyond their dental needs engendered a highly emotional response. Dr. Alston had also met and addressed the class earlier the same day as part of a first-ever alumni panel to address incoming dental students, offering a range of thoughts and stories about what to expect in dental school, and after. Alston's thoughtful and heartfelt words were warmly received.
The culminating moment of this landmark day arrived when the new dental students proceeded to the front of Cole Hall in carefully-choreographed groups to be ceremonously coated by faculty, who volunteered their time to launch future colleauges on their journey. The audience smiled, applauded, cheered and occasionally called out, as a profusion of cameras and cell phones recorded the moment. After all had been coated they returned to their seats, and remained standing in their gleaming white clinical coats to the sustained applause of the audience, faculty, distinguished guests, and the Dean.
And then with equal ceremony, all in turn trooped up and out of Cole Hall to a Faculty Alumni House reception on the first day of their new profession, and beyond that, to the opening weeks of dental school that soon awaited them.
- Top: The newly-arrived Class of 2015 following lunch at the Faculty Alumni House, with the UCSF Dentistry sweatshirts provided to them through the generosity of the UCSF Dental Alumni Association
- Center: Applauding family, friends and supporters in the audience as the White Coat ceremony gets underway in Cole Hall
- Bottom: A group of new dental students, immediately after being coated by dental faculty