Class of 2025 White Coat Ceremony: A commitment to patients, dentistry and integrity11 min read
Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 1, 2021 – Family and friends of the first-year class at the School of Dentistry came from around Michigan and the country on Friday to attend the annual White Coat Ceremony that welcomes students to the profession and recognizes their commitment to exemplify the highest standards of integrity and care.
During the event at Rackham Auditorium, the Class of 2025 received their personalized clinic coats and heard advice from faculty, administrators, the president of the current senior class and dentists from around Michigan representing professional organizations. The ceremony for the 109 students, who arrived on campus in June, is a symbolic representation of their commitment to the patients they will serve and to the ethical principles of the professional dentistry community.
In her welcoming remarks, Dean Laurie McCauley said the event is a celebration of not just the start of dental school for the high-achieving class members, but it also recognizes the many ways that family and friends have supported the students thus far in their journey into dentistry. The ceremony also symbolizes the school’s commitment to excellence and leadership dating to its founding.
“For 146 years, from the very beginning in 1875, this dental school has been home to people with high standards, foresight, commitment and integrity,” McCauley said. “From the early days through today, it has been a place for educators, administrators and students who aren’t simply followers. Instead they sought to lead the development of dentistry even before it was a profession. Our remarkable and visionary leaders back then laid the foundation not just for the school you see today, but for the entire profession of dentistry.”
McCauley urged students to embrace the challenge of the next four years until graduation. “Stay focused on your studies, but seek out new experiences. Find out what you really like, but do so by expanding your comfort zone. Stay dedicated to dentistry, but strive to make it better than you found it. That’s what leaders do.”
Dr. Michael Maihofer, president of the Michigan Dental Association, noted in his keynote address that dentistry, like many other professions, is changing rapidly because of technology and other ways society is evolving. One thing that hasn’t changed over the years, however, is the implied social contract between society and the profession of dentistry. Maihofer, who writes a column on ethics and peer review issues for the MDA magazine, noted that adhering to high ethical standards is a distinguishing trait of any profession.
In recently re-reading the Oath of Aspiring Dentists that is part of the White Coat Ceremony, Maihofer pointed to two basic ethical principles – veracity or truthfulness, and beneficence or the duty to protect a patient’s welfare. “Simply put,” he said, “it comes down to this: When it comes to my relationships with my patients, it’s never about me, it’s always about them first – their welfare and oral health.”
“I like that line in the oath about being mindful that your patient is a human being. It might seem a little bit odd to you right now. But after you’ve done a couple of thousand dental procedures in a couple of thousand different mouths, some dentists have a tendency to forget that. Don’t ever forget that. No matter how difficult, always try to find something of yourself in every patient you have the privilege to treat. And I’ll guarantee that if you can do that – and it will be hard sometimes – then you’ll always live up to the high ethical expectations that we have for our profession.”
Senior Class President Thomas Havlichek encouraged the first-year students to study hard but take time to enjoy the experience as they move forward. “Today is a recognition of all that you have accomplished up to this point. All the late night studying, time spent volunteering, working and shadowing, has led up to this moment. Take some time to reflect on your journey and how you got here. … Wear these coats proudly and with the integrity and professionalism they represent. Enjoy the next four years. They go faster than you can imagine. During your time at Michigan, remember to have fun, laugh a lot, learn a lot, make mistakes and grow from them, and don’t give up. Be proud of where you came from, be proud of where you are, and be proud of where you will go.”
The class was also congratulated by the representatives of two professional dentistry organizations. Dr. Amanda Yousif-Mansour, a dentist practicing in Warren, Michigan, and president of the Michigan Academy of General Dentistry, encouraged the beginning students to join the academy for the professional development and networking it can provide. Dr. Steven Sulfaro (U-M DDS 1985), a dentist who practices in Holly and Deputy Regent of the Ninth District of the International College of Dentists, noted the ICD’s emphasis on leadership, scholarship and service by its Fellows, and he welcomed the new students to what he called “an awesome profession.”
Faculty member Dr. Stephen Stefanac closed the ceremony by sharing what he said were things he learned in dental school and things he wished he had known then. Because he was addressing first-year students known as D1s, he said he would be called a D45 after his many years of practicing and educating students as a faculty member and administrator at three dental schools. Among the bits of practical advice he offered for students:
• Focus on the positive. In the first months of dental school, Stefanac was particularly frustrated by what he felt was his inferior performance as he practiced his skills in the preclinic before seeing patients. “I remember going to see the course director in his office and explaining to him that my cavity preparation was too deep here, or too wide there. Or that the finish on my restoration was not smooth enough and the occlusion was not right. He stopped me mid-sentence and gave me a new perspective. He said, ‘Think of what you want to do instead of what you don’t want to do.’ This was really great advice. What’s in your mind is what tends to happen, so think of what will make you successful in your classes and with patients, not dwell on how things might go wrong. Of course, be aware of possible mistakes, but don’t let it drive your thinking. It’s just having a positive perspective.”
• The value of being prepared and organized. “It sounds simple but with so many classes and other activities you are expected to pay attention to, it’s very easy to let things slip. I became a consummate list-maker and planner. I talked to others who were successful and learned how they prepared. And as a result, I had less problems with classes, patient care went better, and things seemed more predictable.”
• Chairside manner. As a student, Stefanac approached a particularly talented faculty member after watching his positive interactions with patients. “He seemed so kind and so honest that I wanted to know what made him tick. He shared his personal mantra: ‘Be good to your patients and they will be good to you.’ It’s a great bit of advice.”
• The power of honesty. “I made my share of mistakes in class and in clinic, but something I learned quickly was that things went much better when I swallowed my pride, admitted my errors and was honest with faculty, staff and patients. It didn’t feel so great at the time, but being truthful and willing to improve made those folks want to interact with me even more.”
• Don’t be shy. “I wish I had been better at asking questions in dental school. There were many things I didn’t understand and there were lots of people who could’ve helped me but frankly I feared looking unprepared or, even worse, appearing stupid. So, if you aren’t already, I urge you to practice asking questions so you get the most value from your faculty, staff and even peers at the school.”
The 109 members of the Class of 2025 were admitted from 1,867 applicants. They earned undergraduate degrees from 17 Michigan colleges and universities, and from small colleges and major universities across the country. They are closely split between Michigan residents (54) and out-of-state students (55). Students from out-of-state come from nearly all of the nearby Upper Midwest states, but many others in the western, southern and northeast parts of the country, including Alaska, California, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, New York and Massachusetts, to name several. One class member graduated from Peking University in China.
In a growing trend at dental schools across the country, women outnumber the men in the class, 64 to 45. The average undergraduate grade point average of the class is 3.8. Six of the students have master’s degrees. Two students are in the school’s Oral Health Sciences program that offers a dual DDS/PhD degree.
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at: www.dent.umich.edu. Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at email@example.com, or (734) 615-1971.