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Dental school’s White Coat Ceremony provides inspiration for Class of 20268 min read

August 2, 2022

Dental school’s White Coat Ceremony provides inspiration for Class of 20268 min read

First-year DDS student Madeline Cardinal is assisted into her clinic coat on the Hill Auditorium stage during the School of Dentistry White Coat Ceremony on Friday.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug. 2, 2022 – The latest class of University of Michigan dental students symbolically donned their personalized clinic coats in a ceremony Friday that emphasized their commitment to the ethical treatment and highest standards of care for their future patients.

The White Coat Ceremony for the students in the Class of 2026 brought their families and friends from around Michigan and the country to Hill Auditorium to celebrate the start of their four-year education leading to a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree. The annual ceremony is held about a month after the new class, known as D1s, arrive and begin classes.

Speakers praised the 109 students for the educational and community service accomplishments that led to their admission from nearly 1,700 applicants, and also offered encouragement for navigating the next four years of dental school.

Interim Dean Jan Hu emphasized the commitment to leading dentistry that is a hallmark of the U-M School of Dentistry, dating to its founding in 1875. She noted the importance of classmates building bonds and helping each other develop the dedication, expertise and pride that goes with the school’s mission of advancing health through education, service, research and discovery.

Michigan Dental Association President Dr. Vincent Benivegna delivers the keynote address. Also pictured are, from left, Dr. Stephen Harris, representing the International College of Dentists; Dr. Gary Bonior, representing the Michigan Academy of General Dentistry; Interim Dean Jan Hu; Class of 2023 student Rodrigo Rangel; Class of 2023 president Samantha Sciancalepore; and Class of 2023 vice president Raurie Petrich.

“Wherever you are from, you bring a wonderful diversity of life experiences, knowledge and perspectives to this common group that will forever be called the University of Michigan School of Dentistry Class of 2026. Learn from each other, lean on each other, cherish each other,” she said.

“You will look back on these four years with a mixture of satisfaction at having mastered a challenging goal and with a fondness for those who shared the journey with you – the professors who coached you and the classmates who sustained you. In the four years until you cross this very same stage for 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,” Hu said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Vincent Benivegna, President of the Michigan Dental Association, recounted some of his experiences during the admissions process and later while he was a student at the dental school. As an oral surgeon practicing in mid-Michigan, Benivegna said he is grateful for the foundation he received at the dental school, though it may have been difficult at the time to understand the continual emphasis on high standards.

Chancelor Mitchell is helped into his clinic coat by Rodrigo Rangel.

“You will be learning dentistry in the most modern, cutting-edge facility in the nation. You have the best instructors and staff available, too. Take advantage of all of it. Respect your instructors.  Be kind to your classmates. And, especially, be kind to your patients. You are now in the people business. Respect diversity and treat patients equitably as we know that not everybody looks or thinks alike,” Benivegna said.

Like the dental school, he said, the MDA’s mission, vision and values are put in place to emphasize the integrity, ethics and importance of improving the public’s oral and overall health. The organization works on many levels, including continuing education, to assist dentists with their careers. “I personally believe that it is because of our mission, vision and values that dentistry is the most trusted profession by the public. It is your responsibility to make sure that continues,” Benivegna told the first-year students.

Senior Class President Samantha Sciancalepore said the greatest rewards of dental school start when students begin treating patients. Though she and most students gain experience as chairside assistants as they prepare for dental school, it’s much different when a student is responsible for leading the patient’s treatment, she said.

Geraldine Berkemeier dons her clinic coat with help from Class of 2023 student Holly Rizzo.

“The first time you sit down with a patient and have a real, live person looking back at you – not just your Sim Lab mannequin that you drew eyes on – you are filled with various emotions. Sometimes things will go to plan, sometimes they won’t. But those first moments as a dental student administering care to a patient is worth all of the late nights studying. It’s worth the 30 credits a semester. It’s worth the long days where you sit there with classmates and wonder how on earth you’re going to remember all of these innervations and nerves. When you put in the work, good things – if not great things – will come of it.”

The first-year students were also encouraged to be involved in professional dentistry organizations. Dr. Gary Bonior, president of the Michigan Academy of General Dentistry, and Dr. Stephen Harris, Regent in the 9th District of the International College of Dentists, explained the missions and benefits of belonging to their organizations.

Dr. Todd Ester delivers closing remarks as fourth-year students Samantha Sciancalepore and Raurie Petrich listen.

Faculty member Dr. Todd Ester, the school’s Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, used his closing remarks to inspire the first-year students to stay focused on their aspirations. “For some of you, this moment has been a part of your dreams for many years. For all of you, it epitomizes the hard work, grit, prayers and commitment you have dedicated to reaching your goal of becoming a student-dentist. And my friends you are here, you did it!”

Ester challenged the students to “continue to dream, be bridge-builders across difference, and never, ever quit.”

“It will take the same resilience, envisioning of your goals, faith, dedication and tenacity to matriculate through dental school and complete your degree,” Ester said. “Please don’t ever stop dreaming.”

Samantha Dial (front), Jordan DeVoe and Erika Danella recite the Oath of Aspiring Dentists with their classmates.
Students in the front row (from right) Laurel Kazazian, Kelsey Gruber and Maxine Taylor make room for Interim Dean Jan Hu as she joins the group for the official class photo on the steps of Hill Auditorium after the ceremony.
Student Vivian Harber is surrounded by family members and her boyfriend as they gather for a group photo outside Hill after the ceremony.


For more information on the Class of 2026, see this previous related story about the class orientation in June.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral healthcare 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:  Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communications, at, or (734) 615-1971.