Achievements & Awards Education Faculty Patient Care Students

White Coat Ceremony marks official start of dental school and a commitment to the highest standards of care for patients8 min read

August 15, 2023

White Coat Ceremony marks official start of dental school and a commitment to the highest standards of care for patients8 min read

First-year student Jack Nawrocki slips into his White Coat with the assistance of fourth-year student Hussain Ali on the stage at Hill Auditorium. Fourth-year student Leo Merle (at podium) waits to announce the next student while his classmates Justin Do and Pooja Bharadwaj (at far right) ready the next white coats.

Ann Arbor, Mich., Aug. 15, 2023 – An enduring commitment to the best and most ethical treatment of patients, the importance of community involvement and giving back to the profession of dentistry.

Those were among the main themes that the President of the Michigan Dental Association emphasized in his keynote speech delivered to the newly arrived students at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry during their White Coat Ceremony July 28.

Dr. Eric Knudsen congratulated the school’s 109 members of the DDS Class of 2027 and 20 internationally trained dentists who also will complete their education at the school and graduate with the Class of 2025. He said they are joining what he considers “one of the best careers.”

Cheyenne Love does a knee bend to make it easier for Di Xie to assist with the coat.

The new students arrived at the dental school earlier this summer before welcoming family members and friends to the annual White Coat Ceremony at Hill Auditorium. Several hundred people from across the country and various international locations attended the event. Each student crosses the stage to don a white clinic coat that carries their name and the Block M that represents the U-M dental school’s 148-year history of leading dental education. The ceremony signifies the students’ commitment to pursue and uphold the highest standards of care and ethics of the profession, emphasized in the Oath of Aspiring Dentists that they recite in unison as part of the program.

Knudsen, who earned his DDS at U-M in 1995 and practices in Escanaba, Michigan, told the students they have chosen a profession that people depend on and need. “As a dentist, you garner respect, and with that comes even more responsibility,” Knudsen said. He said it is important for dentists to closely communicate with patients on treatment plan decisions that are best for the patient’s circumstances, not just what the dentist would recommend. It should be the patient’s decision ultimately, not the dentist’s.

Knudsen also recommended community service. “You are so much more than a dentist,” he said. “Embrace your community. Serve on local committees, run for school board, join Kiwanis and Rotary, coach Little League, hockey and softball. You will be amazed how much your community needs you outside of your coat! I can confidently say, as a former school board member for eight years and a member of multiple other organizations, that I got so much more out of the time I spent than the simple hours volunteering.”

Dr. Eric Knudsen, president of the Michigan Dental Association, delivers the keynote. Listening are (from far left) faculty speaker Marcia Campos; Interim Dean Jan Hu; fourth-year student Hussain Ali; and Karim Tabbaa, president of the Class of 2024 who also welcomed the new students.

Boosting the profession of dentistry is also important, Knudsen said. It can involve joining professional organizations like MDA, but there are other ways to help. “Now that you are in dental school, do your best to encourage younger students. Talk to kids back home about dentistry. Do everything in your power to advocate for and promote the profession. It doesn’t matter if it is getting someone to be a dental assistant, dental hygienist or a dentist – we need them all. I have made access to care one of the priorities of my year as MDA President, and getting as many people as possible into dentistry is my mission.”

Here are excerpted passages with some of the additional advice and wisdom shared with the new class by other speakers during the ceremony:

Interim Dean Jan Hu, referring to the Block M and each student’s name on their White Coat: “You will perform many of your professional duties with your name right out front for everyone to see. There’s an accountability in that tradition. Displaying your name represents the level of dedication, expertise and pride that each of you will bring to every moment of every interaction you have here at the school. It is a promise that you vow to exemplify the highest standards of care, medically and ethically, for your patients. …  Today’s ceremony marks the official beginning of a professional journey that will be life-changing. You are to be congratulated for choosing an admirable career for your life – a health care profession focused on improving lives one patient at a time.”

Cassidy Diehl navigates the coat donning with a smile and the help of Di Xie.

Faculty representative Marcia Campos, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics: “The white coat is a powerful symbol of transformation. White is a symbol of purity, and the white coat symbolizes the purity of purpose being affirmed in becoming a health professional. Imagine all the responsibility, honor, respect, altruism, and beauty behind donning this white coat. Imagine all the sacrifices you have already made to get to this day and how much more are to come. Imagine all the compassion and empathy you will have to put in practice in order to fulfill your duty. But also imagine the smiles you will restore and the lives you will transform.”

The Oath of Aspiring Dentists is recited by (from front) Sumukh Kak, Zahraa Kassem, Jasmine Kaur and Manpreet Kaur.

Fourth-year dental student Karim Tabbaa, senior class president: “Your journey in dental school will be filled with ups and downs. Things sometimes will go as planned and sometimes they won’t. And if you start doubting yourself – trust me, we have all been there – very soon when you enter clinical care and you see your first patient, complete your first treatment, and receive a grateful hug from them, doubts will subside. And all of the time you spent studying late nights and practicing in the Sim Lab will be worth every second.”

Representatives of two professional dental organizations also welcomed the class: Dr. Jessica Brisbois, Vice President of the Michigan Academy of General Dentistry; and Dr. Stephen Harris, Deputy Regent of the 9th District of the International College of Dentists.

For more information and demographics on the DDS Class of 2027, see this previous article on the dental school website from the students’ Orientation Week earlier this summer.

The group photo on the steps of Hill Auditorium after the ceremony.
Donna Brennan (in blue), a senior dental assistant in the periodontics clinic at the dental school, poses for a photo with Pramiti Saxena, a member of the Internationally Trained Dentist cohort, outside Hill after the ceremony. Saxena’s mother Dr. Viveka Kumar is the photographer. Brennan attended the ceremony to support Saxena; they have worked together in the perio clinic.


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.