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Dental classes of 2020 graduate virtually

Dental graduates mainly celebrated with their families this year after universities took the unprecedented step of holding commencement ceremonies online. (Image: MB Images/Shutterstock)
By Jeremy Booth, DTI
July 09, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn., U.S.: The next generation of dentists is entering a profession that suddenly has considerable risk associated with it—a fact already evident to the many dental students who recently graduated in virtual commencement ceremonies held using online platforms such as YouTube, Zoom and Facebook Live.

Owing to physical distancing measures necessitated by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, many dental schools in North America traded traditional commencement ceremonies for online variations that were held through live streams and pre-recorded videos on social media platforms.

In a press release from the American Dental Association (ADA), Prof. Cherae Farmer-Dixon, dean of Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, explained that the decision to go virtual was made in order to avoid a delay of young dentists’ entry into practice or further education. “We had three choices: cancel graduation, postpone the live graduation to the fall or to as late as December, or do it virtually. We went with a virtual graduation, and [will hold] a live traditional format ceremony in December for those who want to come back or can come back.”

“Virtual graduation does not minimize their degrees, it’s celebrating their accomplishments” – Prof. Cherae Farmer-Dixon, dean, Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry

These students have worked hard,” commented Farmer-Dixon. “Our students come from different backgrounds, and becoming a dentist has been a dream by some of them since they were young. Virtual graduation does not minimize their degrees, it’s celebrating their accomplishments.”

Every aspect of the May 16 virtual ceremony was pre-recorded—including the reading of the names of graduates, who were shown in photographs dressed in their regalia—and the video was later aired live on the school’s website and on Facebook Live.

In the same week, graduation ceremonies at A.T. Still University of Health Sciences’ Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health in Kirksville and Touro College of Dental Medicine at New York Medical College also unfolded before a virtual audience.

Located on the original lands of the indigenous Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation, the University of Manitoba in Canada also conferred degrees on 2020 graduates via an unprecedented virtual ceremony, including those of its dental college and dental hygiene school.

Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offered a condensed virtual ceremony for the 8,174 graduates of its class of 2020 in an online broadcast that was followed by various online events hosted by the university’s schools.

Dental graduates show generosity amid the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

In a display of benevolence, graduates of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine’s Class of 2020 opted to donate the money they had raised for their graduation gala to local charities operating in the Las Vegas area.

According to an ADA press release, the graduates had raised $9,000 (€7,970) through fundraising events during their four years of study to fund their graduation festivities, but the 83 graduates unanimously voted to donate $2,881 to each of the following not-for-profit organizations: Three Square, a food bank serving families with young children in Las Vegas; Project 150, an organization that provides necessities to homeless and disadvantaged high school students; and SafeNest, a nonprofit that is dedicated to ending domestic violence through the provision of various trauma-informed services.

There was a little bit of emotion of disappointment when we found out we weren’t having a gala or a graduation. I’m just glad some good could come out of the situation,” Dr. Colette Fuglaar, who served on the class council of the graduating class, commented in the press release.

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