On Friday, July 31, 2020, at precisely 11:00 a.m., the newest members of the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) community launched the video conferencing application Zoom. At the same time, in the dental school’s auditorium at 635 Albany Street, Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter, clad in a mask, approached the lectern to begin the school’s first-ever virtual Professional Ceremony.
The event, held to mark the entrance of the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) Class of 2024 and the Doctor of Dental Medicine Advanced Standing (DMD AS) Class of 2022 into the field of dentistry, signified these students’ commitment to promoting the integrity of the profession and to serving the needs of those who require oral healthcare.
In the past, the event has taken place on Talbot Green. However, due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s ceremony was reimagined as a live, virtual event. Students joined a Zoom meeting, while Dean Hutter and the other speakers delivered remarks from a lectern set up in the school’s new auditorium. The remarks were streamed to the Zoom meeting, joined by students from the comfort of their own homes, and to YouTube, so that friends and family around the globe could watch as the DMD Class of 2024 and DMD AS Class of 2022 were welcomed into the GSDM community.
“I know this is not the way you anticipated receiving your BU pin, and reciting the GSDM Professional Oath for the first time,” said Dean Hutter. “But please I know that I speak for our entire Boston University community when I say that nothing can lessen the pride that I have in your accomplishments to date, or the excitement that I feel for each of you as you embark on your dental school education.”
In her keynote address, Dr. Meredith Bailey, clinical instructor in the Department of General Dentistry and vice president of the Massachusetts Dental Society, urged students to become involved and engaged in dentistry, including student leadership, dental research and community outreach.
“The most important function of organized dentistry is to serve as the voice for our profession, Bailey said. “You all are the voice for the future of dentistry.”
Pulling off the virtual event was no easy task. Every piece of the typical Professional Ceremony had to be re-imagined and re-worked to accommodate and adjust to the new guidelines.
“One of the biggest challenges was mapping out how each component of the event was going to come together as one,” said Amanda Warren, director of meetings & events. “Between Zoom, YouTube, our keynote & guest speakers, camera work, and the students’ participation, there were many challenging layers behind the final product.”
The Dean and the other speakers delivered their remarks from the school’s auditorium, wearing masks and sitting six feet apart. One at a time, they approached the podium, which was sanitized in between each speaker. The speakers were filmed with a DLSR camera, which was transmitting to a computer and providing the video capabilities for the Zoom meeting.
Certain hallmarks of the annual Professional Ceremony were difficult to translate to a virtual environment. Students are traditionally “pinned” in person – but for this year’s event, students received their BU pin on the first day of orientation. During the virtual event, students were asked to hold their pin up while their camera feed was tiled on the screen.
The Professional Ceremony also marks the first time the school’s newest students recited the professional oath together. However, rehearsals made clear that Zoom wasn’t designed to have 200 students speak at the same time. To provide the most optimal audio, one student Catia Bayda DMD 24, was randomly selected to read the oath out loud, repeating each line after Dean Hutter had recited it, while the others students’ audio was muted.
“This event was 100 percent live, virtually, so there was little to no room for error,” Warren said. “We had a small army behind the scenes that did a fantastic job handling each individual component, and I can’t thank those individuals enough for their dedication leading up to, and on that day.”
The professional ceremony capped off the DMD Class of 2024 and DMD AS Class of 2022’s week-long orientation. Like many events these days, orientation was a combination of in-person and virtual activities. Students arrived on campus on Monday, July 27, 2020, and were directed to one of 10 locations across the Boston University Medical Campus (BUMC). The Dean’s opening remarks were streamed live from the auditorium to all locations. Students also came to campus for their instrument pick-ups and loupe fittings. However, all other parts of orientation took place online, in the form of Zoom meetings and instructional videos uploaded to Blackboard.
The student life fair, which generally takes place on the second day of orientation, was re-imagined into a website, where students could browse information and watch short videos regarding GSDM student organizations, BU affiliated organizations, and other resources available to students.
“Our staff was challenged to think outside of the box and come up with new and innovative ways to deliver content for our orientation, while maintaining the safety and well-being of our incoming students and greater GSDM community,” said Joseph Calabrese DMD 91 AEGD 92, associate dean of students. “And in the end, they delivered. Given all of the guidelines that we needed to follow, I think that it was successful—and I look forward to implementing some of the new and interesting ideas we came up this year to next year’s orientation.”