The Start of a New Era: Annual GSDM White Coat Ceremony Honors DMD 25 and DMD AS 24 Classes

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Check out our White Coat Ceremony 2023 album on Flickr to see more photos.


More than 200 GSDM students entered Metcalf Hall on Friday, July 7, in a dazzling array of colors but left united in one color – white. 

The occasion was the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony, during which members of the Doctor of Dental Medicine Class of 2025 and the Doctor of Dental Medicine Advanced Standing Class of 2024 received their white coats. The event marked the half-way point in their dental school education and celebrated their entrance into the Patient Treatment Centers. Hundreds of family members and friends attended the event held in the Metcalf Hall at the George Sherman Union on the University’s Charles River Campus. 

On behalf of the entire dental school community, Dean Cataldo Leone praised the accomplishments of the students and expressed his sincere gratitude to them for choosing GSDM as their dental school home.  

“You will now have the wonderful privilege, but also the heavy responsibility of providing comprehensive oral healthcare to your own patients,” Leone said. “Daunting perhaps, and even a little frightening, but please rest assured that our faculty, your teachers, will continue to guide you in your development.” 

Dr. Joseph Calabrese, associate dean of students, thanked the crowd for attending to witnessing this milestone event. He said he is looking forward to seeing what the DMD 25 and DMD AS 24 students accomplish in the Patient Treatment Centers and hopes that their actions will make the world a better place.  

“This ceremony recognizes the dedication and hard work that has allowed all of them to conquer the preclinical gauntlet and catapult them upstairs to the threshold of our treatment centers,” Calabrese said.  

In the keynote address, American Dental Association President-Elect Dr. Linda J. Edgar said she took an unpredictable path to becoming a dentist. She was a high school chemistry teacher and a national class marathon runner, completing more than 45 marathons, participating in the first Woman’s Olympic trials for the marathon, and finishing an Ironman Triathlon, before ultimately finding dentistry to be her professional calling.  

“In my life experience, every tragedy, every tough thing I’ve gone through, in some way has led to a triumph because you know what it does? It makes you tough,” Edgar said. “Underneath this grandma-looking body is a lion.”  

As GSDM students prepare to enter the Patient Treatment Centers, Edgar asked them to remain truthful to themselves and for whom the patients they are treating. She said the most important thing to take away from dental education is how best to treat patients with empathy and honesty.  

“You try to be your best, but don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong, and always be truthful with your patient,” Edgar said. “If something goes wrong and you are truthful with them, they will trust you. So, the duty of care [and] the duty of trust are probably, in my opinion, the two most important things.”  

After the keynote address, students walked on stage in groups of four and were “coated” by six representatives from the school’s faculty and staff: Dr. Joseph Calabrese, associate dean of students, Dr. Larry Dunham, assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Dr. Gail McCausland, assistant dean for academic affairs, Dr. Hesham Nouh, chair ad interim, department of general dentistry, Dr. Janet Peters, faculty liaison to the DMD Advanced Standing program, and Dr. Matthew Zweig, assistant dean ad interim for clinical affairs.  

During the ceremony, several awards were presented: 

  • Jared Jacobson DMD 25 was awarded the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dr. William S. Kramer Award of Excellence, which is presented annually to a rising third-year dental student who has demonstrated outstanding scholarship, character, and potential promise for the advancement of dentistry and service to humanity. 
  • Laura Rodriguez DMD AS 24 was awarded the International College of Dentists Student Leadership Award, which recognizes a DMD Advanced Standing student for demonstrating outstanding leadership, academic accomplishment, and character that focuses on service to the community and our profession. 
  • Ashley Zhang DMD 25 was awarded the 42 North Dental Graduate Scholarship Award, which is presented annually to GSDM students thanks to 42 North Dental’s generous donation to support diversity and inclusivity at GSDM. 
  • Benjamin Affenito DMD 25, Rachyl Adams DMD 25, Amber Alak DMD 25, Hiba Hussain DMD AS 24, and Melanie Thomas DMD AS 24 were honored with the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine Spencer N. Frankl Scholarship Award, which is given annually to students who best exemplify the spirit of the school’s second dean, Dr. Spencer N. Frankl. 

    After the last set of students were “coated,” Leone thanked the audience of parents, spouses, children, relatives, and friends for their unwavering support to help their students achieve their goal of becoming a dentist. He then led the students in the professional oath, pledging, in unison with the students, to the service of humanity, patients, community, and the profession. At the conclusion of the oath, the crowd broke out into celebratory applause.  

    “In looking back, it was really not so long ago that these students joined our community, and they have already enriched us tremendously by their presence,” Leone said. “These classes consist of highly dedicated, intelligent, and talented individuals who have worked very hard in dental school. We are proud of all of their accomplishments thus far, both professional and personal. Furthermore, we are confident that they will demonstrate continued diligence during the second half of their program. Dear students, without any doubt, you have earned the rights and responsibilities to be honored here today.”  

    Students expressed a mix of excitement, pride, and nerves about the day’s ceremony and their upcoming entrance into the Patient Treatment Center.  

    Patrick Ryan Relator DMD 25 said it is nerve-racking to be the one responsible for patients, but that he is looking forward to having that responsibility and trust.   

    “Everyone has their own journey when it comes to getting to the White Coat Ceremony,” Relator said. “I’m definitely not traditional. I spent a year in a post-baccalaureate [program], so it is definitely something that I’ve been yearning for a while. Just getting to this point is just such a different experience from anything I’ve felt before.” 


    For photos from the event, see our White Coat Ceremony 2023 Flickr album.  

    To see our live social media coverage from the event, check out our new Instagram story events highlight.  

    Read What Happens After GSDM’s White Coat Ceremony? Students, Faculty, and Staff Share Advice for Incoming Clinical Students 


    By Rachel Grace Philipson