Love at First Smile: Five GSDM-affiliated Couples Reminisce About Their Dental Love Stories for Valentine’s Day 2024

For Valentine’s Day this year, we are featuring five dental love stories, some close to home and some that transcend the globe, ultimately finding themselves at GSDM together. We believe that every type of love story is worth sharing. 

From our love stories to yours, Happy Valentine’s Day.  



Patricia Moraga DMD 17 and Jonathan Werbitt ORTHO 16
Together since 2014, Married since 2018 

Moraga and Werbitt first met at the Boston University Medical Campus barbecue in the fall of 2013, but they didn’t start dating until January 2014. Moraga fondly remembers the night the night she realized there was potential.  

She was out with her classmates in downtown Boston when a group of guys approached her friend group. Moraga said she didn’t like their vibe and was looking for an escape; that’s when she spotted Jonathan across the room. From that moment on, everything clicked together.  

“He had everything that I was looking for in potentially a future husband,” Moraga said.  

At the end of the fall 2016 semester, Moraga visited Werbitt in Montreal, where he had moved after graduating from GSDM.   

Her first morning in Montreal, Moraga woke up to a pleasant surprise.  

“When I woke up in the morning, he had made this sign out of a chalkboard that I still have framed in my bedroom,” Moraga said. “And then he wrote “Will you marry me?” He had a piece of chalk there and I had to check the yes box. Of course, I had said yes.”  

Werbitt had told her to bring something fancy to wear because they were going to go to a party while she was visiting—little did she know that she was going to be attending her own surprise engagement party with their friends. 

Nowadays, they both work in private practices in Westmount, Montreal—directly across the street from each other. Moraga said they even have some of the same patients.  

While they were united by their passion for dentistry, Moraga notes that they don’t discuss their day-to-day work stories as often as one may think—perhaps because their main focus right now is their eight-month-old daughter, Audrey.  

“When you’re married and then you have a career and then you start a family, then things get a little bit more difficult and stressful at times,” Moraga said. “So, we’ve had our difficulties and I think I’ve learned that he is a very loyal and supportive person and that he cares a lot about my goals and what I want to have in our life.” 



Azeez G. Swarup DMD AS 15 and Divya Swarup DMD AS 15
Together and Married since 2008  

It was truly love at first sight for Azeez G. Swarup and Divya Swarup. The pair met when they were working in different specialties—orthodontics and periodontics, respectively–and got married just two months after that first meeting.  

“One day, we were just chatting, having food and then two months later we were married,” Azeez said. 

The pair said they quickly felt enamored by each other’s determination and hard-working nature. Both had similar goals for their future, and everything just came together. Right after they got married in 2008, they opened their own private in New Delhi, working as both general dentists and specialists. 

Years later, after owning their practice and subsequently working at a university in Saudi Arabia as course directors and heads of the orthodontics and periodontics departments respectively, they decided to go on a vacation, ultimately deciding on a 21-day, 3,500-mile road trip up and down the United States’ West Coast. On the plane ride back to Saudi Arabia, Azeez asked Divya if she thought they could live in the U.S. Her response was an immediate yes. From that moment on, they started preparing to apply to US dental schools. 

They couldn’t fathom both getting into the same dental school at the same time, but to their surprise, they were both accepted to GSDM in 2013, and said it could not have been a better fit. After navigating visa and loan issues, they were finally enroute to the U.S., this time not as tourists on the West Coast, but as dental students on the East Coast.  

Just six months before they graduated—and right during their Northeast Regional Board of Dental Exams (later renamed to Commission on Dental Competency Assessments)—Divya gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Aadya.  

The new mother and father were worried about completing their exams and graduating on time, but Azees and Divya said GSDM faculty and staff supported them every day through Commencement. In fact, Aadya attended Commencement, suited up in a BU onesie.  

“It was like BU took us under their wing,” Divya said. “They didn’t let go of us at any point.”  

Following their joint commencement, the pair worked in private practices in Massachusetts and New Hampshire before moving to Canada in 2021. In late 2023, they opened their own practice in British Columbia.  

From discussing patient care methods to office management strategies, Divya said there was no one else but Azeez with whom she would want to have traveled all over the globe, pursuing their shared love of dentistry.  

“[Everything] would not have been possible if we didn’t have each other to lean on,” she said. “It’s just so easy for him to be in my shoes, even if he wasn’t physically there to understand my feelings, which is perfect because I don’t have to fight to be understood or I don’t have to explain too much. He gets it.”  

Azeez said there are so many benefits to being with someone who is in the same profession. Simply put, they understand each other professionally and personally.  

“Every marriage is like a series of many small relationships; they evolve over time and may not be the same as they were in the beginning,” he said. “The things that might have drawn you to your partner to begin with might not be present there; likewise, there might have been some new qualities in your partner that might not have been there to begin with, but the core of trust and love is the thing that binds all of that together and does not change; this keeps us together for each other always and forever. This is how I feel our love life has been.” 



Gihan Zanati DMD AS 24 and Mohammed Ghidan DMD AS 24
Engaged in 2016, Married since 2018  

Gihan Zanati and Mohammed Ghidan’s first spark happened at an unlikely setting: a bus stop. While trying to pass the time between his two jobs–teaching prosthetics at a dental school in Egypt and working at a public hospital–Ghidan was going for a walk and noticed Zanati, one of the dental interns from the prosthetics department, waiting at a bus stop.   

He stopped to say hello, and found himself talking to her for an hour, discussing everything from their families and their shared passion for standup comedians. Seven months later, they were engaged.  

Before he met Zanati, Ghidan said his life was so busy with work that he wasn’t prioritizing socialization and the little things in life. Ever since that fateful conversation at the bus stop, his work-life balance has been changed for the better. 

“My life was black and white and with her, my life is full of colors,” Ghidan said.  

The couple was moved to the U.S. permanently in 2021, which is when they started to apply to dental schools—and both were accepted for the Advanced Standing program at GSDM.  

A few months after starting the program, the couple faced another life-changing moment, the birth of their first child, Zain, during Intersession in 2022. Although there have been stressful moments, Zanati said she couldn’t imagine being a fellow student and first-time parent with anyone else.  

“[He has taught me] to be more patient about things, like good things will happen,” Zanati said.
“I’m learning from his past how to be patient in order to have a good life in the future.”  

While they are balancing being full-time students and parents, Ghidan said he can’t help but look back to their first conversation at the bus stop. He said the key to a good relationship is making time for each other and remembering to have fun.  

“When she finishes her day [and] I finish my day, every day we talk and we have this relief when we talk to each other about what we have in our minds and about our past, about our present, and what we feel for the future,” Ghidan said. “That is the thing that initiated the spark of love between us. Make something a little thing every day.”  



Hitesh Vij DMD AS 20 and Ruchieka Vij DMD AS 20
Together since 2004, Married since 2007  

Hitesh Vij and Ruchieka Vij met during the first year of their oral pathology residency at Manipal University in India. The pair jokes that Hitesh never formally proposed to Ruchieka; He simply told her he liked her, and they have been together ever since.  

“We were talking to each other every day, going out for coffee breaks and lunches together,” Hitesh said. “Once we started talking, we were [saw how our] common interest matched. That’s how I started feeling that I should be serious.”  

The couple knew they wanted to come to the U.S. but wanted to improve their financial stability before applying to dental programs. After completing their residencies in India and spending a few years in Saudi Arabia, they took their board exams and applied to dental programs, including GSDM.  

The pair noted how much they appreciated that the late Dr. David Russell, former GSDM assistant dean for admissions, advocated that couples do the Advanced Standing program together. Ruchieka said it was a blessing they were together, both from a professional and familial point of view (their son was in third grade when they started the program).  

“[It] did work out easier,” Ruchieka said. “Because we were in the program at the same time, we understood the intensity we both had with the program.”  

Both became super immersed in their roles at GSDM, most notably Hitesh becoming the DMD AS 20 class president and Ruchieka placing in the top ten of their class. Together, they felt unstoppable.  

Nowadays, they continue to be a dynamic duo, co-owning a private practice in Massachusetts. 

“I feel I studied because of her,” Hitesh said. “I did well in my residency program, and I totally owe it to her because we would talk [and] it was more of a reason to go for a date and just talk and be in a library and together. I feel that that was a big, big advantage.”  



Shahla Izadian DMD AS 24 and Bahman Derakshan DMD AS 24
Together since 2003, Married since 2005 

Shahla Izadian and Bahman Derakshan—the loves of each other’s lives–each have different dreams within the dental profession and have worked together to make sure they can both accomplish their goals.  

The pair first met at Mashad University in Iran when Izadian was an undergraduate student in the DMD program and Derakshan was a resident in the oral surgery program. Following a mutual friend’s birthday dinner in 2003, they started talking and as they were dating, Shahla realized he was “the one.”  

But before they got married, the pair realized they had different dreams: Izadian wanted to immigrate to the U.S. to practice dentistry and Derakshan wanted to become an oral surgeon. While Izadian graduated the year they met, Derakshan still had five more years in his residency program. But they decided to figure out a way to make it work.  

“We did not exactly have the same point of view about our future at that point, but we really liked each other during that time, so we wanted to have each other,” she said.  

In 2007, Izadian was accepted into the Advanced Standing program at GSDM but didn’t enroll as Derakshan wanted to finish his residency and start working as an oral surgeon in Iran. The pair ultimately owned a private practice together for almost a decade before jointly deciding in 2021 it was time to come to the U.S. This time, they both applied and got accepted to GSDM.  

“We try to be flexible and compatible with each other for many years, and we adjusted our dreams, our feelings, our futures, everything for each other,” Izadian said. “At some point, I did the sacrifice to stay with him [in Iran], and right now, he is doing the sacrifice for us to come here.”  

It has been a blessing and gift to be at the same program at the same time, Izadian said. It ended up being perfect timing for their family. Sometimes dreams look different than they once were.  

“It helped us to reconnect better to each other and to our commitment to our family,” Izadian said.  “It was really worth it. It was such a great experience to be together. We didn’t expect that we can be classmates sitting and having exams together.”  

After being married for 20 years, Izadian said the core to a successful marriage is sticking to family and love, working every day to nourish the love. With a husband who shares her same passion for dentistry, it’s been an incredible journey growing together. She is eager to see what will happen next in their dental pursuits.  

“We can learn from each other, and also when we have the same dream, we can work harder as a team together,” Izadian said. 



Editor’s note: All photos were provided by the couples. 



By Rachel Grace Philipson