Student Spotlight: Seven GSDM Students Awarded Grand Prize in 2023 American Dental Association Student Ethics Video Contest


The winning students (From Left to Right: Veronique Matthews DMD 24, Scott Hunter DMD 25, Torera Aina DMD 24,Melanie Thomas DMD AS 24, Saif Alankarli DMD AS 24, Annoja Lall DMD AS 24, and Sarah Sveen DMD 25) pose in thier costumes on the day of filming “Undercover Dental Justice.” (Photo credit: Dan Bomba, GSDM.)


A team of GSDM DMD/DMD AS students won the grand prize in the 2023 American Dental Association’s Council on Ethics, Bylaws, and Judicial Affairs’ Student Ethics Video Contest with their video “Undercover Dental Justice” which depicts a high-stakes sting operation that catches an unethical dentist in the act. This was the first grand prize win in this contest in GSDM history.

The winning students were Melanie Thomas DMD AS 24, Torera Aina DMD 24, Sarah Sveen DMD 25, Veronique Matthews DMD 24, Scott Hunter DMD 25, Annoja Lall DMD AS 24, and Saif Alankarli DMD AS 24.

Dr. Debra Peters, chair of the American Dental Association’s Council on Ethics, Bylaws, and Judicial Affairs, said GSDM’s “Undercover Dental Justice” video was selected as the 2023 grand prize winner because of the students’ entertaining storyline that created awareness for dental ethical dilemmas.

“The winning video presented by GSDM made the ethical principles come alive in an interesting scenario,” Peters said. “The team of students are to be complimented for their originality, resourcefulness, and production quality as it pertains to the proper interpretation of the Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct and for clarity in communication of these objectives.”

The video follows a dentist, aptly named Dr. Immoral, who is violating the American Dental Association (ADA) principles of ethics by performing unnecessary dental procedures for the sole purpose of increased financial gain. During the sting operation, Dr. Immoral is caught in the act and immediately arrested by officers representing the five ADA principles of ethics: justice, non-maleficence, autonomy, beneficence, and veracity.

Many of the actors featured in the video are members of the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association in Dentistry (SPEA), a GSDM student organization. On Monday, January 22, SPEA hosted a screening of the winning video for the GSDM community. During the screening, Aina, the 2023-2024 SPEA president, discussed how she and her teammates incorporated the five ADA principles of ethics throughout the video.

“Many of us either are about to go out into the workforce soon, or will be going out in two, three, four years, so these are decisions we have to make,” Aina said. “At some point, you will be under pressure from the owner dentist, or maybe from the company, in order to produce, but you have to remember your principal ethics.”


GSDM’s entry, “Undercover Dental Justice,” explores the principles of veracity, patient autonomy, justice, non-maleficence, and beneficence from the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. As part of their grand prize win, this video is available on the ADA’s YouTube channel


Thomas, who wrote the script for “Undercover Dental Justice,” said she thoroughly enjoyed working on the video with her classmates.

“I put my heart and soul into this project, so it was the best feeling in the world knowing our hard work had paid off,” Thomas said.

According to Thomas, the group’s goal was to create awareness about the growing pressure on dentists to increase their production at any expense, which often leads to compromised patient care. The group’s video addresses the ADA’s five principles of ethics by emphasizing that a dentist’s top responsibility is prioritizing patient care.

“The video shows how Dr. Immoral places personal interests above patient care from the outset…deceptively convincing the patient to undergo unnecessary treatments for the sake of increased production violates principles like veracity and non-maleficence,” Thomas said. “Formulating a treatment plan to exploit the patient’s insurance is unfair and runs afoul of the principle of justice, while neglecting to offer alternative treatment options undermines the patient’s autonomy to make informed choices.”

Aina said Dr. Meredith Bailey, GSDM Predoctoral Patient Treatment Center group practice leader, mentored the team, encouraging her and fellow SPEA members to enter the video contest.

“As a part of SPEA, we regularly hold events to act out ethical scenarios and facilitate a discussion, [so] participating in the Student Ethics Video Contest was perfect for us,” Aina said. “We were all immediately excited to brainstorm ideas for the video and see our vision come to fruition.”

Once the team had a finalized script, they met with Dan Bomba, a multimedia content creator at GSDM, to determine how to direct, film, and edit the video. Aina said this was when she started to feel they might be on track for a successful entry.

“After discussing the vision with Dan, I felt like if things came together as we planned the video could be a winner,” Aina said.

It was a logistical challenge to film, but both Aina and Thomas said it was fun to put on costumes and bring the script to life–and all the hard work was worth it when they saw themselves “on screen” for the first time.

“We went big with our acting,” Aina said. “We kept saying that we would be giving an Oscar-worthy performance and I think we did!”

Thomas said she was not expecting to win a grand prize, but she knew the video was a strong representation of ethical dentistry.

“We were more focused on creating something that would be enjoyable to watch, something lighthearted yet carrying a strong message,” Thomas said. “I think that’s what we achieved so we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.”

Thomas said she hopes the team’s grand-prize win will remind her dental peers will be reminded that it is best to put patient care ahead of personal gain.

“In a world that is becoming increasingly focused on profit and bottom lines, I hope we are able to stand up to our beliefs and steadfastly prioritize the ethical principles that define our noble profession,” Thomas said. “May our commitment to excellence and the well-being of our patients serve as a beacon, guiding us through the challenges of a changing healthcare landscape.”


By Rachel Grace Philipson