Recognition Day 2011

(Editor’s Note: The 44th commencement of the LSU School of Dentistry was held on May 19, 2011. Degrees were awarded to 53 new dentists, 40 new dental hygienists and 13 new dental laboratory technicians. The day before was Recognition Day, a time to bestow honors and also a time to reflect. What follows is the address given by Jared Harris, president of the Student Government Association, who is a keen observer of the challenges of dental school).

Jared Harris

“After 642 hours of basic science courses and 2,867 hours of clinical science courses, we have spent a total of 3,509 hours listening to lectures. We have also spent over 1,500 hours on the clinic floor treating our patients. We have all spent over 1,000 hours studying and doing lab work outside of class. We have passed countless tests and quizzes—not to mention board exams. As the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry Class of 2011, we sit here before you representing a colossal and terrifying amount of collective financial debt.

“I am honored to stand here before you, to let you know that whether you are graduating from dental, dental hygiene or dental laboratory technology school, your long hours of hard work have paid off. I feel as though I have lived at least two lifetimes at LSUSD. The first day of school still plays vividly in my mind. We walked into a school that appeared to be gutted. Only one elevator typically worked at any given time. I was really rattled when the one working elevator mistakenly brought me down into the recently flooded dungeon that is our basement.

“After listening to our instructors one-by-one that day, we became uneasy about our first year of dental school. We questioned if we would have time to do anything but study. Could Dr. Sarphie’s gross anatomy class be as hard as students say it is? Well…when the representative from the Campus Assistance Program came to orientation to give us a number to call if we ever became severely depressed, the answer was loud and clear. I was slightly comforted when we were told that our class was the smartest class ever admitted into the dental school. I recently did a little research and I am happy to report that based upon the DAT, we are still the smartest dental class ever admitted. We spent much of that first year trying to live up to the dearly loved Dr. Mohamed’s waxing expectations, writing essays debating test answers to Dr. Sarphie, and trying to find a way to get the Astropol grit out of our restorations’ grooves. While the first year of school was demanding, we found the time to get to know one another, watch the LSU football team win the 2007 National Championship, and celebrate at TGIFs.

Dean Henry Gremillion, center, with new graduates Heather Williams, RDH,
Kim-Hanh Nguyen, DDS, Thanh-Xuan Nguyen, DDS, and Emanuel Enime, DDS

“As the first students to begin our freshman year at the New Orleans campus since Hurricane Katrina, we had the opportunity to see significant changes. Thinking back, I remember a time when we sat in room 7401. Like the good student he was, Scott Hannaman meticulously worked on his tooth waxing when the ceiling caved in and cadaver juice from the gross anatomy lab above us fell onto poor Scott and his instruments. Then it splattered onto me sitting next to him. That story puts the vast physical improvements around this school into perspective. We now have a modernly designed lobby, two new state-of-the-art auditoriums, a landscaped campus, new parking lots, and a beautiful new fence around the perimeter of our recently constructed recreation fields. Somehow the cafeteria still looks exactly the same as when we arrived. But after seeing the progress made, I am confident that the great people associated with this school will continue to make improvements. We must be very thankful to the past dean, Dr. Hovland, for keeping the school viable after Katrina and the new dean, Dr. Gremillion, for tirelessly working to make LSUSD the best dental school in the country. I know if his enthusiasm alone were the contributing factor, we would already be considered the best dental school in the world.

“Our class was fortunate enough to have been taught by dental legends such as Drs. Mohamed, Weir and Ireland before their retirements. We also witnessed the addition of great new faculty such as Drs. Ehrlich, Cordell, Giacona, Schmidt and McCormick. Amongst the faculty carousel, the tried and true faculty members continue to work tirelessly to graduate the best clinicians possible.

“We should all be proud of the success we celebrate today. Our hard work is admirable. But it is because of the dedicated loved ones we have around us today that we achieved such greatness. Thank you parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends. You all encouraged us to keep working hard. You understood when we had to sacrifice spending time with you in order to get here today. We are sorry for the times we were so irritable and no fun to be around. You even consoled us as we suffered from chronic bilateral lacrimal hypersecretion. In other words, you saw most of us cry. Thank you, faculty, staff and administration. It was you who kept us walking the straight and narrow, helping us become the best clinicians we could be. Your example has been well received. Each time you helped us finalize a treatment plan or communicate with a patient, your devotion shined through. And Class of 2011, we must thank one another. We became an amazingly close-knit group. Our dental school careers would have been much different without having our best friends alongside of us. We went through everything as a group—we were never alone.

New graduates of the dental hygiene program are, from left, Kerri Bourgeois,
Abby Villarrubia, Renee St. Germain, Addie Lewis, Sydney Kelly,
Heather Williams, and Loan Nguyen

“So here we are…at the end, with many questions yet to be answered. Dental students may ask themselves, ‘Am I capable of doing an anterior case without Dr. Tomaszewski at my side?’ Hygiene students will wonder, ‘Can I properly clean every bit of calculus from a perio class IV patient without Ms. Mason’s help.’ And dental lab tech students may question how to set denture teeth on a difficult case without Mr. Aucoin at-hand. There is surely a relief among us that we will no longer have to worry about things like consultations, starting checks and compliance training. Those things we will not miss.

“I can assure you though that we will miss one another. We will continue to see one another at conferences and C.E. courses. I would even love to have you as a neighbor, or as a golf or fishing buddy. But today and tomorrow’s commencement ceremonies mark the last times that we will truly sit here together as we have for the past four years. Dental school has allowed us the opportunity to meet the most unique, smartest, funniest, and talented people we have ever encountered. So cherish your memories of TGIF’s, game nights, crawfish boils, skeet shoots, and of course the largest celebration ever held in New Orleans, the night the Saints won the Super Bowl. Many of us walked Bourbon, Decatur and Frenchman Streets that night wishing we had hand sanitizer because we gave so many strangers high fives. And last but not least, remember Sean’s high kicks.

“In his last speech before assuming office, President John F. Kennedy addressed the crowd and said, ‘Of those, whom much is given, much is required.’ A simple look around this room will remind you what we have been given. We have been given family, friends, mentors and a profession that will provide us the opportunity to live comfortably and happily. The magnitude of privileges the dental profession will afford us is only equal to the amount of responsibility we have to ourselves, to our patients and to one another. So as we step out to define our careers in the coming days, let us be led by the moral obligations of our profession and gracefully accept the responsibility required. After all, Class of 2011…we are privileged.

“Thank You.”

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Last Update 6/2011