For graduates everywhere, the COVID 19 pandemic cancelled important events and formal ceremonies. No parties, no food, no hugs. Instead, smiles are hidden, while co-workers cautiously step in for an awkward elbow bump.
But the pandemic could not rob the Eastman Institute for Oral Health graduates of marking their significant accomplishments.
So, in addition to a virtual graduation ceremony, many EIOH residency programs held their own, socially distant, CDC-compliant, and rather creative celebrations. Not even the masks could hide the joy and emotion from the graduates and their proud mentors.
Like Maryam Habibzadeh, DMD, (Perio ’20), who is one of the 78 people from 30 countries finishing their EIOH advanced training this year. She started her journey four years ago as a preceptor, before being accepted into the Periodontics Residency program.
“There is no word here that can describe your significance in my life,” she said directly to Chair Dr. Jack Caton, during their small ceremony.
“A girl from Iran who went to dental school in the Philippines, who then tried to find her way to the States, out of nowhere sends you an application,” she continued. “I am always grateful that you took your chances with me. From that day one, my life changed forever.”
And for Dr. Maricelle Abayon, program director of the General Practice Residency program. “If anyone had told me that one day I would be addressing the residents and their families through a screen during commencement, I would have found that highly impossible.”
While the Covid 19 pandemic challenged us in unimaginable ways, she wondered early on if fear of the unknown would cause some to shirk away from the responsibilities that they’ve sworn to do as oral health providers.
“The GPR residents rose to the challenge and quickly adjusted to the new normal, their new schedules and continued to care for their patients in a way that captured the spirit of Meliora,” she said proudly.
Advanced Education of General Dentistry Chair Dr. Hans Malmstrom also shared his immense pride.
“This year has been a year not comparable to any year I have been a part of during my professional and academic career,” he said during his recorded address to the graduates. “I’m very proud of how you’ve handled this challenging period, continuing service for our patients, accepting our community responsibility as healthcare providers during these somewhat difficult circumstances. I’m personally convinced you will do well in your chosen dental careers.”
“You have done a phenomenal job, and responded like true professionals,” added Dr. Sean McLaren, chair, Pediatric Dentistry Residency Program, in his congratulatory remarks. “You’ve made a lot of sacrifices during your residency, and we’re so proud to call you alumni.”
The graduating prosthodontists enjoyed a couple surprises during their small ceremony in a conference room, coincidentally held on the day that the annual Brewer Conference would have occurred.
“Even though times are different,” said Dr. Carlo Ercoli, chair, Prosthodontic Residency Program, “they really aren’t that different at all, because we have we have friends and Prostho Class of 2020individuals here who are instrumental and important to this department and in the development of the program as we know it today. They are here to help us honor our graduates in the same spirit, attitude and celebratory mood.”
He was referring to their keynote speaker, Dr. Gerald Graser, the department’s second chair and pivotal leader, and faculty and alumni from around the world who joined the virtual celebration via Zoom.
Dr. Loren Genetti (Prostho ’20) expressed her gratitude for the strong alumni and faculty support and how much she’s learned from them.
“Every night, when I would leave the lab at 1 or 2 a.m., I would look up at the UR logo that shines down on campus,” she shared during the ceremony, “and I would have an overwhelming sense of pride and I knew how lucky I was to be here-and how forever grateful I will be for everyone at Eastman who helped make our dreams come true.”
This year’s guest speaker is a member of the graduating class.
“With the rich tapestry of diverse backgrounds we all brought, we worked together through the fulfillment, fun, and frustrations of residency,” said Dr. Scott Koopman (GPR ’20). “Regardless of what advanced education program we were in, we can all say we emerged better dentists because of our experiences here at Eastman. More importantly, we became better people. We showed determination, strength, and grit. And we’re proud of who we have become.”
“You are now officially Eastman Institute for Oral Health alumni, a very proud group of people from around the world,” said Eli Eliav, DMD, PHD, EIOH director and URMC vice president, who also provided remarks virtually. “I know you’ll continue the legacy of George Eastman by providing exceptional clinical care and community service. Consider getting involved in professional associations, teaching or research. Please stay in touch and visit often. Congratulations!”
The 2020 Director’s Award goes to Frank Guido, who for the last five years has served as the Eastman Institute Ambassador. Stationed in the lobby, Frank provides guidance and assistance to anyone who needs it.
“He always shows genuine concern for our patients, and will do anything to make things easier for them,” Dr. Eliav said. “He is a reliable, trusted and a valued resource, who consistently meets the highest standards of ethics and compassion.
“During the pandemic, he quickly jumped in to help and had great ideas to improve the process while keeping patients safe. He is funny, kind and a very valuable member of our Eastman family,” he added.
The Shaffer Devries Award, given for excellence in administrative operations or clinical service, goes to two people this year.
First, Sharon Hatch is the administrative assistant for the Periodontics Residency Program. She is described as the right arm of department chair Jack Caton, and a second mother to all the periodontal residents. For the past nine years, Sharon’s vital role at Eastman Institute includes the daily management and coordination of every aspect of the Periodontics Residency program. When she’s out, operations do not run smoothly at all. On a typical day, she arrives early to manage the day’s tasks, and then goes to the clinic area to make sure her ‘kids’ are OK. She is a valued friend to all of the residents, faculty and staff. She’s always generous with her time when helping those in need.
For the last three years, Lisa Crosier has been the administrative assistant to Dr. Hans Malmstrom, the chair and program director of the Advanced Education for General Dentistry residency program. This department is the most hectic, and Lisa is known for her excellent multi-tasking and working very well under pressure. Her long list of duties includes serving as the coordinator of Eastman’s Continuing Dental Education, a series of very involved events. She coordinates all the academic activities for 50 residents, and all the interviews for 250-300 applicants each year. Lisa always responds with the utmost professionalism and positive attitude. She’s very responsive and performs each and every task with great competence and a smile.
For the second time, Dr. Alexandra Tsigarida, EIOH associate professor and program director for the Periodontics Residency Program was given the Jack G. Caton Graduate Fellowship Award, given to encourage and support dentists who are pursuing an academic career in periodontics.
Visit the EIOH Graduation and Convocation web page and sign the guest book.