On May 24, 2018, the Class of 2018, including more than 400 candidates for the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, AAS and BS degrees in dental hygiene, MS degrees in biomaterials and in clinical research, and advanced education program certificates saw their dreams come true as they received their degrees and certificates before an audience of over 4,500 people in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. New this year: Six graduates of the inaugural class of the Dental Assisting Certificate Program were also recognized.
A highlight of the occasion was the participation of 13 members of the Class of 1968, who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation from the College.
The David B. Kriser Medal, the highest honor awarded by NYU College of Dentistry, was presented to Dr. Hanmin Liu, a 1970 graduate of the College, founder of the US-China Educational Institute (USCEI), trustee of the Kellogg Foundation, former chair of the Kellogg Foundation's Board of Trustees, and cofounder and president of Wildflowers Institute. For nearly 50 years, Dr. Liu has sought to build exchanges in health, education, and cultural understanding among scientific and educational leaders and professionals, and to help distressed communities create the resources to thrive.
This year's Graduation Ceremony also featured two recipients of the Harry Strusser Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to public health: Dr. Scott Kellermann, cofounder and medical director of the Kellermann Foundation, and Dr. Jean Creasey, president of the Kellermann Foundation.
Since 2000, Dr. Kellermann, a family physician, and his wife, Carol, have dedicated themselves to providing healthcare, education, and community development for the Batwa pygmies – a tribe of indigenous people, who, in 1992, had been exiled from the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where they had thrived as hunter-gatherers for millennia. The couple bought land, built homes, started schools and a mobile clinic, initiated clean water and sanitation projects, and showed the pygmies how to grow healthy food. They also founded a hospital that has extended health services not only to the Batwa, but also to all other residents of the region, a population of over 120,000. A nursing school and the Batwa Development Program followed.
As president of The Kellermann Foundation, Dr. Creasey has built an ever-expanding cadre of diverse and dedicated volunteers who donate their time, expertise, and, in many cases, financial support on behalf of the Foundation. Moreover, as a dentist, Dr. Creasey has been instrumental in bringing dentists from the US and the UK to Bwindi Community Hospital to treat the Batwa, and has conducted pioneering research to learn about the practice of Ebino, or infant oral mutilation, with the aim of raising the oral health literacy of the traditional healers and the patients they minister to, while always respecting the indigenous culture.
Class Representative Divya Bhandari spoke on behalf of the AAS program in dental hygiene, and Class Representative Jasleen Kaur spoke on behalf of the BS program in dental hygiene. Dr. Lauren Tiffen spoke on behalf of the DDS program. Alumni Association President Dr. Amin Ayoub, '92, brought greetings from the Alumni Association.
Following the presentation of degrees and certificates, an especially poignant moment occurred when Dr. Shan K. Bagby, Deputy Chief of Staff, MEDCOM and Troop Commander, MEDCOM, officially commissioned 16 newly-minted DDS program graduates entering the US Armed Forces Dental Corps, marking the third consecutive year that DDS members of the graduating class have been formally commissioned as part of the Graduation Ceremony.
"The NYU College of Dentistry celebrates the achievements of our newest alumni, of the faculty, families, and friends who have guided them to this momentous day, and of our distinguished 2018 Kriser Medal recipient, Dr. Hanmin Liu, and our distinguished Strusser Award recipients, Dr. Scott Kellermann and Dr. Jean Creasey, and we thank Colonel Bagby for officially commissioning our graduates into the US Armed Forces," said Dean Bertolami.
"Getting to this day has taken more than hard work, dedication, and discipline," Dean Bertolami told the graduates. "It has also taken a commitment to educational excellence, a strong public service orientation, and a growing global perspective, all of which have made this class so special. We wish our graduates great success and happiness in the years ahead," he concluded.
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During the previous week, on May 16, 2018, the 186th All-University Commencement Exercises were held at Yankee Stadium. Dr. Michael P. O’Connor, executive vice dean for administration, finance, clinical, and student services, announced the College of Dentistry Class of 2018. Liza Idelchick, DDS Class of 2018 Class Council President, served as Student Banner Bearer; and Benjamin Bacon, Class of 2018 Valedictorian, and Marissa Ruggiero, Class of 2018 AAS Student Council President, accepted degrees on behalf of their programs and class.