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White Coat Ceremony Hosted for DDS, DH Students

Monday, August 18, 2014 - 3:16pm

The DDS Class of 2018, wearing their new white coats, on the steps of UT School of Dentistry.

 The DDS Class of 2018 White Coat Ceremony was a special way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the Cooley Center. Photo by John Everett.  Additional photos by Brian Schnupp are on Flickr.

The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston hosted white coat ceremonies for 100 new dental students Aug. 10 in the Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center, where the school’s 40 new dental hygiene students were honored in a separate ceremony Aug. 8.

Houston dentist W. Kenneth Horwitz, DDS, of the Class of 1961 was the keynote speaker for the DDS ceremony, focusing on ethics and the professionalism expected of those who wear the white coats of health care.  Karen Novak, DDS, PhD, was the featured speaker for the dental hygiene students. Novak is associate dean for professional development and faculty affairs at the School of Dentistry, but she began her career as a dental hygienist.

Dean John A. Valenza, DDS, greeted the students and the guests attending the DDS White Coat Ceremony and introduced the Class of 2018 to themselves.  “Ninety-three of you have bachelor’s degrees, 10 have master’s degrees and one is an MD,” he said, noting that 22 of the students have relatives in dental professions.

While technical ability and grades are important, “You were chosen not just on the basis of your accomplishments, but also because of our expectations. We saw something special in each and every one of you beyond your grades or DAT scores,” Valenza said.

He concluded by reminding the students that donning a white coat was more than symbolic. “It is your commitment to professionalism for this day forward, and building a professional conscience.”

At the Dental Hygiene White Coat Ceremony, Novak also shared statistics about the Class of 2016. For one thing, it includes a record number of men – five – along with 35 women. The majority of the students are from Texas, but some were born in Oklahoma, California, Illinois, Viet Nam, Peru, Colombia, Nigeria and Iran. 

She noted that the White Coat Ceremony marks a transition into a higher level of responsibility to others. 

“[This white coat] carries the challenge to be trusted, respected, honored and valued,” she said. “Accepting this white coat symbolizes accepting that challenge. We believe in you; your family and friends believe in you; the profession and public believe in you. Make sure you believe in you. Welcome to the School of Dentistry. Welcome to the profession.”

The UTSD Family and Friends Association co-sponsored both ceremonies, and President Pam Sowa invited parents, spouses and friends of students to join the organization. 

The UTSD Alumni Association and American College of Dentists were additional sponsors of the DDS ceremony.  The University of Texas – Houston Dental Hygienists’ Alumni Association co-sponsored the dental hygiene event.

Dental Hygiene Class of 2016 wearing their white coats and looking up at the camera.

Photo by Brian Schnupp. Additional images are posted on Flickr.