Graduation brings Class of 2020 together online

The nearly 150 members of the UMKC School of Dentistry Class of 2020 received their degrees Friday evening with online pomp and circumstance.
Messages from the chancellor, provost, class presidents, dean and alumni offered congratulations, praise and encouragement. A baker’s dozen advanced students received their doctorates, master’s degrees and specialty certificates, followed by 104 doctors of dental surgery and 29 bachelors of dental hygiene. A special ceremony inducted three of the dental graduates into the U.S. military dental corps. And two students and two faculty members received special awards.

The word “unprecedented” came up several times, given the necessity to make it an online event as a safeguard against spread of the coronavirus. It was a graduation ceremony with everything except the crowd.

A Zoom chat room before the 7 p.m. event gave students a chance to connect with one another and with the dean, faculty and staff. Then a UMKC Conservatory student, Anthony Varner, sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to open the official ceremony.

Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal offered congratulations and said the Class of 2020 had “proven your ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and to excel.” Provost Jennifer Lundgren and David Suchman, DDS 2000, followed with brief remarks.

Dean Marsha A. Pyle spoke movingly of the Class of 2020’s challenges and accomplishments, and she thanked faculty members for answering their call to “teach, mentor, stretch and support” the students.

“This is a night for looking forward as we have all been through the darkest of days in the last two months,” Dean Pyle said. “This evening you emerge with your mission accomplished, wiser for your efforts, your study, your hard work and motivation; wiser and more resilient because there was no other choice.

“I am so proud of you! We have learned so much about each other in the last two months. We have learned of your struggles to finish, your motivation to get it done, anxiety about if and when today would happen, in addition to the additional personal challenges many of you faced.

“It took courage and courageous leadership. Your advocacy and collaborations for the benefit of each other has been noticed. Well done!”

Dean Pyle also gave out her awards for academic distinction, for being first in their class, to Matt Bryant, DDS, and KeShawnda Frisby, BSDH.

The class presidents gave remarks in addition to presenting awards for the faculty members their classmates voted as having the greatest influence on them.

The DH class president, Abbey Hartley, said she was so proud of her dental hygiene classmates’ positivity and adaptation, and she thanked their DDS classmates for their advice and camaraderie. Of the many great faculty members who received votes, she said, Ashley Ryan (BSDH ’16) came out on top. Ryan, who served in the U.S. Marines and joined the faculty as a clinical adjunct instructor, is a great motivator, Hartley said, and always showed the class how to care and be strong.

Fred Drummond, DDS class president, had the joke of the evening. Being a dental student, he said, he had to take this last opportunity to complain: The online ceremony had removed his last chance to avoid having to address everyone at graduation.

Then Drummond summoned the memory and spirit of Dr. Jake McGuire, DDS, PHD, the beloved faculty member who passed away in October 2018, with his quotation: “I am only a reflection of the many mentors I have had throughout the years.” Drummond said his classmates benefited from Dr. McGuire and many other faculty mentors through their strength, compassion and resilience.

Like Hartley, Drummond said his classmates had voted for several outstanding faculty members, reflecting strength throughout the program. In the end, he said, Dr. Connie White was the winner. Drummond said his classmates noted her national leadership in dentistry and her many contributions at the School of Dentistry. Quoting a classmate, Drummond said, “She’s really just the most phenomenal human.”

Dean Pyle then introduced the conferring of degrees, and each student and his or her accomplishments read as their portrait was shown. If a student submitted photos and remarks, those also were displayed, giving classmates and family another chance to see and celebrate the graduates.

A special ceremony, captured on videotape, also was shown for the three Class of 2020 students entering the Army or Navy dental corps: Drummond and Dylan Love, as captains in the U.S. Army, and Michael Smith, as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

Dean Pyle and Chancellor Agrawal wrapped up the ceremony, along with words from Dr. Nick Rogers, DDS ’78, who welcomed the school’s newest alumni by encouraging them to be kind, compassionate and involved, and to form relationships with everyone along their way.

Find a recording of the event on the UMKC Commencement page or a direct link to the School of Dentistry ceremony here.

Pediatric Clinic’s Always Ready to Give Kids a Smile

When her son, Dillon, had serious dental issues, Monica Konrade knew where to turn — the pediatric clinic at the UMKC School of Dentistry.

“Dillon did not have proper enamel on his teeth, as it would flake off, so his risk for cavity and decay was much higher, and even with consistent care and cleaning at home he already needed four crowns at age 3,” Konrade said. “I knew this was going to be a long process from the beginning and wanted to be where he was going to be on the edge of options and treatments and still get the best care.”

The brightly decorated pediatric clinic is welcoming to all children, whether their dental needs are routine or out of the ordinary. With some area dentists donating their time, along with expert pediatric faculty supervising third-year DDS students and second-year hygienists, the staff is up for any challenges.

Konrade knew about the clinic because her parents brought her there when she was a child. Now when it’s time for Dillon’s checkup, she drives an hour and a half from her family’s home in Lebo, Kansas, and says it’s worth the trek.

“It was such a comfort as the students and professors assured me it was not lack of care or poor parenting, as I was feeling like a failure,” she said. “We were presented with a plan not just for treatment, but also for Dillon’s comfort and attention to his needs, to make sure seeing the dentist and getting these procedures would not be traumatizing.”

At the end of his latest visit, Dillon was all smiles. Though the clinic offers top-notch care all year, February is an especially fun time to visit. It’s Children’s Dental Health Month, during which the American Dental Association’s Give Kids a Smile program promotes the benefits of good oral health to children and to their caregivers and teachers. This is the 15th year UMKC has participated in the program, which makes extra toys, story books and coloring exercises available for children.

“It’s always fun to get a prize after the appointment,” Konrade said. “This time he got more prizes.”

And Dillon deserved them for being a particularly patient patient.

“Sitting still for close to two and a half hours is a long time for a young child,” Konrade said, “so any extra incentive to be calm and still during treatment is wonderful.”

Third-year dental student Josh Wilhelm took care of Dillon on his latest visit and said he was a great patient.

The clinic gives Wilhelm and his classmates important experience in caring for children and interacting with parents. And though he isn’t considering going into pediatric dentistry at this point, Wilhelm enjoys the experience.

“It’s fun to be around patients who are excited to see the dentist,” he said. “That’s not always the case.”

Though getting Dillon the best care is why they come to the UMKC clinic, Konrade said, it is a nice bonus to help students.

She and her husband, Jason, both have medical education backgrounds, in nursing and physical therapy. As a result, she said, “We understand, from when it was our turn to practice our newly acquired skills, how valuable it is to have patients. We hope that the student doctors come away with just as much positive experience and growth as Dillon and I have.”

Find photos here.

No Shortage of Talent – or Fun

Valentine’s Day was made extra special at the School of Dentistry when the Student National Dental Association / Hispanic Dental Association produced the annual Staff, Faculty & Student Variety Show. The noontime show at the School of Dentistry offered comedy, dance, instrumental music and several vocalists in styles ranging from folk and pop to opera.

The mistresses of ceremonies were Njeri Penda (D3), SNDA/HSDA President and Kim Kha (D3), SNDA/HSDA Vice Presidents.

Performers included:

Janette Martinez, (Office Support Assistant-Dental Clinic), performed a humor routine

Shanon Black (D3) and Katie Baker (DH 2021) performed crowd-pleasing songs from classic rock favorites.

Darby Lewis (DH 2021) entertained the crowd with an Irish Step Dance

Erin Gilmore (Sr. Technical Support Assistant-BMC), and Brenda Everhart, (Officer Supervisor-Dental Hygiene) performed solos in opera and gospel.

Dr. Robert Hurst (Assistant Clinical Professor, Restorative), Katherine Hayes and Luke Komotos (D2s) and Casey Aschinger (D1) played guitar and/or ukulele while singing original songs.

The welcoming and closing remarks were given by faculty advisers, Dr. Tiffany Tavares (Clinical Assistant Professor, Oral Pathology) and Derek William (Clinical Associate Professor, Restorative)

Photos here.

Delta Sigma Delta Conference Brings Chapters Together

The UMKC chapter of Delta Sigma Delta played host to about 70 people on Saturday for a Midwest regional conference. Besides UMKC dental students and UMKC’s Graduate Chapter, chapters came from the Universities of Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota, along with the chapter from AT Still University.

Megan Yamaguchi, a third-year dental student, was a key organizer for the conference. “The meeting went very well,” Yamaguchi said. “What stood out most to me was the instant camaraderie among the members from each of the different fraternity chapters. Even though it was the first time many of us met, it felt like we were reunited with old friends.”

The conference program included guest speakers from the UMKC faculty, Dr. Ahmed Zarrough and Dr. Arpana Naidu; short presentations from members of the five fraternities in attendance; a tour of the dental school; and lunch at the Diastole Scholars’ Center.

“The camaraderie and friendships made through this meeting will aid in our success as future dental professionals,” Yamaguchi said.

Delta Sigma Delta, founded Nov. 15, 1882, is the oldest and largest of the international professional dental fraternities.

Photos here.

Dr. Justin Tullis Defends Oral & Craniofacial Sciences Thesis

Dr. Justin Tullis’ Oral & Craniofacial Sciences thesis defense exam was held on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.  The title of his thesis is “INFLUENCE OF SUTURE TECHNIQUE ON RIDGE DIMENSIONS AND KERATINIZED TISSUE AFTER ALVEOLAR RIDGE PRESERVATION: A PILOT STUDY”.  Dr. Tullis attended dental school in Texas and will complete the Advanced Education Program in Periodontics later this spring and is planning to practice in Colorado.

Photos here.


Dr. Sarah Dallas named a University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor

Dr. Sarah Dallas, Professor in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences at the UMKC School of Dentistry, recently named a University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor. This honor is in recognition of her exemplary service to the University of Missouri. Dr. Dallas’ many contributions to higher education through teaching, research, and engagement bring great credit to the University of Missouri-Kansas city and the University of Missouri System.

Congratulations to Dr. Dallas for this richly deserved honor!

You Could Be Eligible for Free Dental Work and Cleaning

Been a while since you took care of your teeth? Sign up for a no-charge screening.

“Free stuff” usually means a T-shirt, a coupon, or maybe a sandwich. But how about hundreds of dollars’ worth of free dental care?

That’s what UMKC dental and dental hygiene students are offering, starting with no-charge screenings to see whether patients qualify for further free care.

And what’s in it for the students? The work they do will be part of the testing they must pass to be certified as dentists or dental hygienists.

Fred Drummond, a fourth-year dental student, explained: “On Feb. 15, we are having a screening and taking X-rays to see if patients qualify for free dental care that we can use for our board exams. It is also a great way to take the first steps in becoming a patient at UMKC School of Dentistry. We are looking for individuals that need deep cleanings and may need small cavities filled.”

“This will help us graduate, but we also want to reach out and provide free treatment and dental screenings to community members who otherwise wouldn’t have dental treatment.” – Nuvia Lemus Diaz

Read more here …


On MLK Day, School of Dentistry Volunteers Service for Thousands of Smiles

Students, faculty and staff assemble 2,000 dental-supply kits

From the outside, the UMKC School of Dentistry looked quiet Monday morning, befitting a day when classes were out and its clinics were closed. But inside, the cafeteria and second-floor hallways were abuzz with volunteers doing service befitting Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The volunteers’ mission: assemble 2,000 dental-care supply kits for distribution to points of need throughout the community. It was the second year for the dental school’s MLK Day of Service, and the number of kits was double the output of a year ago.
“It’s great to see everyone here volunteering,” said Shurouk Alkharabsheh, a third-year dental student. “I missed last year and wanted to take part this time. It’s good to do something productive with the day.”
Ryan Greenway, a second-year dental student, agreed: “I enjoy volunteering, and was bummed when I missed the event last year. But now I’m here! It’s also a nice break from our routine.”
Students got the dental-kit day of service going a year ago, and it has had the full support of School of Dentistry leadership. Dean Marsha Pyle was on hand Monday morning and took a brief break from her assembly line to praise the effort.
“I’m grateful that our faculty, staff and students have created this opportunity to do good in the community,” Pyle said. “It’s a team effort — and Kansas City loves its teams! It’s great to see this special effort on this special day, when we don’t have our usual commitments.”
Most of the kits were packed with an average adult in mind, with items including a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and information on the school’s clinical services and free dental cleanings available to the public. But one station packed kits suited to children, and another included supplies of use to older residents and people with dentures.
“I’m a big believer in volunteering, so this fits right in with my ideas. I participated last year and really enjoyed the sense of community.” – Mark Dallas
Richie Bigham, assistant dean for student programs, said the kits were bound for several places, including the City Union Mission, a program to help the homeless that’s on the original site of the dental school. The school also added a sock drive this year, as socks are an often-requested item at some of the locations that receive the dental kits.
Just as the kits will benefit the wider community, the volunteer corps this year drew from outside the dental school. One group came from St. James United Methodist Church, which also was sending volunteers to other locations around Kansas City for MLK Day.
“We’re happy to help here at the School of Dentistry,” said one parishioner, Phyllis Jackson, “and we have other volunteers today at Hospice House, Rose Brooks, Harvesters and other locations to honor the memory of Dr. King.”
Faculty and staff from the School of Dentistry rounded out the volunteers, including Mark Dallas, M.S., research assistant in the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences.
“I’m a big believer in volunteering, so this fits right in with my ideas,” said Dallas, who joined the school in 2001 along with his wife, Professor Sarah Dallas, Ph.D. “I participated last year and really enjoyed the sense of community.”
The volunteers had started the day at 8:30 a.m. with a half-hour video on Dr. King’s legacy, and then they made fast work putting the kits together. By 11 a.m., they reassembled to be thanked by Jeffery Primos, director of business affairs, and then to make their first delivery, to nearby Ronald McDonald House.
The project will make a difference for hundreds of people, Primos said, “and embody what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for.”

The school’s good work gets noticed!

Find photos from the event here.