Congratulations CDM Class of 2020!

The Class of 2020 during their White Coat Ceremony in 2015

20 Words for the Class of 2020

We asked our alumni to share words of encouragement to our graduates from the Class of 2020. Over sixty alumni and friends responded with messages of congratulations, hope, wisdom, and well wishes. Congratulations, Class of 2020!

Messages from Alumni

To the 2020 Columbia University CDM graduating class,

As you are now well aware, it takes a great deal of hard work, commitment, and sacrifice to reach a professional milestone such as this, and you should all be very proud of yourselves!

On behalf of the Columbia College of Dental Medicine Alumni Association, I would like to congratulate you and wish you great success in all your future endeavors. 

These are certainly difficult and unprecedented times that we are living through, but we must stay strong, positive, and create ways to make the very best with what we have. Our Alumni Association is here for you and we hope that you will stay close to our Columbia community and take advantage of all this important network can offer you. In addition to hosting numerous social events and providing excellent educational courses throughout the year, we provide opportunities to build and strengthen relationships with your Columbia colleagues.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us for professional guidance or to learn how you can become more actively involved in our alumni association. It has been an honor to serve as Alumni President, and I am very excited to witness the changes and contribute to the future of the College of Dental Medicine. 

Once again, I offer my sincere congratulations to you, and also want to thank your family, friends, and faculty for helping to support and celebrate this important professional achievement. 

I wish you all the best of luck, and it’s my pleasure to welcome you to our alumni association.  We hope to see you all very soon at one of our upcoming virtual events.         

Warm regards,

Michael F. Leifert, DDS, Ortho'04, President, Association of Dental Alumni

Congratulations - hard work and dedication have gotten you to this day. 20/20 vision - clarity and purpose take you into the future.

Lois Jackson, DDS '77, Peds '80

Congratulations CDM graduates of 2020! No one could have predicted what a historic year your graduation year was going to be! The world needs you. As doctor, scientist, teacher, philosopher, researcher, entrepreneur, and artist rolled into one, you will bring health, healing, and transformation to the lives you touch. CDM has prepared you well. So always be learning, and don't be afraid to take it to the next level. Serve the world with your gifts. Because it's not what you get from the world that will make your lives rich, but what you bring to it. Godspeed!

Faith Ventura Delong, DDS '92, AEGD '93

I was a third-year dental student in 1983 when we were starting to see patients with unusual opportunistic infections. It was called “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” and we were frightened. No one understood anything about the virus that caused it. In 1984, when we graduated, we entered an uncertain world with new and ever-changing standards for safety. It was a totally new way in which to practice dentistry. Here we are in 2020, facing similar fears, an unknown and uncertain future and dramatic changes. But you will prevail. You are proud Columbia graduates and have the advantage of a superior, evidence-based education. We, your alumni are proud of your accomplishments.

Rebecca Schaffer, DDS '84

You are a skilled clinician and a compassionate provider of care. You are a scientist and an artist. Columbia University has prepared you well. Have fun. Stay healthy.

Jolanta Holzmann, DDS '89

​Your degree is a blessing to decades of service and growth. New challenges will keep your heart and mind alive. Well-wishers often ask, "When will I retire?”, as if that is a welcome day. Caring for patients and growing in skills make each day 'at work' fulfilling.

Irving I. Cohen, DDS '71

Congrats, Class of 2020! It was wonderful being with you guys in clinic last year, and you all worked incredibly hard to finish dental school! Best of luck in all your future careers! Stay in touch :)

Diana Schron, DDS '19

Your aim should NEVER be to make money. If you love what you do, and treat every patient with respect and honesty, success will surely follow. Always respect your employees and you can't do good work after 5!

Mary Frances Prokorym, Hyg '78

“You may forget with whom you laughed, but you will never forget with whom you wept.” - Khalil Gebran 

Abraham Chahine, DDS '09, Incoming President, Association of Dental Alumni

You are entering a most wonderful profession, at a most exciting era in time. We know more today because of all those, who came before you. You now have the opportunity to take that legacy and improve on it. You are the future leaders and must assume the responsibility to not accept the status quo, but continue to help create better techniques, better instrumentation, and above all, more advances in knowledge. We, who have contributed in the past, pass the wand into your hands and wish you the very best in your endeavors in this incredibly exciting profession. You have to not only look into the future, but to create it. Congratulations and stay safe.

Richard Feinstein, DDS '56

Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Don’t forget to come back to Columbia. Your fellow alumni will always be here for you. With best wishes to all of you.

Tom Magnani, DDS '80, President of the 1852 Society

Congratulations on your significant achievement! You are entering a profession in a state of rapid change but you have been well prepared for this opportunity ahead.

Robert Lewando, DDS '79

Congratulations Class of 2020! Finishing dental school is such an accomplishment! I promise, you will miss dental school! Remember to come back and be an involved alumnus!

Lynda Asadourian, DDS '17

Follow good basic hygiene protocols; use everything in a sterile state with good pre, intra and post-op techniques. Wish you all the very best.

Mohammed Abdul Khan, DDS '93

Stay connected! Maintaining a solid network of colleagues/mentors is so important for success! Best of luck!

Evan Chang, DDS '16

This is just the beginning of your learning. Continue every day to increase your knowledge. Best of luck!

Arman Roksar, DDS '96

My best wishes to the Class of 2020. I know it's a difficult time, but as a dentist who survived the AIDS crisis, 9/11, and the Great Recession (and smaller ones in between), we all will survive and thrive the COVID-19 crisis.

Steven Glassman, DDS '84

You are all embarking on a journey that will take you places you have not imagined yet. Dentistry is very challenging but all of you have already demonstrated your intelligence, hard work ethic, and dedication to helping others by surviving dental school. All of you are talented individuals that will do great things for dentistry. You are the future of our profession and I am sure dentistry will be in good hands! As difficult as this situation may seem right now, this will not last forever. Patients want to see you; they want to have their work done and they believe in what you do! I believe this pandemic will make dentistry an even better and stronger profession. The ADA has been working hard representing us in Washington and the camaraderie I've experienced is very inspiring. I congratulate each and every one of you and urge you to believe in yourself and this great profession you have chosen!

Catherine Boulos, DDS '93

Congratulations! Dentistry is a wonderful profession. Good luck, Dr. Mirsky​

Michelle Mirsky, Immediate Past President, Association of Dental Alumni

You’re graduating from an excellent school during an extraordinary time so you know you’re going to do exceptional things.

Paul Yeung, DDS '00, AEGD '01


Good luck and realize this is not what it will be like in one year.

Michael Switkes, DDS '79, Peds '80, Ortho '82

Congratulations and best wishes to the Columbia University CDM, Class of 2020 on a job well done. Wishing you lives that are happy, healthy, prosperous, and long!

David Dane, DDS '87

Congratulations! Today is the first day of the rest of your life as amazing dentists! Enjoy the well-deserved results of all your hard work! Go forth and deliver the best possible care to your patients and make Columbia proud! 

Renuka Rao Bijoor, DDS '03, Peds '05, MPH '15

I remember the last two months of senior year at Columbia as being the best and happiest of times. I feel so badly that you will miss that same level of enjoyment in these most difficult times. However, you will have interesting stories to tell your grandchildren in the future! Best wishes for a most successful career in a wonderful profession!

Christopher Valente, DDS ’80

Congrats 2020! Welcome to the doctor life and can’t wait to see you all again as colleagues :)

Emily Funk, DDS '19

Congratulations Class of 2020! You put in all the hard work. This is a trying time for the world. I am sure your training at Columbia will lead to great things. Be proud of this degree you have earned and welcome to the Columbia Alumnus Family!

Richard Corbin, DDS '89

Your moment in history will be so much better than this. Love what you do and love your patients. The rest falls into place.

Mark Moynier, DDS '05

Congratulations! I wish you all success. We were not able to celebrate your time at CDM the way we planned to but I hope that your time at CDM is never forgotten. Keep in touch.

Jary Patrocinio, CDM Student Affairs

This unprecedented global challenge has stirred us in many ways than not, but it is important to remember that we are a community and we are stronger together. Congratulations on your success! Feel free to reach out at any time.

Lewis Chen, DDS '16

Congratulations to you all!!! May your futures be bright and healthy. I'm wishing you all the best.

Jennifer Castro, DDS '09

Dear Class of 2020,

The New York Academy of Dentistry offers you heartfelt congratulations on your graduation from the Columbia College of Dental Medicine. You are entering a wonderful, dynamic, and inspiring profession. We ask you, the graduates, to uphold the very mission of our academy as you move forth in the next step of your journey, maintaining at all times the highest standards: in education, clinical practice, and ethical conduct. We wish you all the best in the years to come and look forward to collaborating with you in the future.

Julie Connolly, DDS/MPH ’01, Perio ’05, President, New York Academy of Dentistry

The new era of dentistry and delivery of oral health care is truly a unique experience and challenge for the new dentists.

Paul Ganjian, DDS '97

Wishing all the graduating seniors the best of luck in their future endeavors. Columbia graduates always rise to the top!

Margot Jaffe, DDS '80, Peds '81, Ortho '85

Compassion and honesty with your patients will make you a successful and great dentist. Congratulations, you all earned it.

Naveen Chennupati, AGED '11

“Success is liking who you are, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

Be true to who you are and follow your instincts. The CDM community will always be here for you.

Jennifer Akkaway, DDS '04, Peds '07

Congratulations to the class of 2020. What an interesting time to graduate and move forward with sharing the gift of what you have learned. May you always remember that although you’re the physician of the mouth, EVERYTHING is connected to that mouth-everything. So widen your lens and look at the entire person, physical, emotional, and mental. Because if you don’t, you’ll be only treating the symptom, not the cause. And to know that your loving presence and deep listening is the best and biggest prescription that you can offer to your patients. They would travel from other countries to see you because they feel you truly care. And through that caring, something magnificent happens to you. You keep learning and expanding, and moving beyond what you learned in school because you’re invested in their health, as you’re invested in your family. Because they become family. Leave with the knowledge that you got an AMAZING education that will keep building upon itself, but it’s up to you what you do with it. We are all so proud of you and are behind you as you move to the next stage of your life.

Shahrzad Sami, DDS '02

Congratulations class of 2020! You are starting your career under the cloud of COVID-19 but it will make you stronger and more appreciative. The sky is the limit!

Albert Granger, Endo '93

Good luck to you all, and congratulations on your tremendous achievement. The future is yours!

Lynn Finocchi, Hyg '84

It takes ten years to become an overnight success. Comparison is the enemy of joy. Stop Stressing. You'll get there. Congrats 2020!

Jake Mann, DDS '12

To Aadel Noah Soleymani:

You put in the hours. You juggled weird schedules. You did all the work. And gosh darn it, you deserve the recognition. We are not going to let COVID-19 ruin this. We are beaming with pride for all you have done. Love, mom, baba, Daniella, and Aava

Shirin Sayari Soleymani, DDS '91

Shortly after I graduated, we were beginning to deal with the HIV crisis and we were worried. I remember people asking me if I was sorry that I became a dentist. We got through that and we will get through the COVID-19 epidemic. The world evolves quickly. Best of luck with your future careers.

Daniel Weinstein, DDS/MPH '81

You have persevered and congratulations! I will always be a resource to you and don't hesitate to connect on social media. Good luck and never stop learning!

Charles Wei, DDS/MPH '14

Congrats Class of 2020! You’ve worked hard, enjoy your career and give back!

C. Ronald Spaulding, DDS '72

Congratulations Class of 2020

Love what you do in your chosen professions and stop to smell the flowers along the way! Stay humble and kind to others. Care for mother earth for not only yourselves but for future generations! Peace, love, and happiness to all.

Linda Birgitta Thorne-Hall, Hyg '83

Forty-three years in practice and eager to get back to work. I assure you, COVID-19 will become a fond(?) memory (hopefully). You all chose your life’s work well. Good luck. The best days of our lives are yet ahead! (STOCK UP ON PPE NOW)

Arny Chesney, DDS '73

Congratulations on your achievement! Be true to yourself, your family, your patients... and go forth to make Columbia proud! Life is guided by a compass not a watch. Take your time, remember the principles you were taught and follow your heart… success will be measured by all of the above.

Lillian Vidal, DDS '89

Welcome to the Columbia family. I graduated thirty-five years ago and I remember like it was yesterday. You are now embarking on a professional journey that will bring you much pride and gratitude. Go out there and make a difference in our world especially now. There is no place like Columbia, always remember that. Congratulations. Please feel free to reach out to me at any time.

Meryl Baurmash, DDS '85, Ortho '88

First congratulations to you all. I'm sorry circumstances don't allow me to say good-bye and meet your significant others. This is the end of your beginning; and the beginning of lifelong learning.

Joel Friedman, DDS '68

Your class will be remembered for many firsts... please remember the best and learn from the rest. I wish you good luck and Godspeed.

Dante Torrese, DDS '75

Strange time to start your journey, but it will be one of the best rides of your life.

Denise Shapiro, DDS '84

Congratulations Class of 2020! It has been an honor to teach you all over the past four years. I know that this “virtual graduation” is not what you envisioned when you began your training four years ago, but this should not detract from the meaning of this moment. You have all worked incredibly hard to get to this point, and should be very proud of what you have accomplished during your time here. Best of luck as you enter the next stage in your careers! Please keep in touch! We may no longer be your teachers, but we will always be your friends and colleagues.

Scott Peters, DDS '15, Oral Path '18

I will miss you all especially Group B! Dr. Cloidt

Jeffrey Cloidt, DDS '82

Greetings from Portland Oregon! During this time, I have been reminded of how amazing our CDM community is. The relationships with your classmates are the most valuable asset you will come away with from your time at Columbia. Stay positive, you have a long career ahead of you. Congratulations Class of 2020!

Carmel Doran, DDS '07

This too shall pass.

Russell Sandman, Ortho '06

Congratulations Class of 2020!! Take a moment, a quiet moment, and reflect on all you’ve done and everything you’ve gone through up to this point in your lives. You began this journey at birth and all you have experienced culminates today! You have been turned into a dentist. Enjoy the practice. It’s a gift to be able to touch people’s lives and help them, use that gift with pride and grace!

Jodi Deans, DDS '99

Good luck as you embark on the next phase of your life. Be caring, be strong, be thoughtful, have fun!

James Lipton, DDS '71

Wishing you all wisdom above knowledge and happiness above success! Congratulations!!!

Fariba Kalantari, DDS '92

Remember some other dentist along the way will see your work. Always do what's right!

Joseph Ruisi Jr., DDS '76, Ortho '77

To all the 2020 grads, wishing you all the best of luck in your professional career. Keep in mind there is a light at the end of the tunnel – which starts to shine on you all on Graduation Day and beyond! Special congratulations to Zakai Jacobson and to his family, from Dr. Kaplan and family.

Daniel Kaplan, DDS '85, Perio '89

Congratulations and best wishes as you embark on your exciting dental career. Your hard work throughout your undergraduate and dental school days will be rewarded with a successful future. Best wishes always and you can count on CDM and their alumni if you need any advice.

Genevieve Fernandes, DDS '96

You are entering a professional career at a challenging time. You have met the challenge this far, don’t let the negatives win.

Howard Blum, DDS '60

Congratulations on your long successful career with the dental program at Columbia. Wonderful service. Great job!

Mike Kurtz, DDS '77

B – BELIEVE: In yourselves!

E – EMPATHY: practice it and practice with it!


I – INSPIRE: those around you and the next generation of dentists.

N – NO: it’s not an option and never take “NO” for an answer.

S – SMILE: it increases your face value and it opens doors that you never knew existed.

P – PERSEVERE: there will be hard times, do not be discouraged.  Follow your path.

I – IMAGINE: a new future and the future of dentistry.

R – RESILIENCE: you will build it if you persevere and it will come with practice.

E – EDUCATE: yourself, your peers, your staff, the next generation of dentists.

D – DREAM: don’t be afraid to and always dream big!


T – TRUST: yourselves and the value of your education.

O – OWN: everything that you do… the good, the bad and the ugly!


L – LOVE: everything that you do … and do everything with love. The rewards will be incredible!

E – EXPLORE: new horizons, new ideas, yourself.

A – AUDACITY: have the audacity to… BE INSPIRED (and re-read this list).

D – DELIVER: the best care you know to give… with love, empathy and a smile.


Angelo Ostuni, DDS '02, MD '06, OMFS '08

Messages compiled by the College of Dental Medicine Office of Alumni Relations and Development. For more information about alumni benefits and the Association of Dental Alumni, visit