Columbia Confers Dental Degrees on 94 Graduates

June 3, 2021
CDM graduates toss their caps in front of Low Library (photo: Julie Ren Photography)

On May 20, the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CDM) celebrated the graduation of 94 new dentists from the school’s DDS program. Graduates assembled for a ceremony led by Dana Wolf, DMD, senior associate dean for predoctoral academic and student affairs, and the event was broadcast live so that family, friends, and the broader community could join virtually.

A ceremony saluting courage and wisdom

The program’s highlight was the return of in-person hooding, which was not possible for the Class of 2020 due to last year’s ceremony being completely virtual. COVID-19 vaccination and other measures enabled students to safely gather in person this year. Graduates were individually called to the stage to have the lilac-hued hood representing dentistry placed on their shoulders by Richard Lichtenthal, DDS, who is retiring this year after 44 years on the CDM faculty.

Dr. Richard Lichtenthal, center, with two graduates (photo: Charles Manley)

“There’s a reason why the color of the sash chosen for dentistry is lilac,” said clinical affairs dean Biana Roykh, DDS, in her remarks to the class. “Lilac is the combination of the courage of red and the wisdom of blue—Columbia blue. You have the courage to take upon yourselves the well-being of our patients and the wisdom to better our profession.”

Over the course of the ceremony, the Class of 2021 received praise and advice from several CDM and University leaders, and class president Charles Long, DDS, recounted memorable moments he and his classmates had experienced and the challenges they had overcome.

A full list of speakers as well as student awards can be found in the event program.

Toward the ceremony’s end, the graduates recited the oath for the profession, in which they pledge to practice their trade with integrity and respect for their patients. The recitation is a tradition that bookends students’ dental training at CDM, spoken at the White Coat Ceremony when they begin and at graduation when they finish.

Dr. Marc Chase, recipient of the Zegarelli Teaching Award

Alumni and faculty honorees

Every year at CDM’s graduation, the school honors one faculty member with the Edward V. Zegarelli Teaching Award. This year’s recipient was Marc Chase, DMD, whom Wolf described as “a passionate educator who encourages students to think critically and reflect on their treatment outcomes.” In the student clinics, Chase is a group practice leader and co-leader of the oral diagnosis and treatment planning block. He joined the ceremony virtually to express his gratitude and wish the graduates well.

Dr. Ralph Kaslick, Columbia Alumni Medalist

Earlier in the spring, Ralph Kaslick’59, Perio’62, was named one of ten Columbia Alumni Medalists by the University. Kaslick was celebrated for his community-building work in a separate event organized by Columbia University. A previous recipient of CDM’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, Kaslick has chaired the school’s Visiting Professorship Program Advisory Committee since 2007, endows a periodontics scholarship for postdoctoral students, and is a frequent participant of alumni programs at CDM as well as Columbia College.

Class stats

The Class of 2021 comprises 94 graduates, including 15 foreign-trained dentists from CDM’s Advanced Standing program. These 94 individuals—46% identifying as female and 54% as male—hail from 21 states as well as China and India.

Two grads pause for a picture (photo: Charles Manley)

After graduation, 75 will continue with academic postgraduate training, 8 will join the U.S. military for postgraduate training or a credentialing tour, and 11 plan to enter private practice.

Of the 83 who applied for postgraduate training, 97% matched into their chosen specialty. General practice residency (GPR) was the most popular specialty program, with 22 graduates matching. The other top specialties were oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS, 16), advanced education in general dentistry (AEGD, 10), and pediatric dentistry (10).


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