HSDM Alumni Reconnect from Near and Far

June 8, 2021
Class of 1971 alumni gathering

HSDM alumni reunited during this year’s Reunion and Alumni Day through informal gatherings, virtual happy hours, and engaging online programs. While most activities were virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, alumni found creative ways to channel their class spirit and relive fond memories of HSDM.

Events kicked off with a toast by Dean William Giannobile, DMSc96, PD96, at a virtual happy hour on Thursday, June 3. Alumni had the chance to reconnect with friends and also meet current students in each of the break-out sessions. Alumni reminisced fondly about former mentors, their educational experience, and camaraderie shared with their classmates.

On Alumni Day, Friday, June 4, Dino Bertini, DMD97, MMSc99, Harvard Dental Alumni Association President, hosted the day’s Zoom events from his dental practice in New York City.

Class of 1981 alumni
Several members of the Class of 1981 gathered for an impromptu cookout in Hull, MA, to celebrate their 40th Reunion.
“I want to thank each of you for joining us from your home or office,” said Bertini. “Though we’re meeting virtually to support our community’s continued health, safety, and well-being, hopefully by spending some time with us today you’ll feel more connected to your HSDM family.”

New Alumni Council

Bertini congratulated the newest recipients of the Harvard Dental Alumni Association (HDAA) awards. Class of 2021 graduates Emily Wei-Ling Chen and Jiachen Lin received the HDAA Silver and Gold Medal Awards respectively for exceptional all-around scholastic achievement. He also announced the newly appointed members of the reinvigorated HDAA Alumni Council. Miguel Roque, DMD16, MMSc19 (endodontics), who will serve as Vice President, Jenny Chang, DMD97, DMSc01 (prosthetic dentistry), Sonia Molina, DMD89, MPH89, Matthew Plummer, DMD73, MPH74, and Mindy Streem, DMD2005. The HDAA Council members will work to bring the alumni community together and forge connections between current students and alumni.

“We received an enthusiastic response to our request for nominations and thank everyone for their submissions. I’m excited to work with all of you and grateful for your willingness to serve,” said Bertini.

Dr. Bertini
Dr. Dino Bertini, Harvard Dental Alumni Association President

State of the School

Bertini then turned the program over to Dean William Giannobile for his State of the School presentation. Dean Giannobile touched on changes in clinical care, research, and education at HSDM during a year transformed by the pandemic.

“Our community displayed such resilience and adaptation during this challenging time. I’ve been amazed at the wonderful teamwork at the School. There has been a tremendous amount of pivoting required to continue the mission of the School,” Giannobile said.

The dean highlighted exciting developments over the past year, including the opening of a new dental practice in Cambridge, new faculty and leadership appointments, the activation of increased scholarship funding, diversity initiatives, and an external research review that will give shape to emerging research priorities.

“In 2021-22 we anticipate increases in clinical revenue, research, and continuing education activities. I’m optimistic that we’re moving in a favorable direction.” said Giannobile.

Symposium on Dental Research

The Dean’s presentation was immediately followed by an engaging symposium on new directions in dental research. Moderator Christopher H. Fox, DMD87, SM87, DMSc91, PD91, chief executive officer for the International Association for Dental Research, joined speaker Rena N. D'Souza, director of the NIH's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) for a lively discussion on where the NIH/NIDCR is focusing research funding.

Drs. Fox and DeSousa
Symposium moderator Dr. Christopher H. Fox, and featured speaker Dr. Rena N. D'Souza
D’Souza oversees NIDCR’s annual budget of more than $475 million, which supports basic, translational, and clinical research in areas of oral cancer, orofacial pain, tooth decay, periodontal disease, salivary gland dysfunction, craniofacial development, and disorders and the oral complications of systemic diseases.

“The pandemic has challenged us in numerous ways, but throughout each crisis there is something to learn,” said D’Souza, who highlighted ways the agency responded to COVID and learned new lessons.

D’Souza described the agency’s mission to transform human lives through scientific discovery and how their goal of advancing oral health is inextricably linked to overall health.

“This is an unprecedented time in our history with the opportunity to now really bring cures and therapies to the forefront,” she said. “Rapid acceleration of diagnostics can be applied to dentistry long after COVID,” she said.

She illustrated the ways NIH/NIDCR continues to innovate through investments in oral health, telehealth, funding for dental schools, and intramural research areas. She also advocated for greater diversity in the scientific community.

Dean Giannobile wrapped up the event by thanking the presenters and the HSDM alumni and community members in attendance.  “We hope to see you all in person next time,” he added.

See also: Alumni Event, Awards