A Special Send-Off for the Class of 2021

June 1, 2021
HSDM students in the Class of 2021 celebrate Class Day in their regalia.

On Thursday, May 27, 2021, family, friends, and Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) community members gathered, both near and far, to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2021. Virtual Commencement and Class Day exercises, combined with a celebratory outdoor send-off at HSDM, provided the backdrop for a special graduation experience for the School’s newest alumni.

The festivities began in the morning with the University-wide Commencement ceremony, which featured a video of students from across Harvard’s schools chronicling all of the places from which they studied this past year. Laura Lin, DMD21, proudly shared that she spent her final year at Harvard treating patients in the Harvard Dental Center during a time where providing care was more critical than ever.

Students in the Class of 2021 pose together in their regalia in HSDM's Lobby.In remarks recorded in Harvard Yard, Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow commended the Harvard community for its resilience in the face of the many challenges presented throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “This, too, shall pass. A global pandemic has kept us apart this year, but we’ve learned together; we’ve grown together; and we have overcome together. I’ve never seen such grit, such determination, and I have never, ever been prouder of this institution,” said Bacow.

Ruth Simmons, PhD73, president of Prairie View A&M University and former president of Brown University and Smith College, served as the main speaker at Thursday morning’s ceremony. Simmons urged Harvard’s newest graduates to engage in the hard work of fighting for equality and fostering diversity and inclusion in all that they do. “I ask that you add your voice to the cause of justice wherever you go,” Simmons said.

Following Simmons’ remarks, the deans from each of the Harvard graduate schools and Harvard College recognized their graduates, and degrees were conferred ceremonially. HSDM Dean William Giannobile awarded 59 degrees—15 Master of Medical Sciences, 10 Doctor of Medical Sciences, and 34 Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degrees.

After the University-wide Commencement Exercises concluded, HSDM’s DMD degree recipients joined their Harvard Medical School (HMS) classmates for the annual Class Day Ceremony.

Ashiana Jivraj, DMD21, poses with a classmate on Class Day.Ashiana Jivraj, DMD21, served as HSDM’s Class Day speaker. Jivraj shared, “As Harvard School of Dental Medicine graduates, we have an inordinate power to shape policy and to make a difference in this space. We have learned to hear our patients, giving names to those once nameless and empathizing with those who have problems beyond our scope. We have learned that not only is the mouth the gateway to the body, but that we can have an immense impact daily on the field of healthcare.”

In his
message to the Class of 2021, Dean William Giannobile commended the graduates for their commitment to creating a more equitable and sustainable environment for each other, their patients, and other community members. He noted that when the COVID-19 pandemic demanded flexibility and leadership, the class rose to the occasion. “I’ve witnessed our students treat patients with kindness, caring, and dignity, and I admire this class for your tenacity and your true desire to help others without worrying about your own recognition... This year you faced so many hurdles with grace and determination, and you have become skilled clinicians and compassionate caregivers. The grit you have demonstrated over these four years has prepared you well for a critical time in our nation’s health care system—a system I am confident you will contribute to and innovate.”

Dean Giannobile and Alex Cruz, DMD21, pose together on Class Day.Giannobile concluded his remarks by welcoming the graduates into the HSDM alumni community. “You will join a distinguished group of alumni who are making a difference through leadership roles in global health, research, academia, healthcare, government and business. I know you will represent your School well in everything you choose to do. On behalf of the entire HSDM community, we all wish you the very best.”

See also: Community, Students