A Virtual Welcome for the Class of 2024

August 10, 2020
Student in white medical coat

Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) welcomed 36 new DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) students as they began Orientation last week. The Class of 2024 hails from 17 different U.S. states, and four other countries: Canada, China, France, and Korea. They represent 33 different undergraduate institutions. The class composition is 61 percent female and 39 percent male. Twenty-six percent come from populations underrepresented in dental medicine.

This is the first time in HSDM history that an incoming class began their four-year program virtually. Orientation began the morning of August 3, with the DMD students joining their Harvard Medical School (HMS) classmates for welcome remarks on Zoom from the deans of the respective schools. The dental and medical students spend the first year of their education together in the Pathways curriculum.

Incoming HSDM Dean William Giannobile joined HMS Dean George Q. Daley to welcome the students on the first day of Orientation.

“An incredible amount of planning and decision-making has taken place since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure the best start for the incoming Class of 2024,” Giannobile said. “With all the thought and care that has gone into these preparations, rest-assured that you join a community that is resilient in the face of this crisis, and committed to the excellence of your academic experience at Harvard,” he said. 

collage of students in white medical coats
Class of 2024 DMD students in their new white coats
Following the morning remarks, the DMD students had a special online welcome from Associate Dean for Dental Education Sang Park, and were introduced to the HSDM community by their senior tutors. They each shared a fun fact about themselves which revealed a wide range of the students’ talents and interests from favorite sports and arts, to hobbies such as cooking and gardening.

Throughout the week, the students were introduced to various aspects of the curriculum. They attended their first patient clinic—a telemedicine visit with patients online. They also got to know each other in smaller breakout sessions within their academic societies.

“Starting dental school amidst a global pandemic has taught me how important it is for students and practitioners to be adaptable and multidimensional...while online school may present certain challenges and anxieties, it will also give us time to reflect, reach out to one another, and think about the impact we want to make,” said Sapna Nath, an incoming DMD student from Long Island, New York.

The week culminated in a virtual White Coat ceremony attended by students and their families from all over the world. The students were each introduced by a recorded introduction where they had the opportunity to express their gratitude and excitement.

“This is far greater than anything I dared to dream of. I’m beyond thankful to be joining HSDM and excited to make great strides as a budding dentist,” said Lisbeth Garcia, a DMD student from Miami, Florida.

Dean George Q. Daley recognized the culmination of years of hard work and dedication it took for the students to start their dental and medical education at Harvard.

“Today marks just the beginning of your evolution from student to doctor or dentist. Today is the start of a momentous personal and professional journey. It will be arduous, no doubt, but also deeply rewarding. By donning the white coat, you embrace the privileges and responsibilities inherent in becoming a physician.”

Daley reminded the students of the symbolism of the white coat and the principles it stands for including professionalism, honesty, integrity, equity, and compassion.

Dean Giannobile screenshot of Zoom remarks
Incoming HSDM Dean William Giannobile addressed the students at the virtual White Coat Ceremony
In his remarks, Dean Giannobile offered words of encouragement and advice to the students to take advantage of the numerous opportunities awaiting them at Harvard. 

“You will be on your way to an amazing journey to advance your knowledge in medicine to the benefit of your future patients and our greater society,” Giannobile said. “As your faculty, we are here to provide you with the opportunity to see your dreams realized as you take the next step in your careers.”

See also: Students