52 Future Dentists Receive Their White Coats

“Putting on the white coat for the first time ushers in a lifetime of providing compassionate, ethical care,” said Dean Lepowsky. “It is a passageway to serving humanity for the rest of your lives and an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of individuals.”

UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony – August 19, 2022 (John Atashian photo)

A week after starting dental school, a new class of future dentists gathered for the annual White Coat ceremony-a symbolic induction into the profession of dental medicine.

This year, 52 new students participated in the ceremony held in Keller Auditorium with their loved ones. This is the first time since 2019 that guests were permitted to celebrate this milestone in person with the first-year students.


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony


Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026 White Coat Ceremony

Words of Wisdom

Dr. Steven Lepowsky, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, kicked off the ceremony with remarks congratulating the incoming class and emphasizing the significance of the White Coat ceremony.

“I congratulate the members of the Class of 2026, for not only choosing one of the finest and most rewarding health professions, but for choosing to start your professional career with us,” said Lepowsky. “You should be very proud of the incredible achievements that you have made on your way here. Your class represents 53 of the finest, most talented, and accomplished students anywhere – period.”

The dean spoke about the history of the White Coat ceremony, which began in 1993 at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. By donning the white coat, the dean explained, individuals agreed to provide the highest standards of ethical care to patients and strive to meet the wellness needs of society.

Lepowsky continued, “the white coat is a symbol of professionalism, integrity and high ethical standards. It is a uniform that conveys responsibility and trust; trust that your patients will place in you. It is your obligation to earn their trust by committing to never stop learning, never stop listening, and never stop growing. Putting on the white coat for the first time ushers in a lifetime of providing compassionate, ethical care. It is a passageway to serving humanity for the rest of your lives and an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of individuals.”

Dr. Bethany Brenner, president of the Connecticut State Dental Association and member of the UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 1979, delivered insightful remarks to the incoming class.

“The knowledge and skills you acquire here will set you up for a very successful career. You will become part of a close knit family that serves the public and our communities.”

Brenner continued, “someday you will come across a case you’ve never seen before, and you’ll be glad to reach out to your wealth of friends that are like minded and top notch-just like you are.”

Brenner challenged the students to think about how dentistry has changed over the years, and encouraged everyone to embrace new innovations and advances in dentistry.

“What will you invent? What research will you publish? Dentists are among the best innovators and creators in the world,” said Brenner.

Dr. Ronald Birmingham, president of the UConn Dental Alumni Board and member of the Class of 2010, reflected on his time in dental school and the relationships he cultivated during his time at UConn.

“16 years ago I was standing in your spot,” Birmingham said. “The bonds you’ll make over the next four years are going to be forever. Cherish that, because after you’re gone from here, you will always be able to call each other. You’d be surprised the level of knowledge that’s in this group.”

Birmingham encouraged students to explore, find mentors, take advantage of opportunities, and volunteer and pay it forward in the future.

“You deserve that white coat. Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up, voice your opinion. Your opinion matters. Take time for yourself, mental breaks, social breaks. Take your time,” Birmingham stressed.

Quinn Kropf, a member of the Class of 2023, shared greetings on behalf of the student body.

“The work ethic and dedication that it takes to get to where you are today is no easy feat,” said Kropf.

Kropf reflected on his past years in dental school, stressed the significance of the White Coat ceremony, and-similar to Brenner and Birmingham-encouraged students to take advantage of the school’s opportunities and lean on peers and faculty.

“Strive to uphold yourself as a professional. Learn as much as you can. Develop a passion for dentistry. Don’t be afraid to be humble. Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun,” Kropf noted.

The Class of 2026

The incoming class is 63% female and 37% male, with 23% of the class identifying as members of underrepresented minority groups in dental medicine. Connecticut residents make up 56% of the class, with 35% of the students being UConn undergraduates.

“We are very excited to welcome the Class of 2026, and be a part of their White Coat ceremony. This is a very talented group of students,” said Dr. Donna Paolella, associate dean for admissions.

An Unconventional Path to Dental School

The incoming students come from impressive backgrounds. Lenka Serdar, in particular, took an unconventional path to dental school. In 2019, after graduating from Cornell University, Serdar was accepted into the School of Dental Medicine’s Class of 2024. At the time, Serdar was playing women’s professional ice hockey in Germany. Serdar deferred her offer to dental school after she was invited to play on the Czechia national women’s hockey team and compete in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. After a thrilling few years on the ice rink, Serdar is now joining the Class of 2026.

“Having traveled all over the world and living in four different countries, I now enter the UConn School of Dental Medicine Class of 2026 with a broader sociocultural perspective, deeper understanding of healthcare systems, and a reinvigorated passion towards achieving my next dream – becoming a dentist,” said Serdar. “I am so excited to get to know all of my peers, collaborate together in a team-based learning approach, and foster a growing environment that challenges and encourages us to bring out the best in one another.”

Making it Official

After the remarks, Paolella and Dr. Sarita Arteaga, associate dean for students, led the presentation of the white coats-officially welcoming the new students into the dental profession. Dr. Aditya Tadinada, associate dean for graduate research and education, distributed the Honor Code Affirmation and Code of Ethics booklet to the students.

The White Coat ceremony concluded with the recital of the Dentist’s Pledge, led by Dr. Sophia Saeed, associate dean for clinical affairs.

In 2024, the students will reconvene for a second White Coat ceremony-a School of Dental Medicine tradition that honors the milestone of entering the clinical phase of training during the second year of dental school.

The full ceremony, streamed live for family and friends, can be replayed here.

A video welcoming the Class of 2026 can be found here.

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