Class of 2024 Earns Degrees at Milestone Convocation

Students in Convocation

The 50th-anniversary graduates of the now Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) walked across the podium to receive their degrees in 1974. Half a century later, with some of those graduates among the crowd, 166 students crossed the podium at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on May 13 to obtain Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), Master of Science, the Master of Science degrees along with certificates in the various dental specialties. The ceremony included the hooding of DMD recipients, symbolizing graduates’ entry into the dental profession. The lilac hood represents dentistry, and the scarlet inner lining denotes Rutgers University.

Class of 1974
Members of the Class of 1974 with Dean Cecile A. Feldman (center) and RSDM Alumni Association President Donald Lapine '97 (fifth from left).

The event began with remarks from Dean Cecile A. Feldman. She reminded the students that their education prepared them for their next steps; emphasized the importance of adapting to our changing world to keep dentists and patients healthier and safer; and encouraged students to find and follow their passion. “Just the other day I met with a student about career paths. She asked me what I thought it took for a dentist to be successful,” she said. “My response was very simple: figure out what you are passionate about because everyone will go to any length to pursue their passion. For with passion comes an unrelenting drive for excellence. For me, it was going into education and research. I love pursuing the unknown and availing shrouded mysteries.”

Brian L. Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) focused on health equity, a key mission of a Rutgers education, in his speech. The Class of 2024 was part of an initiative that created an alert on patient intake forms to connect those in need of food resources. These graduates also treated patients in the school’s patient programs, like the Holocaust Survivors Program and the VETSmile Program, as well as going on mission trips to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and South Dakota. “Your class's involvement in pioneering programs ... reflects a deep-seated commitment to serving diverse and often marginalized populations,” said Strom. “This commitment is what will set you apart as a dentist of extraordinary compassion.”

Chang with Fitzgerald-Bocarsly
The Stanley S. Bergen Jr., M.D., Medal of Excellence recipient Joy Chang (right) with RBHS Provost Patricia Fitzgerald-Bocarsly.

Following that, RBHS Provost Patricia Fitzgerald-Bocarsly presented the Stanley S. Bergen Jr., M.D., Medal of Excellence to Joy Chang. The Bergen Medal was one of the many awards decorating Chang’s four years at RSDM, including eight student awards from the school as well as the Edward J. Ill MD Foundation and the Pierre Fauchard Dental Scholarship awards. She was an exemplary student and an exceptional leader who built close relationships with faculty, staff, peers, and patients. At RSDM, she was a mentor for two major pipeline programs, tutored for basic science and preclinic, and held many other leadership roles, such as the vice president of the Class of 2024. Her involvement extended beyond RSDM. She helped Newark high school students with their college applications.

Parker Aldredge
Class President Parker Aldredge

The ceremony concluded with Class President Parker Aldredge’s speech. While he highlighted the challenges his class has faced due to the pandemic and the changing landscape in education with increasing amounts of information and online resources, he also called attention to the growing financial commitment students are making to receive their educations.

“As we go out into the world with hopes of doing the most good possible— benevolence—for those patients that are trusting us, by walking through our doors, we will struggle along the way,” he said. “However, we can always fall back on the guidance of our new colleagues and mentors. We join the profession of dentistry, knowing that our training is top-notch, and our actions are truly driven by the need to help others. Congratulations, Class of 2024. The world is always for the taking and the future is certainly bright.”