Savannah Gelesko, a third-year dental student at UNC-Chapel Hill, has received a 2009 Robert E. Bryan Public Service Award.
The honor, announced at the UNC-Chapel Hill 2009 Public Service Awards Ceremony and Reception on April 17, recognizes individual students, faculty and staff who have performed extraordinary public service and/or enabled such service by others.
Gelesko was honored for her work as project manager for the N.C. Missions of Mercy (MOM) clinic the School of Dentistry sponsored in October 2008. More than 180 students from a variety of School programs volunteered, and an estimated 255 patients received free dental care.
Dean John N. Williams nominated Gelesko for the honor and attended the awards ceremony.
“Savannah’s leadership within the School’s student volunteer organization and her own personal advocacy of access to care send a powerful message to students and also to the faculty and staff members who find her such an inspiring example,” Williams said in his nomination.
Williams described the planning, coordination and patient care responsibilities Gelesko took on – with some planning beginning months in advance. He also detailed the leadership she demonstrated at the clinic site: “She was always enthusiastic and ready to help anyone in need. She was able to see when someone on her team needed support. Last but not least of these contributions, she applied great humility and empathy in offering that support. By example, she inspires leadership and participation in others which made the Hillsborough MOM weekend project such a huge success.”
Gelesko’s award comes with a framed certificate, cash award and individual recognition at the ceremony. The award is sponsored by the Carolina Center for Public Service and the Vice Chancellor for Public Service and Engagement.
She also was a Morehead Scholar and active in the University’s pre-dental honor society, Delta Delta Sigma, in her undergraduate years at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Dr. Rick Mumford, director of the School’s Dentistry in Service to Communities Program, said he met Gelesko in the fall of 2008, soon after his arrival at the School. A senior faculty member told him at great length about Gelesko’s pre-dental and dental school community service activities.
“Savannah was the first dental student’s name I learned and remembered. What one recalls about Savannah is her clear-eyed, optimistic and yet totally practical determination to serve others. Savannah leaves us all wondering whether we should do just a bit more to help other people.”