Students in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, with the support of the Dental Foundation of North Carolina, have established a new day of service that will be conducted annually in honor and memory of the late Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha. The school will cancel classes and clinics that day, each year, as students conduct community service work across the triangle area. This year’s DEAH DAY of community service will be held on Thursday, Sept. 17, and more than 350 UNC School of Dentistry students are participating.
Barakat, a member of the DDS class of 2017 at the UNC School of Dentistry, and Abu-Salha, a member of the DDS Class of 2019, which entered the school this fall, were two of three victims of a fatal shooting in February 2015. Student leaders wanted to create something lasting and impactful to remember Barakat and Abu-Salha and their lifestyle of giving back to those less fortunate. After discussion among the students, they came up with DEAH DAY: Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor. Students began planning for the special community service event in spring after meeting with School of Dentistry leadership to discuss the concept.
“After the tragic losses of Deah, Yusor and Razan, there were many requests to honor their legacies from students and faculty,” said Kaushal Gandhi, a member of the DDS class of 2017. “Deah and Yusor were aspiring dentists and volunteered regularly within their communities. All three would have gone on to have illustrious careers and continue their community outreach and spirit of service locally and internationally. Their legacy is that of learning, service, humanity, faith and compassion. DEAH DAY is the perfect way to pay tribute to their lives.”
“When several students from the school approached us about the idea of honoring the memory of Deah and Yusor through volunteering at community service events, it seemed like such a natural way to join together to honor their lives of service,” said Jane Weintraub, dean and alumni distinguished professor at the UNC School of Dentistry. “They had such incredible hearts, often giving their weekends to help those less fortunate. We will conduct these events every year to honor their memories and continue their legacy of giving back to the community. I am very proud of our students for organizing and participating in this wonderful event.”
“To honor the memory of Deah and Yusor, the school has canceled classes and clinics for DEAH DAY, which will become an annual day of service. Each year on DEAH DAY, the school’s DDS, dental hygiene and dental assisting students will spend the morning volunteering at various sites around the triangle. In the afternoon, everyone will return to the dental school for a reception honoring the lives of Deah and Yusor and a celebration of service. This annual day of service will preserve this legacy and hopefully inspire future generations of UNC School of Dentistry students to follow their example through service,” said Gandhi.
Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha had been married six weeks at the time of their deaths. The third victim was Razan Abu-Salha, a sophomore at North Carolina State University and Yusor’s younger sister. The couple had planned to travel to Turkey last summer to provide dental care to Syrian refugees and, following their graduations from the UNC School of Dentistry, they planned to open a dental practice together.
UNC School of Dentistry contact: Tiffany N. Brannan, (919) 537-3260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications and Public Affairs contact: Michael John, (919) 445-8555, email@example.com