Faculty and Staff, Outreach, Students

Students Hold Second Day of Community Service in Memory of Barakat, Abu-Salha

The UNC School of Dentistry held its second day of service to honor and memory of the late Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha on Sept. 22, 2016. The school cancelled classes and closed most clinics that day while more than 400 volunteers, including students from all programs, faculty and staff, conducted community service work across the triangle area.

Barakat, a member of the school’s DDS class of 2017, and Abu-Salha, an incoming member of the DDS Class of 2019, were two of three victims of a fatal shooting in February 2015. Students wanted to establish something that would embody Barakat and Abu-Salha, and that could encourage students for years to come to give back to their community the way Barakat and Abu-Salha did during their lives. Student leadership agreed a day of service was the best way to preserve their memory and, with school leadership agreement, they came up with DEAH DAY: Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor. The inaugural DEAH DAY was held on Sept. 15, 2016, a mere seven months after the shooting. DEAH DAY is expected to continue occurring on an annual basis in the fall.

“I know that Deah would be so excited to know that the school is continuing a tradition of taking time away from the classroom to serve our community,” said Kaushal Gandhi, a member of the DDS Class of 2017 and a close friend of Barakat’s. “It’s incredibly bittersweet to be doing this without him, and without Yusor, but we feel strongly that it’s our job to continue doing their good work. This is our way of keeping their memory alive, and I hope it instills a spirit of service we’ll all take with us into our careers when we leave UNC.”

The 423 volunteers spread out across three counties and four cities in the state on Thursday. Volunteers gave back at 26 sites, varying from food banks to elementary schools, and contributed approximately 1,500 hours of service to the community. Services provided included delivering food to shut-ins, organizing inventory at community stores, reading and providing oral health education to children, facilitating sign-ups for Operation Christmas Angel with families that don’t speak English, landscaping, arranging and restocking food bank shelves, and much more. Following the service activities, volunteers reconvened at the school for a reception, with featured speakers Namee and Farris Barakat, Deah’s father and brother.

“We’re incredibly proud that the students continue to engage in DEAH DAY,” said Interim Dean Ken May. “DEAH DAY is our school’s chance to, each year, remind everyone – including ourselves – that something good and kind can be born from horrible acts. It’s up to us all to continue being the change in the world that Deah, Yusor and Razan wanted to be, and DEAH DAY is a way that we can do that as a school community, year after year.”

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 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.