More than 400 UNC School of Dentistry students, staff and faculty provided 1,250 hours of service to the local community on its third annual day of service, conducted on Sept. 28, 2017. The school cancelled classes and clinics for the day to allow the volunteers to conduct community service work across the triangle area. The day of service was established to honor and memory of the late Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha and is called DEAH DAY: Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor.
“DEAH DAY is important to all of us as students, not only because we want to serve in Deah and Yusor’s honor, but also because serving our local community in all kinds of ways is something we feel strongly about as a school community,” said Mallory Cochran Russell, DDS Candidate 2018 and co-chair of DEAH DAY.
“We know how much Deah and Yusor would have loved to be a part of this sort of event, so it is always a little bittersweet for all of us, even those who didn’t know them personally,” said Kelsey Knight Cody, DDS Candidate 2018 and co-chair of DEAH DAY. “We are grateful for the example they set for us here at UNC.”
The 413 volunteers spread out across three counties and five cities in the state on Thursday. Volunteers gave back at 23 sites, varying from food banks to elementary schools, and contributed 1,250 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.
The full impact of the day of service includes:
- 17 pounds of dental supplies donated
- 23 service locations, across five cities and three counties
- 71 rooms cleaned
- 100 books donated
- 123 families served
- 130 meals served
- 200 lunchboxes assembled
- 220 cards made for hospital patients
- 270 children given oral health instruction
- 300 animals helped
- 413 UNC School of Dentistry volunteers, including students, staff and faculty
- 925 crops planted
- 1,250 hours of service
- 2,000 pounds of food donated
- 2,960 items sorted, including clothes, jewelry and supplies
- 8,000 pounds of food sorted
Following the service activities, the school held its third annual DEAH DAY Talent Show. That event is a fundraiser for the school’s free dental clinic, Dental SHAC, which Barakat was involved in during his time as a student. The DEAH DAY Talent Show raised $4,000 for Dental SHAC and The Light House Project, a project based in a house Barakat owned while he was living that has been turned into a community incubator space in Raleigh, N.C.
“DEAH DAY is an incredible representation of our student body,” said Dean Scott De Rossi, DMD, MBA. “It truly embodies what is such a core value of our school, which is passionately serving our people, our community and our field, through inclusiveness and beyond excellence. That this day of service is who we are and what makes our dental school community so special, that is what separates us from so many if not all other dental schools in the country, because of our commitment to helping others that goes way beyond the traditional altruistic or volunteerism you see in most people. It is, in many ways, the spirit of Deah and Yusor manifesting themselves in everything that we do and everything that our students do in one incredible day.”
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. Following their deaths, students at the UNC School of Dentistry wanted to establish something that would truly represent 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 created DEAH DAY. The inaugural DEAH DAY was held on Sept. 15, 2015, a mere seven months after the shooting. DEAH DAY continues to occur on an annual basis.
Barakat and 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.