More than 400 UNC-CH School of Dentistry students, staff and faculty provided 1,624 hours of service to the local community on its fourth annual day of service, conducted on Sept. 27, 2018. 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 an important day for the UNC-CH School of Dentistry because it allows us all to come together to serve our community while embodying the selfless and caring attitudes that Deah, Yusor, and Razan possessed,” said LaShawn Hart, DDS Candidate 2019 and co-chair of DEAH DAY. “For myself and many others, the significance of DEAH DAY extends beyond the service that we provide. Through DEAH DAY, we are able to show our dedication to improving inclusivity and our support of all individuals, despite the many identities that make us all different.”
“I think of DEAH DAY as a way to reconnect with one of our major roles as healthcare providers, which is to be leaders in serving our local communities,” said Ann Danello, DDS Candidate 2019 and co-chair of DEAH DAY. “Deah and Yusor set the example for us with their selflessness and commitment, and it is an honor to carry on their legacy. I hope that in remembering them today, all our volunteers will come away with a renewed sense of purpose and a reaffirmed dedication to helping others.”
The 432 volunteers spread out across four counties and eight cities in the state on Thursday. Volunteers gave back at 31 sites, varying from food banks to elementary schools, and contributed 1,624 hours of service to the community. Services provided included delivering food with Meals on Wheels, organizing inventory at community stores, reading and providing oral health education to children, constructing homes with Habitat for Humanity, 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:
- 20 pounds of dental supplies donated
- 31 service locations, across eight cities and four counties
- 90 craft kits assembled
- 247 families served
- 337 meals served
- 80 lunchboxes assembled
- 38 walls painted
- 1,200 care kits for pediatric hospital patients
- 90 children given oral health instruction
- 95 animals helped
- 432 UNC School of Dentistry volunteers, including students, staff and faculty
- 200 crops planted
- 225 pounds of food donated
- 1,250 hours of service
- 1,900 books collected and donated
- 9,200 pounds of food sorted
Following the service activities, the school held its fourth 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 $1,100 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, North Carolina.
“For our school community, DEAH DAY means a number of things,” said Dean Scott De Rossi, DMD, MBA. “It is an annual, visible example of how our school lives its core values of passionately serving our people, our community and our field. It is a day where we pay tribute to Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha – two incredible young people gone far too soon – by continuing the work that they can no longer do. And it serves as a reminder to us and to the world that something altruistic and admirable and purely good can come out of something tragic and dark. DEAH DAY is the day that we pause our usual work to remember what we lost in 2015 and to continue the positive impact of Deah and Yusor the best way we know how: through acts of service.”
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-CH 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-CH School of Dentistry, they planned to open a dental practice together.