DEAH Day, Outreach, Philanthropy

More than 400 volunteers dedicate time to DEAH DAY service projects

Construction project with workers in the foreground
DEAH Day volunteers helped at Piedmont Animal Farm Refuge in Pittsboro.

For the ninth consecutive year, the students, faculty and staff at UNC Adams School of Dentistry came together October 4 for DEAH DAY (Directing Efforts and Honoring Deah and Yusor), an annual day of service honoring the lives of Deah Barakat, DDS ‘17, Yusor Abu-Salha, DDS ‘19, and Razan Abu-Salha, who were killed in a 2015 hate crime.

“DEAH DAY is a special day here at ASOD. It’s such a wonderful way for us to embrace the spirit of service and truly honor the lives of Deah, Yusor and Razan we lost to tragedy. I’m so proud of our students, faculty and staff for choosing to give back to our community and make a difference,” said Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, dean, Adams School of Dentistry.

Honoring Deah, Yusor and Razan

Students standing with popup banner at clinic

The DYOR clinic provides oral health care to refugees and those displaced to North Carolina, as well as local underserved adults.

“Days like the annual DEAH DAY are so important because they are a constant reminder that although we as a nation have come

far, we still have so much further to go. We must acknowledge the persisting reality of xenophobia and racism in this country and do whatever we can as a community to take a stand against it. It is so inspirational to see the dental school do just that by keeping Deah, Yusor and Razan’s memory alive through a day dedicated to service and giving back to the community they were a part of,” said Noel McIntosh, DDS ‘24, one of the student organizers of the day.

To help kick off the events, Amr Saleh, DDS ‘26, presented a TED Talk video featuring Suzanne Barakat, Deah Barakat’s sister, to help remind students, faculty and staff why this day is important. “Today we’re gathered to celebrate the lives of Deah, Yusor and Razan, and we dedicate ourselves to a day of service. From the darkness of tragedy, so much light has sprung forth,” Saleh said.

Six people stand with a folder in an open building space.

Left to right: UNC Adams School of Dentistry Dean Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, stands with DEAH Day student organizers Amr Salah, DDS ’26, Mary Margaret Campbell, DDS ’24, and Noel McIntosh, DDS ’24, alongside Tracy Lovett, director of public engagement in the Office of the Governor, and Rania Hassan, policy assistant in the Office of the Governor.

Proclaiming October 4 DEAH DAY

Recognizing the efforts and marking the tragic events that took the lives of three young adults, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a proclamation, which was presented to Guthmiller.

“On the ninth annual DEAH DAY, our office wanted to honor the lives and the legacy of Our Three Winners and the amazing service work you all do each year in their name,” said Tracy Lovett, director of public engagement in the Office of the Governor. “It is my honor to present the Adams School of Dentistry, on behalf of Governor Cooper, a proclamation proclaiming October 4 DEAH DAY. The light that has come from such a dark tragedy is truly a reflection of their character and how they chose to live their lives in service to others.”

Serving our community

Because acts of service were important to Barakat, teams of ASOD students, faculty and staff worked across the Triangle on various service projects, supporting local charities and organizations dedicated to an array of services. Volunteers spent time working with Habitat for Humanity in Efland and Durham, Triangle Land Conservancy, Threshold Club House, Meals on Wheels in Durham and Chapel Hill, cleaning up waterways in Apex, around Jordan Lake and Ellerbee Creek, SECU Family House , Animal Kind, The Green Chair Project, Boys and Girls Club, Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge, Note in the Pocket, NC Dental Society, Duke Lemur Center, NC Therapeutic Riding Center, Grow Your World, Diaper Bank, CORA food pantry, Carolina Community Garden, CAARE, and at the dental school, providing care in clinics and cleaning up around the school.

“This service work is important to me because it shows the impact we can have when a group of caring and passionate individuals unite across a community to accomplish a goal,” said Anjali Mistry, DDS ‘25, and one of the DEAH DAY student organizers. “When I participate in DEAH DAY every year, I feel a sense of belonging and gratitude for the people that I work with every day.”

Bree Smith, DDS, ‘25, chose to be on the DEAH DAY committee this year and said it was a way for her to do something beyond

Two people in the woods with loppers.

Members of the Operational Excellence team work to clear autumn olive near Triangle Land Conservancy trails.

attending as a volunteer.

“DEAH DAY is so important because as a busy dental student, it’s easy to lose sight of all the good you can do in the community. In school, we’re taught leadership skills, technical dentistry and to have a heart, and when we leave the school, we’re expected to be leaders in our community. I think the best leaders are the ones who lead by example, and on DEAH DAY we are all leading by example through our volunteering involvement,” Smith said.

Volunteers said they participated in the day’s events because it offered an opportunity to engage with so many organizations doing service work here in our local communities and a chance to work with peers in a different setting.

“It was amazing to see the progress that we could make as a team when we all joined together with a common mission,” said Amie Sigmann, assistant director of dean’s office operations. “It gave us a chance to help community organizations that do so much good and give back every day. I also love that we got to enjoy time in nature together!”

People shovel and rake mulch in an outdoor space.

Volunteers helped at the SECU Family House during DEAH DAY.

“I love that on DEAH DAY we can all come together to serve the Triangle and beyond. It is a reminder of the light that can come from the darkness. It is an honor to continue to recognize Deah, Yusor and Razan’s legacy,” said Mary Margaret Campbell, DDS ‘24, one of the student organizers of the day.