Faculty and Staff, Students

ASOD 2023: a year in review

Many moments from 2023 stood out at Adams School of Dentistry.

As 2023 comes to a close, we’d like to take a moment and remember, reflect and remark upon some moments from the past year that stood out at UNC Adams School of Dentistry. We have experienced some highs and some lows, but here are some moments, stories and events that left an impression in 2023.

We care about our community

Community outreach is something we value at ASOD, and this year saw the opening of the Filling Station, a food pantry open to anyone in our ASOD family who is experiencing food insecurity. The pantry offers non-perishable food items, with an opportunity to grow and expand the offerings as needs arise.

Four people take a selfie outdoors.

ASOD volunteers worked at to remove autumn olive from the trails at Triangle Land Conservancy.

For the ninth consecutive year, the students, faculty and staff at UNC Adams School of Dentistry came together for DEAH DAY, 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 2014 hate crime.

Volunteers provided free oral health care services to nearly 180 children as a part of the school’s 10th annual Give Kids A Smile® event. “It’s a real testament to the values of our program that we were able to provide this kind of care,” said Samantha Glover and Caylen Y. Bost, student clinic chairs and DDS ‘24.

With the help of almost 400 total volunteers — made up of dentists, students, faculty, and staff — the children were able to receive various treatments, such as dental exams, X-rays, fluoride treatment, sealants, fillings or extractions.

Tragedy does not define us

We experienced two tragic incidents this year at UNC that involved gun violence and extended lockdown situations. While the effects may still be unknown, we were able to take advantage of UNC mental health resources, including the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, mental health first-aiders and one on one conversations to help process these events.

Since these events transpired, we have hired an in-house counselor, Chris Crowther. We have also created an Incident Response Team, comprised of leaders from key areas of the school, to take action when incidents arise. This group has been meeting regularly to discuss how we can be better prepared for incidents, have participated in training sessions, including active shooter trainings, and more are on the horizon.

Nur Kanawati at the 2023 ASOD commencement.

This year, we also lost a member of our graduating class to cancer. Nur Kanawati, DDS ‘23, was a wife and mother of two children. She passed away in July 2023 after being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2022 while pregnant. She had her daughter, Safia, in December 2022. Despite cancer treatment and a new baby, she was still determined to graduate with her class in May, something that impressed both her teachers and her peers.

“Nur achieved her dream of graduating as Dr. Nur Kanawati, DDS,” said Caroline Jennings, DDS ‘23. “She did not let cancer tell her she couldn’t have Safia. Nur did not let cancer say ‘you’re not going back to school.’ Nur did not let cancer tell her ‘you won’t meet your requirements.’ Nur didn’t allow cancer to keep her from walking across that stage, getting her diploma and becoming the most kind, talented and courageous dentist. Cancer may have taken her life, but it did not take her spirit.”

Student, staff and faculty success

UNC Adams School of Dentistry students celebrated a major milestone at the annual commencement event May 12 at Carmichael Arena. Around 150 students received degrees and certificates in dental hygiene, advanced dental education and doctor of dental surgery.

Event speakers included Janet Guthmiller, DDS, PhD, dean, Adams School of Dentistry; Stan Bergman, BS, CPA, CEO, Henry Schein; and student representatives, including Karina Ibarra, president, Dental Hygiene Class of 2023; Jennie Ledbetter, BS, RDH, Advanced Dental Education Class of 2023; and Danielle Nicholson, president, DDS Class of 2023.

Wendy Clark works with a student in the prosthodontics lab.

Our faculty are top achievers in their fields, and this year was no exception. Wendy Clark, DDS, MS, received a UNC Chapel Hill University Teaching Award for her efforts in the classroom, something her students took the time to nominate her for, and that means the world to Clark.

“I once asked her who she thought her boss was as we discussed how to handle conflicting inputs from various work relationships,” said Matt Manley, DDS candidate ‘24. “She said ‘the students are my boss. You pay me to be here for your education.’ This revealed her deep insight into the dynamic relationship of learners and educators. Dr. Clark is someone I not only enjoy learning from, but I enjoy learning with her, because she has not forgotten that she is still a learner, too.”

We are a cohesive team 

Recruitment and retention of faculty and leadership was a priority for ASOD in 2023 and will continue into 2024. We were able to fill several vacant leadership positions at the school and hope to continue the trend in 2024. Joining us this year were:

  • Ann Alexander, MEd, director of educational compliance and innovation
  • Doug Edmunds, MA, assistant dean for IT
  • Mary Erskine, BA, director of marketing and communications
  • Matt O’Neal, MBA, associate dean for finance and administration
  • Amie Sigmann, MSW, assistant director, dean’s office operations

Our faculty members stepped up and participated in the process to reimagine our academic organizational structure. Seventy-eight percent of eligible faculty voted yes to adopt a new structure based on focus group research into several proposed structural models. Implementation will be ongoing in 2024, and we look forward to this process in the new year.

Our focus groups were also a highlight from 2023. Nine focus groups worked on areas across the school, including overall strategic vision, creating a culture of excellence and wellness, staff and professional development, communications, the creation of an ambassador program, the patient experience, clinic finances, EPIC deployment and training and redesigning the school’s websites.

“The great thing is that these groups are led by and driven by our community – staff, faculty and students – who have a vested interest in making our school a better place,” Guthmiller said.

We know how to let our hair down

Sumi Ahmed as “Chucky.”

Halloween was a day of celebration for students, staff and faculty alike at UNC Adams School of Dentistry on Oct. 31. Decked out in costumes that ranged from mobile ghosts to Mr. Worldwide, to iconic Disney fairies and killer dolls, everyone got into the spooky spirit to enjoy candy, costume contests, group performances and more.

The individual costume contest featured three winners – Tammy Collins as a ghost on wheels; Aubrey James as a moth; and Sumi Ahmed as Chucky from “Child’s Play.” The group costume contest featured Hugh Hefner with his Playboy Bunnies, a funky disco duo and the orthodontics classes as circus performers, construction workers with a traffic cone and a Top Chef/Iron Chef faceoff. The fourth year orthodontics students took the top prize for their tv-chef-contest inspired faceoff.