Dental welcome

151 new students get a glimpse into their next 4 years

Marie Murray of Methuen, Mass., said she was "blown away" by an invitation to attend a family welcome at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, where her oldest son, Nicholas, is a member of the Class of 2007.

"You don't expect that from a graduate school," said Murray, balancing a brown bag lunch, a blue dental school T-shirt and a folder of information (including toothbrushes) given to each parent and incoming student who attended the second annual Family Orientation Welcome on August 26.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Nancy Arbree discusses the dental curriculum at orientation. © Mark Morelli

"You know they're old enough to do this on their own, but you still like to know what environment they will be in, to see what he has to see and hear what he will be doing," Murray said.

And Murray was pleased after listening to faculty and administrators—including Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow, who urged students to "eat well, get some sleep, exercise and, yes, floss regularly."

Greeted in the school's student lounge with a continental breakfast, the new students and more than 350 of their family members and friends were then ushered into an overflowing Merritt Auditorium, where reassurances were as plentiful as descriptions of the dental school curriculum.

No mistake
"It's the eternal fear of every graduate student: The admissions committee has made a mistake," Bacow said. "But it hasn't. You each belong here."

Executive Associate Dean Patricia Campbell added that she had just advised her own daughter on her first day at college to "look into your heart to see what you want to do and who you want to be and see if that can carry you through the hard times, get you past the anxiety."

Dr. Steven Geller, D71, with his son, Jared, a member of the Class of 2007. © Mark Morelli

Dean Lonnie H. Norris noted the 151 students in the Class of 2007 were chosen from almost 2,000 applicants. He welcomed the class, pointing out that Tufts is the nation's second largest dental school, well known for its clinical training, especially in diagnostics and patient management.

Twenty-two percent of the incoming students are from the West Coast, 21 percent from New England and 13 percent from the Mid-Atlantic states. Students represent 30 states and eight nations, and women comprise 48 percent of the class.

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Nancy Arbree led a PowerPoint tour of the dental school curriculum. She said behavioral sciences and clinical skills both ranked as important areas in the school's offerings, while new course material included anesthesiology and epidemiology.

The importance of research
The opportunities and advantages of doing research were outlined by Dr. Gerard Kugel, associate dean for research. "Ninety-five percent of you won't do research when you get out, but if you do it while you are here, it will make you a better dentist" by sharpening students' critical thinking skills.

Students were repeatedly urged not "to lose themselves" in study, but to maintain a balance in their lives. "When it comes time to graduate, we will ask you if you felt mentored, if you felt developed as a person. And we hope you say yes," said Mark Gonthier, associate dean for admissions and student affairs.

Part of the dental school orientation included a tour of the simulation clinic, where students will hone their clinical skills. © Mark Morelli

The supportive, festive tone of the day surprised some alumni who had returned to watch their own children enroll at Tufts Dental. "It wasn't a particularly pleasant experience when I went to school here," recalled Dr. Howard Cooper, D79, of Ashland, Mass. "We were almost expected to learn on our own." But he said the value of his education became clear during his postgraduate residency, when he realized he was much more clinically astute than some of his peers who had graduated from other schools.

Times have changed
"The students seem different then when I was a student—more mature and more positive about their experience here," said another parent, Dr. Steven Geller, D71, a periodontist in Brattleboro, Vt. "I also get a strong feeling that the faculty care and want to work with the students."

That sense was what led some students to come to the school. "Georgie was impressed with the way he was treated when he came here for an interview," said Maggie Landa of Miami, Fla. She and her husband, George, drove Georgie to school and stayed for the orientation.

The orientation was of value to students, too. Jasmine Henville of Framingham, Mass., a single mother of two who has worked for several years as a hygienist, was glad that her mother and two aunts could attend. "It's great for them to see how hard it will be so when I start screaming, they'll understand."