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White Coat Ceremony Welcomes New Dental Hygiene Students

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 5:26pm

The UTSD Dental Hygiene Class of 2015.

A white coat ceremony for the Dental Hygiene Class of 2015 welcomed the 40 new students to careers in health care. See more photos on Flickr. Photos by Brian Schnupp.

Forty new students entering the Dental Hygiene Program at The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston were treated to a White Coat Ceremony Aug. 9 at the Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center.

The annual event is sponsored by the UTSD Family and Friends Association and the University of Texas at Houston Dental Hygienists’ Alumni Association to celebrate the beginning of the students’ careers in health care.

Nikola Angelov, DDS, PhD, chair of the UTSD Department of Periodontics, congratulated the students on choosing careers in dental hygiene, which recently ranked 10th on a U.S. News and World Report list of the top 100 jobs in America.

The event’s featured speaker, Associate Dean for Professional Development and Faculty Affairs Karen Novak, DDS, PhD, noted that although she is now a professor and periodontist, she began her career as a dental hygienist. The bonds established with her classmates remain strong to this day, she said, noting that most are still in the field today, working in public health, private practice or academia. 

Novak introduced the UTSD class to their own demographics:  While most of the students are from Texas, two are from Louisiana, two from California and one is from Washington, D.C.  One student has worked in a dental office for 10 years, yet another has been a dental assistant for seven years.  Two are training for a half marathon, one is a personal trainer and yet another is a swim instructor.

Novak also spoke of the history of the white coat as a symbol of professionalism, knowledge and compassion in those who wear it.  Although the tradition began with physicians, it soon spread to other health professionals and today designates the wearer as someone patients can trust.

Of the 40 new students, 35 are seeking bachelor’s degrees, and five are working on certificates in dental hygiene. Most students enter UTSD’s two-year program as college juniors, having completed 62 hours of prerequisite courses. Many of the certificate students already have bachelor’s degrees in related fields.

At UTSD, dental hygiene students have the opportunity to work side-by-side with dental students – helping everyone involved get used to working as a dental team.