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OKU’s Mu Mu Chapter welcomes 2024 class

Photo of the 2024 induction program for the Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society’s Mu Mu Chapter.
Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society’s Mu Mu Chapter at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry welcomed 10 soon-to-be graduating dental students and one faculty member in its Class of 2024. Photo by Kyle Rogers.

Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society’s Mu Mu Chapter at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry welcomed its Class of 2024 inductees in April. The 11-member class featured 10 students from the Dental Class of 2024 and one faculty member.

The ceremony was held April 16 in the Denton A. Cooley, MD and Ralph C. Cooley, DDS University Life Center.

Associate Professor Maria Gonzalez, DDS, MS, 2023-24 president of the Mu Mu Chapter, began the ceremony by underscoring the significance of the night for attendees.

“Tonight, we recognize the remarkable achievements of a select group of individuals who have demonstrated exceptional academic performance, perseverance, and commitment,” she said.

Dean John A. Valenza, DDS, noted the more than 80-year history of the School of Dentistry’s Mu Mu Chapter in his opening remarks.

To the honorees, Valenza left them with a special message. “Know that you are not here simply because of what you have done; it’s because of how you’ve done it and who you are — your character, your ethics, your professionalism.”

Ali Golshani, DDS ’15, served as the banquet’s keynote speaker.

During his introduction, Associate Professor Stephen Laman, DDS, who oversaw Golshani during his time in the Orange Practice, read aloud a patient letter from 2015. The patient said Golshani was the “best student they have ever had” and noted his confidence and compassion.

In his speech, Golshani shared his journey to being a “professional,” which he defined as someone who devotes themselves fully to being the best at what they do.

His childhood aspiration, like many, was to be a professional athlete. However, as he grew older, Golshani’s dream morphed into simply wanting to become a professional in something. This notion is what led him to dentistry.

Golshani encouraged the honorees to devote themselves to the details and highlighted the difference between a dentist and a professional dentist, saying a professional dentist prepares each day to give patients the best version of themselves.

“Your patients trust you with their oral health, their children’s oral health, their parents, their friends, and then their own words with their recommendation,” he said. “It’s our job to deliver every single time. We’re not perfect, but we’re professionals.”

New alumni members of the DDS Class of 2024 included David Drake, Vuong Ho, Colin Kappel, Jacquelin Kappel, Melissa Liu, Sydney Pham, Noah Prince, Joel Sneed, Angela Suryakusuma, and Andrew Tran. OKU confers alumni membership to senior dental students who, in addition to scholarship, have exemplary traits of character and ethics.

Professor Anita Joy-Thomas, BDS, PhD, chair of the Department of Diagnostic and Biomedical Sciences, was extended faculty membership, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the art, science, or literature of dentistry.

Twelve first-year dental students were honored with $600 scholarships for being in the top 10% of the DDS Class of 2027. Honored DS1 students included Tyler Harmon, Allan Hu, Caitlyn Krebs, Kuelye Lee, John Mansour, Shawn Nguyen, Uyen Pham, Branden Scott, Colin Smith, Katheryn Swigart, Abigail Thomas, and Vivian Tran. The scholarships are made possible by donations from OKU members.

Third-year dental student Stanton Pruitt was named the Mu Mu Chapter’s 2024 recipient of the Dr. William S. Kramer Award for Excellence, which is given annually to a DS3 who embodies the ideals of scholarship, character, ethics, and potential promise for the advancement of the profession of dentistry and service to humanity.

Additionally, Dorothy Roberts-Goff, senior executive assistant at the School of Dentistry, was recognized for her 13 years of commitment and administrative support to the Mu Mu Chapter.

OKU was founded by the faculty of the Northwestern University Dental School in 1914; the Mu Mu Chapter at the UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry was organized in 1940.

OKU is a national dental honor society that recognizes dental students, faculty, and others who distinguish themselves by a high level of scholarship. In addition to outstanding academic achievement, criteria for election to membership include exemplary traits of character and ethics, as well as potential for future professional growth and attainments. The admission standards are meant to encourage and develop a spirit of excellence among students in dentistry.

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