First-Year Students Fit for White Coats

Four rows of students wearing white coats

Symbolizing their commitment to the profession of dentistry and optimal care for their patients, the School of Dental Medicine’s Class of 2027 officially accepted their new attire – fresh white coats – at the annual White Coat Ceremony, held on April 15 at Sidney Gelber Auditorium in Stony Brook University’s Student Activities Center.

Forty-five students crossed the stage in front of their family and friends, as well as faculty, staff, senior leadership of the Suffolk County Dental Society and industry partners in attendance. As is custom at Stony Brook, they begin seeing patients in the Dental Care Center at the end of their first year before seeing a full complement of patients this fall. It’s one of only a few schools in the country that have patient care experiences so early in their education.

“Today’s ceremony marks a milestone for the Class of 2027 as each of you transitions into the role of clinical care providers,” said Patrick Lloyd, dean of the School of Dental Medicine. “With this white coat, you are accepting the critical responsibility to provide compassionate, respectful and empathetic care.”

This year’s entering class joined the school 50 years since its opening in 1973, approximately twice the size of the charter class. Of this year’s D1s, 91 percent come from New York State, with many planning to stay in-state to care for patients in urban, suburban and rural communities. With the school committed to helping bring oral healthcare access to all regions of the state, four students from Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas in the state are members of the entering class – a number more than the school has had in years.

Dr. Steven Zove, interim associate dean for clinical operations and patient care, was once in their shoes as a member of Stony Brook’s Class of 1983. The significance of the white coat has not diminished since he put it on the first time.

“What does this white coat represent to me every time I put it on? We live in a rapidly changing environment in healthcare. Yet for me it stops when I put on this white coat,” Zove said. “It represents the ability to heal and relieve patients’ pain. It represents power, respect and responsibility. Patients trust that the knowledge and skill sets we have as dentists will be used with the patient's best interest in mind. The patients trust us so be sure to treat them with respect; understand their beliefs and values, and listen to their concerns.”

During the ceremony, the School of Dental Medicine Alumni Chapter recognized Reneida Reyes, DDS ’78, MPH, with the Distinguished Alumnus Award for her service to her community and the profession. Reyes completed her residency in pediatric dentistry at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and the Boston Children’s Hospital and earned a Master of Public Health Degree from the Harvard School of Public Health. She is the section chief of pediatric dentistry at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, while also maintaining a private practice. Among her accomplishments, Reyes served as president of the American Dental Association Foundation’s board of directors from 2014 to 2016, and received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry in 2021.

Reyes spoke fondly about her classmates, instructors and overall experience at Stony Brook, and encouraged the Class of 2024 to soak in their four years as dental students.

“I urge you all to savor every opportunity presented to you, connect with your faculty and remember that the relationships that you establish during this phase of your development will be lifelong relationships,” Reyes said.

Students in a row, with one giving a thumbs-up