Dental students share expertise in ADEA poster sessions

Neha Sethi and Jessica Lellettier present their poster at ADEA

Three School of Dentistry students showcased their expertise and flexed their research and presentation skills this March when they presented posters at the American Dental Education Association’s annual meeting.

Fourth-year students Jessica Lettelleir and Neha Sethi co-presented, while third-year student Arpun Johal presented her own work.

For Lettelleir and Sethi, the presentation came from their passion for research and their desire to engage in scientific discovery while pursuing their dental degrees. “I have always been interested in teaching and dentistry,” said Lettelleir, DDS ’25. “I know research is a big part of being involved in educational dentistry, and I wanted to experience that first hand.”

Sethi sees research as “a meaningful way to push the current boundaries of knowledge in a way that magnifies my impact as a future provider and educator.”

Because the two see a future for themselves in education, it’s no surprise that their research project seeks to educate and assist dental students who are preparing for boards.

The idea came about when Sethi and Lettelleir themselves were studying for boards together. They recognized the need for updated materials to reflect the new integrated examinations, and saw a space where they could help out. “I personally struggled to find a resource when preparing for the exam,” explained Sethi.

 With support from Dean Keith Mays, DDS, MS, PhD, they decided to put together a podcast and see if it helped their fellow students. Their poster presentation, Podcast as study material for the national board examination: Preliminary findings, explored that question.

Sethi and Lettelleir produced and published seven podcasts under the title “Dental Study Bites,” attaching a survey to each episode to determine efficacy. Respondents reported that the podcast was a helpful additional tool, though the need for additional visual content and methods of helping with informational recall were necessary.

Arpun Johal presents her poster at ADEA

Johal’s inspiration to present at ADEA stemmed from her desire to share the School of Dentistry’s efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion while also learning from other dental programs. She used her poster presentation to detail the School of Dentistry’s response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the subsequent formation of Better Together.

“Better Together aims to create a more inclusive environment at the School of Dentistry for BIPOC patients and students by teaching dental students how they can be better allies to their BIPOC patients and colleagues,” Johal explained.

Her poster, entitled George Floyd: A Grassroots Response of a Dental School, detailed the school’s formal response as well as students’ mobilization efforts to combat racism and bias. She concluded that a grassroots student response in collaboration with faculty and staff “promotes a sustainable model of advancing diversity, equity and inclusion culture in dental school.” In addition to Johal’s poster, she worked with Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Naty Lopez, PhD, MEd, Clinical Assistant Professor Angela Hastings, DMD, and Clinical Assistant Professor Drew Christianson, MDT, who also presented on Better Together and the school’s anti-racism work.

“It’s been really inspiring to see how committed they are to promoting DEI in dentistry and how important this work is to them,” Johal said of her faculty’s presentation.

All three students found their time at ADEA and their presentation experiences valuable. “The experience was great!,” Lettellier recalled. “A lot of people came up and asked us about our work. It was fun to be able to talk about it and meet with people from all over the US.”

Sethi agreed, sharing, “It was incredibly motivating to be surrounded by trailblazers and innovators at the conference. It was interesting to see the efforts surrounding our dental education.” 

“It was an amazing experience sharing the work that we are doing at the University of Minnesota with dental students and educators across the country, while discussing what strategies and DEI efforts have been successful at their schools,” Johal said. “It was inspiring to be able to meet and connect with other dental students and educators that are passionate about this work.”

Johal, Lelletteir and Sethi were just a few of the students who made the School of Dentistry proud at conferences this spring. Learn more about the students who represented our school at various conferences in Dean Mays’s April message to the community.