Finding community through giving back
The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry has been a big part of life for Geetha Damodaran, DDS ’95—in more ways than one. That relationship informed her decision to become a donor.
Damodaran did not just get her dental degree from the School of Dentistry. She taught biomaterials for some time while her children were young. And her daughter, son and daughter-in-law all pursued dentistry at the university as well.
“In fact, during COVID, I had three people quarantining at my house and going to school,” she recalled, of her son and his wife who graduated in 2020, and her daughter who will graduate in 2023.
In addition to her passion for working in private practice, and her service in Hope Dental Clinic and Mission of Mercy, Damodaran’s love for teaching was reignited as her kids grew older. “I wanted to see what the school was teaching my kids,” she explained. So she returned as a bench instructor in operative dentistry.
Damodaran loves teaching, particularly the first- and second-year learners she works with today. “Where I’m teaching, the students have never touched a handpiece before,” she said. “They’re eager to learn, and they’re also stressed out. I get to be their biggest cheerleader, the first one to work with them on those skills and help them manage everything.”
Because of her roles at the school, Damodaran saw first-hand the toll the COVID-19 pandemic took on students, like those in her class and her own children. So when she noticed an alumnus had issued a match challenge that needed a bit of help to reach its goal, she knew it was the right thing to do.
“I like to give to the underdog. If somebody needs something, I try to do what I can to give back,” she said. “And I think it was nice for my kids to see and know that people do care, that they want to help.”
Giving back to the School of Dentistry made perfect sense to Damodaran, because of her love for the school and her gratitude for the community she found there. Things were not easy for her in school; Damodaran was struck by a vehicle before her enrollment and had to balance recovery with school work. But her time at the school was excellent because of the people around her.
“I still keep in contact with the people from my bench,” she recalled. “It’s been almost thirty years since we graduated, but we still have that connection, which is so important in dentistry. As a private practice owner, you can feel really alone and isolated, but we found community with one another.”
Damodaran hopes giving back to the school fosters that sense of community for the next generation, and helps them to see that they are not alone in their dental school journey.
“I received so much, and I’m very fortunate to be able to be who I am and do what I do,” she said. “I think that it’s only fair to give back to those who need it. I want to be that support for the current students, too.”