Our top stories in 2022

Collage of photos from top ten stories in 2022

2022 was a big year for the School of Dentistry. We saw the return of many in-person events. Our faculty continued to make discoveries that impact the way we care for patients. We worked toward happy and healthy smiles and mouths. Our students continued to excel in and out of the classroom. 


Though it’s impossible to quantify everything we did last year, our ten most-read stories tell the tale of a school that is committed to becoming the best oral health professionals we can be. 


10. Rao named among ADA 10 under 10

Headshot of Aruna Rao on a School of Dentistry branded background

Aruna Rao, DDS ’12, received the distinct honor of being named one of the 2022 10 under 10 by the American Dental Association. The award recognizes “dentistry’s rising stars: dentists who are making an impact in the profession less than ten years after graduating from dental school,” according to the ADA’s website. 

Born in India and raised in North Carolina, Rao grew up among researchers and scientists and slowly but surely found her way toward pediatric dentistry.

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9. School of Dentistry celebrates 198 graduates

Dean Keith Mays poses for a selfie with graduating students

The 2022 commencement ceremony saw the return of friends and family to celebrate the completion of degrees for 123 Doctor of Dental Surgery candidates, 26 Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene graduates, 8 Master of Dental Therapy graduates, 36 candidates for advanced education, 4 candidates for the Master of Science in Dental Hygiene and 1 graduate student in oral biology.

Amber Cziok, DDS ’06, provided the keynote address, reflecting on change as a part of life. “You will change people, and people will change you,” she reflected. “I encourage you to strive to propagate positive change in this world, and give of your time and talents through your chosen discipline, professional involvement and everyday life.”

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8. Bridging two worlds

Photo of Alex Tabatabai standing on a balcony, set on a branded background

Alex Tabatabai, DDS ’25, was born deaf—but he wouldn’t be diagnosed until he was two years old. Growing up with a unique perspective on sound and frequency encouraged a special interest in music and technology. “I was amazed at how technology had an impact on changing the way we live,” he said. And getting a cochlear implant at age four only deepened that fascination. 

When it came to choosing a career, Tabatabai shadowed a deaf dentist and discovered a love for the art when he witnessed first-hand how much proper dental work impacted his ability to lip read patients’ words.

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7. Precision leads DDS graduate to 2022 Olympics

Tara Peterson competing in curling

Tara Peterson, DDS ’18, thrives on hard work and dedication. That drive propelled her to pursue dental school while also competing professionally in curling. Today, she’s a general dentist and an Olympian. Peterson and her sister joined Team USA in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. And she credits her hard work and dedication for both her careers.

“To be where I am with curling, and with dentistry, you have to work hard and see things through,” she said. “There’s a precision in curling, where you just have to feel it. Dentistry can be that way too: there’s an artistic side to it.”

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6. Graduating DDS class honored at awards ceremony

A DDS student receives an award from two faculty on stage

Graduating dental students gathered the night before their commencement ceremony to celebrate outstanding accomplishments, with 57 awards and honors presented to new graduates.

“This is a time to celebrate your hard work, and to honor and thank the faculty, staff and loved ones who helped you get here,” reflected Dean Mays, DDS, MS, PhD, in his opening remarks. “Enjoy every moment and soak it in.”
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5. Introducing the Oral Health Educator Certificate 

Carol Dahlke teaching

Designed for educators who want to take their teaching career to the next level, the Oral Health Educator Certificate Program provides dental and dental hygiene educators with the contemporary knowledge and skills needed for effective didactic and clinical teaching.

Unique in its focus on providing excellent formation for busy professionals, the certificate sprouted from the desire for more effective continuing professional development at the School of Dentistry and beyond.

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4. Yadav wins Hyson Award for best scientific article

Headshot of Sangeeta Yadav

Sangeeta Yadav, BDS, MDS, adjunct associate professor of prosthodontics, received the Dr. Jacob Hyson Award for the best scientific article in the Journal of Prosthetic and Implant Dentistry, for her work entitled “Awareness, knowledge and attitude of prosthodontists and other dental practitioners towards precision attachments: A survey.”

Yadav hopes this piece is the first step toward helping practitioners understand how to use precision attachments and impact peoples’ lives. “Precision attachments can offer considerable benefits in prosthetic dentistry by enhancing retention, aesthetics, stress distribution and cross arch stabilization,” she explained.

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3. Introducing the DDS Class of 2026, Dental Therapy Class of 2025 and Dental Hygiene Class  of 2024

Incoming students at orientation

The School of Dentistry welcomed 134 new learners to campus in the fall semester in the DDS, Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy programs. Get to know the learners who make up those programs through statistics and infographics.

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2. Sixteen international dentists join highly-educated PASS cohort

map of 16 learners seeking US licensure

The School of Dentistry welcomed 16 news learners to the Program for Advanced Standing Students in January 2022. These learners would join the DDS Class of 2024.

The Program for Advanced Standing Students, or PASS, is a 29-month program designed for graduates of dental schools outside the United States and Canada who have moved to the United States and want to practice dentistry within the U.S.

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1. New grant program makes dental hygiene part of hospital care

Dental hygiene learner speaks with faculty in clinic

Cyndee Stull, DHSc, director of the Division of Dental Hygiene, takes the connection between oral and systemic health seriously. That connection informs everything she does, and it’s the inspiration behind a project being funded by Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation.

Stull received a Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation grant to develop a full-time dental hygiene consult service, implement a quality improvement plan and evaluate the impact of the hygienist in a hospital setting. The grant will fund an estimated 5,200 patients’ assessments and services over the next two years.

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