Our top stories in 2023

Collage of images from top news stories

This year was filled with growth, learning and discovery at the School of Dentistry, and our news stories reflected that. We shared 101 stories last year, and our news stories were read more than 51,000 times. 

As we begin 2024, take a look back at the most-read stories published in 2023 to see what mattered most to our school community.

10. Researchers, clinicians explore how data and Artificial Intelligence can enhance dentistry

Ai image of denture

School of Dentistry researchers and clinicians are doing big things with big data—looking excitedly toward a future where artificial intelligence and data can help dental providers be the best clinicians they can be.

Sheila Riggs, DDS, MS, DMSc, has always had an interest in big data and AI, and she sees them as inextricably connected. “To me, AI is really big data on steroids,” she quipped.

Her interest in the field began early in her career, and inspired her post-doctoral career path. After receiving her second doctorate from Harvard, Riggs became an executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, creating an analytics division that focused on claims data. “Of course, the world has only exponentially grown,” she said, “but I’ve had a long interest in what you can learn from analyzing databases.”

Read Researchers, clinicians explore how data and Artificial Intelligence can enhance dentistry.

9. Full circle 

Jacob Wolf headshot

Jacob Wolf, DDS ’22, never expected to be back in his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota after graduation—but after a year of practice, he couldn’t be happier with his choice.

Wolf initially chose to pursue dentistry as a career because of the creativity of the field. “Artistry has always been an important aspect of my life,” he explained. “I love being creative and working with my hands, so dentistry felt like a no-brainer. It allows me to express my creativity in a way that provides a service to others.” 

Read Full circle.

8. First Gen Proud at the School of Dentistry

First generation students collage.

November 6-10 celebrates First Generation College Student Week, honoring those who are the first in their family to complete a degree. At the School of Dentistry, we celebrate and honor our first generation students across programs. We spoke to first generation learners to hear what being the first means to them, and how they're forging their own paths forward.

Submissions have been edited for length and style.

Read First Gen Proud at the School of Dentistry.


7. DDS Awards Ceremony celebrates the Class of 2023

Woman accepting award at DDS ceremony.

Graduating DDS learners gathered for an awards celebration on Thursday, May 11, on the eve of their commencement ceremony. 

The annual event honors and celebrates graduates who have achieved special recognition for their dedication to excellence in specialties, clinical care, research, patient care and more. 

“We are very proud of our graduates and their commitment to excellence,” reflected Karl Self, DDS, MBA, Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in his remarks at the ceremony. “Their service on behalf of the school, the community, and the profession has shown brightly on this university.”

Read DDS Awards Ceremony celebrates the Class of 2023. 


6. An unspeakable tragedy becomes hope for a new generation

Alumni Establish a $50,000 Endowment in Honor of Classmate Dan Allman

Mehrdad Hairani, Andrew Lau and Daniel Allman at graduation

When Mehrdad Hairani, DDS, ’18, recalls his journey to becoming a dentist, he will always relate it to memories of his classmate and friend, Dan Allman, DDS, ’18. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

That’s why Hairani established the Daniel Alexander Allman Memorial Scholarship to honor Allman, who died tragically in September 2020 at the age of 29 from a fall while camping in northern Minnesota. “He died in a place he loved,” his obituary read, “looking forward to spending time in the woods with buddies.”

“I met Dan the first week of dental school,” said Hairani. He was jovial, friendly and unassuming. He made everybody feel comfortable and quickly had a lot of friends.”

Read An unspeakable tragedy becomes hope for a new generation.


5. 134th Commencement ceremony honors the Class of 2023

Graduates at 2023 commencement.

The School of Dentistry celebrated its 134th commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12th. 

Graduates and loved ones, along with faculty and staff, gathered in Northrop Auditorium to celebrate the 187 graduates. 

The Class of 2023 includes 123 learners receiving their Doctorate of Dental Surgery, 25 receiving a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene and six with a Master of Dental Therapy. In addition, the class includes 33 advanced education graduates: three with a Certificate and Master of Science in Endodontics, six completing the General Practice Residency, one receiving a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene, three receiving a Certificate in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, two receiving PhDs in Oral Biology, two a Certificate in Orofacial Pain, six a Certificate and Master of Science in Orthodontics, five a Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry, two a Certificate and Master of Science in Periodontology, and three a Certificate and Master of Science in Prosthodontics.

Read 134th Commencement ceremony honors the Class of 2023.


4. Collaboration leads to breakthrough in antibiotic delivery 

Image of antibiotic testing.

Antibiotic resistance, the ability of bacteria to resist existing antibiotics, threatens our health care systems and the success of medical procedures on a daily basis. An invention resulting from the collaboration of two researchers from different disciplines seeks to combat that threat by delivering a new antibiotic to sites of infections that are difficult to treat.

Sven-Ulrik Gorr, PhD, a professor in the Division of Basic Sciences, studies the ART (activity, resistance and toxicity) of antibiotics. Conrado Aparicio, PhD, MSc Eng, former professor in the Division of Biomaterials and current professor at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, studies the development of new biomaterials.

Read Collaboration leads to breakthrough in antibiotic delivery.


3. For the Bengsons, Cap and Gown Fund is a family affair

Doug Bengson and daughter at vikings game.

Doug Bengson, DDS ’90, really loves three things: his family, dentistry and the University of Minnesota.

“People who know me would probably say I’m very passionate about dentistry,” he said. “My passion for our profession has never been greater—I absolutely love going to the office.”

But, he continued, “I am undoubtedly one of the biggest Golden Gopher fans you will ever meet, especially in western North Dakota!” Bengson brings his passion for the Gophers to his hometown of Minot, ND, where he has practiced for the past 33 years.

Read For the Bengsons, Cap and Gown Fund is a family affair.


2. Incoming PASS learners bring excitement and enthusiasm to the Class of 2025

PASS international dentists group photo.

Sixteen international dentists will join the DDS Class of 2025 through the Program for Advanced Standing Students (PASS) this semester.

Learners joining PASS have received their dental degree in another country and are seeking licensure in the United States. They will undergo an intensive 29-month program, integrated with traditional DDS learners.

The sixteen incoming learners include ten women and six men. They range in age from 25 to 46, with an average age of 34. The learners are a diverse group, with eight students who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC).

Read Incoming PASS learners bring excitement and enthusiasm to the Class of 2025.


1. Dental Therapy program achieves CODA accreditation

Dental Therapy program leaders.

Main image, from Left to Right: Karl Self, DDS, MBA; Danae Seyffer, MDT '11, Drew Christianson, MDT '13, Phonsuda Chanthavisouk, MDT '21

The Dental Therapy program at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry has received accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation, the commission announced in early March.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is responsible for the accreditation of dental, advanced dental and allied dental education programs throughout the United States. The School of Dentistry’s program is the third Dental Therapy program in the nation to receive accreditation and the first program associated with a dental school to achieve the milestone.

The accreditation process began in 2010, when the School of Dentistry, alongside the Minnesota Board of Dentistry and the Minnesota Dental Association, petitioned CODA to begin an expedited review and create standards to accredit dental therapy programs. The commission published its guidelines in 2015. So far, two additional programs—one in Alaska and one in Washington—have received accreditation.

Read Dental Therapy program achieves CODA accreditation.