Why I Give | Sheila Riggs, DDS, MS, DMSc

Sheila Riggs, DDS, MS, DMSc

Sheila Riggs, DDS, MS, DMSc is passionate about what she does. Even more, she’s passionate about shaping and empowering the next generation of professionals in her field. That’s why she’s not only an associate professor and Chair of the Department of Primary Dental Care. She’s also giving forward for School of Dentistry students.

This year, Riggs donated to the School of Dentistry’s Student Emergency Fund. Founded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn, the Student Emergency Fund aids students who experience unforeseen challenges that might otherwise require them to extend or suspend their studies and degree completion.

Since March, the emergency fund has directly helped five School of Dentistry students throughout DDS, Dental Therapy, Dental Hygiene, and advanced education programs. Student grants averaged around $700 to $800 per student.

For Riggs, giving to the fund was a simple decision. “I’m dedicated to doing what it takes to create the next generation of dentists, dental hygienists, and dental therapists,” she said. “This year, that took on a new dimension. I want to be a part of playing a role in all dimensions that create a well-prepared next generation of oral health teams.”

She also hopes to be an example for her nieces and nephews. Coming from a big family, Riggs and her siblings created a family mission statement to encourage the next generation. Giving to those in need, like her students, is part of Riggs’s mission statement.

Riggs hopes that the funds that sustain students will help them to “be able to focus on learning and gathering the knowledge, values and skills that they need for the time they’re in school with us,” rather than worrying about finances.

And she sees her role as a faculty member at the school as an encouragement to be involved and to give. “We’ve chosen to play this role in our professions,” she reflected. “We’re creating oral health teams through the School of Dentistry, so it’s only natural that we go all out to do what we can for them. This is just another element of going all out on behalf of our students.”

When Riggs looks at the future of oral health professionals, she sees well-rounded, compassionate providers. “Dental school isn’t just about providing knowledge and skills to be a dentist. It’s about providing a value system,” she said. “This year was just a time where a different level of empathy was needed from our students, and from us. We got to see people rise up and be helpful in new, empathetic ways.”

While the majority of applications for emergency funding came early in the pandemic, the student and resident affairs office continues to see a need for support and reviews student requests on the basis of need.

Individuals interested in donating to the student emergency fund can give online via our secure website.