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A Time to Celebrate: 40 International Dentists Earn DDS Degrees in the US

Congratulations to the CU Dental Advanced Standing International Student Program Class of 2022

minute read

Written by Laura Ramsey on December 21, 2022

The Advanced Standing International Student Program (ISP) at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM) brings dentists from around the world to Colorado to earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees and practice in the United States. This December, celebrations in honor of the ISP Class of 2022 included a banquet and awards ceremony, flag ceremony, and commencement ceremony.

Banquet & Awards Ceremony

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Soon-to-be graduates gathered with family, friends and faculty for an elegant evening off campus. Cocktail hour kicked off the event, with dinner shortly after in the grand ballroom. Dean Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS, began the formal program:

“I hope that your experiences here at the University of Colorado have been fulfilling. As you have learned from us, we have learned from you. You enriched the dental school family with the diversity of your cultures and the beauty of your smiles. Thank you for sharing the last 2 years with us.”

During their time at CU Dental, three graduates became U.S. Citizens: Dr. Emil Saroian, Dr. Ashjan Hassan and Dr. Marijana Lukic. And six became permanent residents: Dr. Toyin Abimbola, Dr. Noha Badran, Dr. Elena Ciobanu, Dr. Adreel George, Dr. Nisreen Malik and Dr. Archana Dubey.

Dr Nguyen and Dr Baskaran speaking

ISP Director Krithika Baskaran, BDS, DDS, and Assistant Director Viensuong Nguyen DDS, MDSc, FACP, continued the program, introducing and congratulating each student individually, with their portrait and the flag of their home country projected on screen. Their stories, career paths and dreams for the future were inspiring in many ways.

To highlight just a few:


Dr. Marwan Al-Barrak practiced as a public health dentist in Iraq before coming to the U.S. in search of a safer, better life. He has a constant desire to learn, improve and deliver patient-centered care with a passion for expanding access to quality dentistry. He aspires to be part of a general practice residency in Colorado.


Dr. Akshita Chhabra practiced general dentistry in India and has made the most of her time here by joining several dental organizations: American Association of Public Health Dentistry, American Association of Women Dentists, American Dental Education Association, American Student Dental Association, Student National Dental Association, Alpha Omega, and serving as a Global Ambassador for the Office of International Affairs. She says she has “an indefinite quench to excel in dentistry.”


Dr. Nisreen Malik is from London, UK, and graduated in 2002 from Karachi Medical & Dental College in Pakistan. She has a membership of Faculty Dentistry from Ireland and MBA from UK. She believes to “never give up on your dreams and accept change as harbinger of growth.” She is a member of CU Global Masterminds and plans to own a dental practice in Washington.


Dr. Shruthi Srinivasan graduated in 2017 from V.S. Dental College and Hospital in India, and earned her MPH from the University of South Florida. She loves oral surgery and her goal is to increase female representation in this field. After graduation, she plans to practice general dentistry in California.


The evening continued with award presentations.

Dr. Emil Saroian and Dr. Alisha Prince were recognized for serving as class presidents.

Presidents Awards

Dr. Saroian was a dentist in Iraq for 11 years. He came to the US in 2012 to build a new life in a great country. Dentistry is a part of who he is, and he would like to continue serving his community. One day he hopes to be part of the faculty at CU SDM, and to open his own practice.

Dr. Prince is from India and came to the U.S. to be with her husband. She was awarded the 2018 Graduate Student of the Year Scholarship (Wichita State University), 2021 Women in STEM Ally Award and 2022 CU School of Dental Medicine Research Day Poster Presentation. She will practice as an associate dentist in Thornton, CO. 

Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Academic Technology Initiatives Thomas Greany, DDS, currently serves as President of the Pi Rho Chapter of Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU), dentistry’s national honor society. He introduced the 2022 ISP inductees: Dr. Marwan Al- Barrak, Dr. Toyin Abimbola, Dr. Nermin Tawfik, Dr. Danah Alradwan and Dr. Esraa Salem.

OKU Banquet


Dr. Salem graduated first academically in the class. She is an enthusiastic, charismatic, and passionate dentist and mother who loves spending time with family and friends as well as exploring the great outdoors and fishing. She is a member of Student Senate and plans to practice general dentistry in North Carolina.




Specialty Award Recipients:

  • Student Achievement Award in Endodontics: Dr. Abdul Majeed

  • International College of Dentists Award: Dr. Mohit Soni

  • American College of Dentists Award: Dr. Marwan Al-Barrak

  • Pierre Fauchard Academy Award for Outstanding Professionalism: Dr. Swathi Naredla

  • Victoria Saniukovich Humanitarian Award: Dr. Noha Badran


Dr. Noha Badran, pictured below with CU Dental Faculty Daniel Wilson, DDS, and Elizabeth Towne, DDS, MS, is a passionate dentist from Egypt. She chose dentistry as a profession because it makes a difference and improves people’s lives. She has practiced eight years total as a dentist, hygienist and assistant. She hopes to work in private practice or a dental support organization in Texas.




Departmental Award Recipients: 

  • Comprehensive Care Award: Dr. Esraa Salem  

  • Oral Diagnosis Award: Dr. Drexy Ancog  

  • Treatment Planning Award: Dr. Vikas Dahiya  

  • Oral pathology Award: Dr. Noha Badran  

  • Oral Medicine Award: Dr. Emil Saroian  

  • Operative Dentistry Award: Dr. Eduardo Garcia  

  • Removable Prosthodontics Award: Dr. Emil Saroian  

  • Fixed Prosthodontics Award: Dr. Marijana Lukic  

  • Implant Prosthodontics Award: Dr. Marwan Al-Barrak  

  • Oral Surgery Award: Dr. Adreel George  

  • Periodontics Award: Dr. Marwan Al-Barrak  

  • Orthodontics Award: Dr. Ashjan Hasan  

  • Pediatric Dentistry Award: Dr. Nermin Tawfik  

  • Esthetic Dentistry Award: Dr. Eduardo Garcia  

  • Special Care Dentistry Award: Dr. Elena Ciobanu  

  • Evidence Based Dentistry Award: Dr. Toyin Abimbola  

  • Research Award: Dr. Ashjan Hassan  

  • Public Health Dentistry Award: Dr. Alisha Prince  

  • Dental Radiology Award: Dr. Abdul Majeed  


2022 Banquet Group


Flag Ceremony 

Thursday, December 8, 2022 

This decade-long tradition allows every ISP graduate to make their mark at the dental school by pinning a flag on their home country, displayed on wall-mounted world maps. 

Dean Flag Group

Many graduates were accompanied by families and friends to witness this honor, dressed in traditional cultural clothing. Dr. Sahib Kaur even brought her pup, Nemo, to join in the festivities. Dr. Kaur moved to the U.S. as a child with her mom and brother in 1999. She sees dentistry as a sanctuary and plans to practice general dentistry. 

Nemo Group

Dr. Swathi Naredla excitedly pinned her flag with her parents by her side. She came from India to the U.S. in 2016 with her family. In her third year at Oxford Dental College, she was treating children in rural areas and says, “seeing the smiles on their little faces was the most satisfying feeling.” She plans to work as an associate dentist in Texas.


Dr. Mannat Dhillon was especially eager to pin her flag next to her husband’s, Dr. Nitin Jaggi, ISP Class of 2019. Dr. Dhillon practiced dentistry in India, then as a teaching assistant in BDS in a dental school and a dental assistant in Canada before moving to the U.S. She is honored to have such a strong legacy of dentists in her family. 



Commencement Ceremony 

Friday, December 9, 2022 

Adorned in their graduation regalia, graduates lined up to enter the auditorium on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. Applause roared as “Pomp and Circumstance” played and faculty led the procession.

ISP Director Dr. Baskaran welcomed everyone to this momentous occasion and introduced distinguished guests and faculty on stage. Dean Kassebaum spoke next, thanking the graduates and expressing her hope that “your journey will always be fulfilling, and this will be one of the very special milestones that bring you joy to reflect upon.” She emphasized, “our lives have been enriched because of your presence here.”  

Class President Dr. Emil Saroian and Former Class President Dr. Alisha Prince also gave remarks. They presented the class composite to Dean Kassebaum to be hung in the dental school. 



This year’s commencement speaker was Patrick T. Prendergast, DDS, Dental Director of Advanced Sleep Care Centers of Colorado and Former Chair of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, American College of Dentists. He reflected upon the unique circumstances under which this class entered the program, during the Covid-19 pandemic:

“It was tough for everyone, but none of us can truly imagine what it was like for each of you,” he said. “New to this university, new perhaps to this country, new to these surroundings, probably without your families... In the height of the chaos, each of you made this choice.”  

He commended the graduates for always pushing forward. “It seems the missing element to our world today is resiliency... You’ve not only earned several degrees in dentistry, but truly have mastered resiliency. As you plan your next chapter, I urge you to remember this is your secret superpower. And the world needs it now more than ever.”



Then came the time for the graduates to receive their degrees. Dr. Baskaran read each name aloud as they came to the stage. Former ISP Director Dr. Towne and Dr. Greany were selected by the class to present their academic hoods. Dean Kassebaum presented their diplomas and shook hands with heartfelt congratulations.

Some doctors were hooded by family members, spouses or mentors in the profession.

Dr. Eduardo Garcia was hooded by his father, Dr. Enrique Garcia. He practiced for eight years as an orthodontist and taught as faculty in Venezuela. He is passionate about providing high quality dentistry with plans to practice at a pediatric dental and orthodontic office in Colorado.



Dr. Sergio Pichardo Gracia was hooded by his wife, Dr. Yisel Polanco. Originally from Cuba, he came to the U.S. for freedom. He plans to work in oral and maxillofacial surgery.



Dr. Renuka Kucherlapati was shocked when she walked off stage and saw her sister waiting for her, who had traveled with her husband and baby to be there as a surprise. Dr. Kucherlapati practiced general dentistry in India before pursuing education and a career in the U.S. She believes in empathy, kindness and creating a positive environment as a clinician. She plans to work here in Colorado.



Dean Kassebaum proudly conferred the candidates the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery. Senior Associate Dean Lonnie Johnson, DDS, PhD, led the graduates in reciting the Oath of the Class of 2022, based on the traditional Hippocratic Oath. To close the ceremony, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Innovation Tracy de Peralta, PhD, DMD, read the Norlin Charge – a charge that has been repeated at every university graduation since 1935.

The ISP Class of 2022 came to the stage for one last photo together, and, of course, tossed their graduation caps to celebrate.

2022 ISP Commencement

2022 ISP Commencement Caps

The entire commencement ceremony was live streamed around the world. The recording is now available to watch on the CU Dental YouTube channel.

Congratulations to the CU Dental Advanced Standing International Student Program Class of 2022. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” - Henry David Thoreau, - Dean Denise Kassebaum.


Images by Ken Mostek Photography and Corey Davis, PRSM Film.


Topics: Alumni, Students