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From Teeth to Tees: International Dental Student Wins School-Wide Design Contest

Suramya Sharma’s artistic side shines in T-shirt design.

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Written by Laura Ramsey on September 5, 2023

For one dental student, dentistry is a perfect blend of math, science, art and creativity. Suramya Sharma, MDS, BDS, is a second-year student in the Advanced Standing International Student Program (ISP) at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM). She was born and brought up in Delhi, India. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dentistry before practicing as a general dentist and periodontist for four years in New Delhi.


Suramya Sharma, MDS, BDS, looking radiant in traditional Indian attire, moments before her 2018 wedding in New Delhi, India.

“Coming to the U.S. had always been in the back of my mind,” she said. “My friends talked about a good quality of life.” This plan eventually materialized when she moved to California in 2019. Sharma worked as a dental assistant while applying to schools. She found opportunities to volunteer in dental and non-dental community work, and always found time for creative outlets.

“I like being creative,” said Sharma. “I’m a trained dancer; cooking is a great stressbuster for me; and I love to travel around Colorado and other states and countries.” 


Touching the Chicago, Illinois, skies at Willis Tower in August 2023.


Brewing memories from the first Starbucks at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, in July 2023.

So, when the school launched a contest for students to design this year’s T-shirt, Sharma jumped at the opportunity. She said, “I thought it would be a good chance to use my creativity. It’s something in my wheelhouse and something that I like to do.”  

Bridging Dentistry and Design 

The 2023 Student T-shirt Design Contest encouraged CU SDM students and residents to submit their artwork incorporating the school’s anniversary theme: “50 years of innovation.” Sharma’s design features several elements that showcase different mission areas of the school: education, research, patient care and community engagement. 


She explained each piece:  

  • “1973-2023” celebrates our first 50 years as an institution, which provides a strong foundation for the next 50 years and beyond. 
  • The people holding hands in a circle represent our commitment to serving the communities around us, from local neighborhoods to global health. They also represent the SDM community—students, faculty, staff and alumni—who foster an environment based on collaboration rather than competition. 
  • “Innovation. Excellence. Growth.” These three words embody the SDM. And as much as they signify the present, they also signify the future. 
    • Innovation is what drives change. Fifty years of innovation has brought us here. We are at the forefront of dental technology and research to help discover the future of dentistry. 
    • Excellence, to me, means always striving to be great; to do everything to the best of your ability; and to surpass your own expectations. We have incredible faculty, staff and leadership who make sure we receive an excellent education and that we provide excellent patient care. 
    • Growth is the most important. It means always becoming a better version of yourself. That’s a philosophy I heed. Even if you make a mistake, you are still learning.
  • The tooth in the center reminds us why we’re all here: oral health matters. The flower is there to further convey the idea of growth, but also to symbolize that dentistry really is an art and a science. 

The T-shirts with Sharma’s design were distributed to CU SDM students, residents, faculty and staff on Tuesday, August 29. More 50th anniversary celebrations are planned for September, including a free CE afternoon on Friday, September 15. 


Find the CU School of Dental Medicine on Facebook for more T-shirt Day photos. 



Topics: Students