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Graduating During A Pandemic

Perspectives from the DDS Class of 2021

minute read

If this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, could be summed up in one word—distance comes to mind. The University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine’s Class of 2021 learned that space could mean the linear extension between patients. It can mean being six feet apart from a peer. It can also be miles apart from family, friends, or loved ones.

While there was plenty of physical and virtual distance, it also brought a sense of togetherness.

For CU Dental graduate John Rausch, DDS ’21, he spent more time with his family. “As a working parent, knowing how quickly kids grow up, I value my family time with my kids and wife more. This pandemic has helped me to make sure to carve out time with my kids and wife each day to let them know they are loved and a true blessing.”

For graduate Yohannes Hadera, DDS ’21, it didn’t change his approach to life; it reinforced it.

“You should have goals set in life and a strategy set in place to get there,” he shared. “Unexpected things could get in your way. It can change the trajectory of your journey. When there is not much you can do to change the course, focus your energy. Perform and achieve as much as possible on what would benefit you greatly.”

A constant that remained during this time for these graduates was their passion for dentistry and desire to help and treat patients with the support of others.

“The pandemic reminded me that we are not alone,” said Emma Lazaroff, DDS '21. “The dental community and my dental classmates were supportive throughout these crazy times.”

While the pandemic added challenges inside and outside the classroom, clinic and lab, there were some levity and life lessons learned during the academic rigor.

“I have learned not to take life too seriously,” Margeaux Black, DDS ’21, said. “On the days when nothing seemed to go right, I learned to maintain my sense of humor because we are only human.”

As the semester comes to a close, a tradition signified by a cap, gown, diploma, and a purple hood will look a bit different than previous years—but it won’t take away from the Class of 2021’s achievements and pride.

“This is the highest level of education anyone has yet to reach in my entire family,” said Tabitha Fischer, DDS '21 –who told her proudest moment is graduating dental school. “My mother taught me how important education was from an early age. I’m proud to do this not only for her but for myself.”

While family members won’t physically be present to celebrate a momentous occasion, they will watch virtually. And while there will be a distance between a screen and being in-person—the Class of 2021 will still feel supported by their loved ones.

Congratulations to the DDS Class of 2021!

Meet Some of Our Doctor of Dental Surgery Class of 2021 Graduates

Black--Margeaux-04Margeaux Black, DDS '21

Hometown: Butte, Montana 

Undergraduate: Montana Technological University 

Hobbies: Baking, cooking, hiking, reading, running, and skiing, along with spending time with friends and family

What are you most proud of?

My optimism and positivity give me a great sense of pride. 

What are your plans after graduating from the CU School of Dental Medicine?

I will be attending CU’s Graduate Orthodontics Program after graduation. 

Has the pandemic changed your perspective in life? In dentistry? If so, how?

My answer to this question is a resounding yes. I believe my perspective can be summarized in the following quote: “What we do in life isn’t so important. It’s the way we choose to live and the way we connect with those around us that matters most.” 

How has dental school prepared you for your future career or additional school in dentistry?

The relationships I formed with my faculty and colleagues have enhanced my educational experience at CU. With their support, I feel well prepared to start my career in orthodontics. 

Fischer--Tabitha-07Tabitha Fischer, DDS '21

Hometown: Kodiak, Alaska, (Alutiiq/Suqpiaq Native Land). 

Undergraduate: Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO (Ute and Pueblos Native Land)

Hobbies: Exercise, hiking, skiing, and painting

What’s something we don’t know about you?

I have sailed the Bering sea. If you have ever seen Deadliest Catch, think waters like that. I stayed in my bunk an entire day because the sea was too rough to move around on.

What are your plans after graduating from the CU School of Dental Medicine?

I am lucky to say I have been accepted into the CUSDM’s GPR program and will be starting in July of 2021. And after that, I will be working with Indian Health Services to serve my native community, something that makes me proud.

What lessons have you learned from CU SDM?

I would say perseverance and patients. My time here has made me more capable of brushing off the little things and focusing on improving myself moving forward in my career.

How was your overall experience at CU Dental?

Unbelievable. The highs and the lows. I look back at what has been accomplished, and I am so proud of myself and my classmates. I think the Class of 2021 experienced dental education on a different level than any class before, and we made it out on top. The CU Dental experience shows me we can do anything.

Hadera--Yohannes-01Yohannes Hadera, DDS '21

Hometown: Asmara, Eritrea in Northeast Africa

Undergraduate: Arizona State University

Hobby: Soccer

What are you most proud of?

Being able to achieve my educational goals through the challenges I faced as a first-generation immigrant. Integrating into a new living environment takes some effort, time, and patience. Being able to accomplish it on time while working and raising kids required some consistent discipline, and seeing myself past the finish line gives me some gratification.

What are your plans after graduating from the CU School of Dental Medicine?

Doing a one-year residency (AEGD) in Phoenix, Arizona 

What lessons have you learned from CU SDM?

Putting aside professional or clinical development, interacting with people from different backgrounds helped me with my cultural assimilation. Meeting new people and made more friends who would part of your future personal or professional life.

How has dental school prepared you for your future career?

Dental school is challenging. It requires a lot of commitment to survive, but I feel it trains you to be mentally ready for the demanding dentistry world outside of school. 

Lazaroff--Emma-04Emma Lazaroff, DDS '21

Hometown: Boulder, Colorado 

Undergraduate: Duke University

Hobbies: Camping, hiking, mountain biking, and skiing

What’s something we don’t know about you? 

I have dual citizenship and represented the Israeli National Team in the 2017 Lacrosse World Cup.

What are you most proud of? 

I am proud to receive my Doctor of Dental Surgery and follow in the footsteps of my brother, Dr. Scott Lazaroff, who was a 2019 Graduate from CU dental. 

What are your plans after graduating from the CU School of Dental Medicine? 

I will be attending Denver Health for a Pediatric Dental Internship next year. 

What will you miss about dental school? 

I made some of the best friends of my life in dental school. I will miss seeing my classmates in the clinic, our weekend ski trips, and camping adventures. 

How was your overall experience at CU Dental? 

Although these were some of the hardest four years of my life, I think CU Dental cultivated an extremely welcoming environment to create long-lasting friendships with my classmates and especially my faculty. I feel confident that I can text/email any of my future classmates. Meeting my boyfriend in our first-year dental anatomy lab was a great perk, too. I am very grateful for CU Dental, and I have a lot of pride in saying I am CU Dental school alumni. 

Rausch--John-02John Rausch, DDS '21

Hometown: Polson, Montana

Undergraduate: The University of Montana in Missoula, Montana

Hobbies: Being outdoors, golfing, woodworking, and spending time with family.

What are you most proud of?

One of the things that I am most proud of is when my patients tell me that they trust me to take care of their dental work. Earning a patient's trust in caring for them and having them know that I am working to give them the best treatment possible is very rewarding. With that, having the patients love the dental work they are getting is also a very rewarding experience. Being able to help restore their smile to where they feel confident in smiling brings a smile to my face.

What are your plans after graduating from the CU School of Dental Medicine?

I plan to work as an associate for the dentist I assisted before dental school for seven years. I get to be a part of his third dental office. Previously, I worked with him in his second practice. I will be doing general dentistry with similar procedures to what I'm doing at the dental school. I plan on continuing my education to have the opportunity to place dental implants.

How has dental school prepared you for your future career or additional school in dentistry?

Dental school has prepared me well to be able to treat patients. I was fortunate enough to take on some complex cases, esthetics cases, and many other types of cases that I will see in my practice in the future. Having this experience gives me confidence that I can treat patients with these various needs but know when I will need support from other specialties or interprofessional help in caring for a patient's overall health.

How was your overall experience at CU Dental?

Overall I had an amazing experience at CU. I got to treat some wonderful patients, meet amazing classmates that I will have for life, and work with some exceptional faculty. 

Topics: Students