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Inaugural Awards Honor Outstanding Contributors at the CU School of Dental Medicine

'It is our people who make this school what it is today.'

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Written by Laura Ramsey on September 26, 2023

As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM) introduced a set of 12 awards to recognize excellence among its faculty, staff, students, residents and alumni. During the ceremony, Dean Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS, expressed her gratitude and pride: "It is our people who make this school what it is today. Your enthusiasm and dedication drive all of our achievements and make the SDM a special, thriving community."

The inaugural awards program shines a spotlight on those who have made an impact on the SDM's mission areas in education, research, patient care and community engagement



Left to right: Dean Denise Kassebaum, DDS, MS; Daniel Mora-Plata, DDS '21, GPR '23; Danna Cervantes, CDA; David Gozalo, DDS, MS; Taryn Slepicoff, DMD; Daniel Carney, DDS '24; Susan Somerset, DMD, PharmD, MS; Viensuong Nguyen, DDS, MDSc, FACP; Catherine Flaitz, DDS, MS; Trista Hinz, MS; and Kunjan Kakar, DDS (ISP '10), MS, BDS. Award recipients not pictured: Katherine Fantauzzo, PhD, MS, MS, and Todd Hinshaw. 


Faculty Awards


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Faculty Excellence in Teaching

Catherine Flaitz, DDS, MS 

Professor and Chair, Division of Diagnostic Sciences 


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Faculty Excellence in Student Mentoring

Susan Somerset, DMD, PharmD, MS 

Assistant Professor, Community Dentistry & Population Health
Director, Senior & Special Care Clinic



Faculty Excellence in Research

Katherine Fantauzzo, PhD, MS, MS 

Associate Professor, Craniofacial Biology


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Faculty Excellence in Service

David Gozalo, DDS, MS 

Associate Professor, Restorative Dentistry 
Chair, Division of Prosthodontics, Implant and Digital Dentistry 
Director, Digital Dentistry Program 


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Faculty Excellence in Clinical Dentistry

Viensuong Nguyen, DDS, MDSc, FACP 

Assistant Professor, Restorative Dentistry
Assistant Director, Advanced Standing International Student Program


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Faculty Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Kunjan Kakar, DDS (ISP '10), MS, BDS 

Assistant Professor, Restorative Dentistry


Staff Awards


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Clinical Staff Recognition

Danna Cervantes, CDA 

Dispensary Lead


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Administrative Staff Recognition

Todd Hinshaw 

Facilities Manager


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PRA Recognition Award

Trista K. Hinz, MS 

Research Services Principal Professional, Craniofacial Biology


Student and Resident Awards


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Outstanding Contribution by a Student

Daniel Carney, DDS '24 

Student Assistant, Clinical Affairs


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Outstanding Contribution by a Resident

Taryn Slepicoff, DMD 

Graduate Orthodontic Resident '24


Alumni Award


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Alumni Achievement Award

Daniel Mora-Plata, DDS '21, GPR '23 

Graduate Periodontic Resident '26


The selection process for these 12 special awards involved nominations from every corner of the school, allowing colleagues to recognize deserving friends and colleagues who they work alongside every day. A selection committee comprised of representatives from the Faculty Senate, student government, human resources and administration thoughtfully considered all nominees. 

Dean Kassebaum drew inspiration from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH), which hosts have a similar annual awards program. She expressed her excitement in establishing this new tradition: "This is just the beginning," she said. "We are proud to establish these annual awards, ensuring that we continue to recognize and celebrate excellence within our community year after year." 

As the SDM embarks on its next 50 years, the legacy of excellence and dedication embodied by this recognition program will undoubtedly continue to inspire and shape the future of dental medicine. 


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