Homecoming, Thanksgiving reconnect generations

October 4, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Lisha Mehta, a fourth-year dentistry student, speaking to alumni.

This long weekend, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving – a time to reconnect with family members in a spirit of gratitude, share a visit and enjoy a special meal.

One of the best things about such gatherings is that they bring the generations together. The university tradition of Homecoming also has great value in this way. I love to see current students and recent graduates mingling with older alumni and sharing stories.

At the 2016 Dean’s Homecoming Breakfast on Sept. 24, I was delighted to host our biggest-ever turnout of 250 alumni from medicine, dentistry, dental hygiene and pharmacy.

Our most senior alumni in attendance were from the Medicine Class of 1961, marking their 55-year reunion. What a treat it was to meet these physicians, who are still so curious and engaged.

One of the highlights of the Homecoming Breakfast was the personal story shared with the audience by Lisha Mehta, currently a fourth-year dentistry student at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. Lisha entered the faculty in 2010 as a student in dental hygiene. She graduated from the two-year program and started practising as a hygienist.

She enjoyed the work, but gradually realized that her true aspiration was to become a dentist. Now she has almost attained that goal. She has continued to work part-time as a hygienist while studying in the dentistry program.

Looking around at the tables full of alumni at the breakfast, I couldn’t help thinking that Lisha’s cross-disciplinary ambition would not have been applauded in past eras when boundaries between health professions were rigid and women were not encouraged to enter dentistry.

How far we have come! Lisha told me that supportive contact with dentistry students and dentists influenced her to forge ahead. “They encouraged me to keep pushing and fight for my dream,” she said.

This respectful collegiality is exactly what we as educators are striving for with our current emphasis on inter-professional collaboration.

Lisha also spoke about rewarding outreach experiences during her studies, working with patients through programs such as the Access Downtown Dental Clinic and SMILE Plus Dental Program. In April, she will travel to Peru as a volunteer with Kindness in Action to provide dental care.

“These opportunities have been very important to me in building confidence and experience outside of the controlled classroom and clinical setting,” she said. “It is truly amazing how this faculty pushes its students to both excel academically and be stewards of our community.”

Lisha attended the Dentistry/Dental Hygiene Alumni of Distinction Awards Evening on the Homecoming weekend. She commented about the camaraderie of the Dentistry Class of 1966, “Even after 50 years, when they get together, it’s as if they’re back in dental school again. Seeing this group of gentlemen gave me so much joy.”

The alumni were equally inspired by Lisha’s achievements. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Let’s commit to spending time with our elders and our juniors this holiday, and discover how their perspectives can enrich our own.

Did you have an inspiring encounter during Homecoming 2016?