The Adams School of Dentistry held its 6th annual DEAH Day on Wednesday in honor of the late Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha, who were students at the school.
Each year the School of Dentistry celebrates DEAH Day by organizing service projects across the Triangle. In Chapel Hill, students and employees provided free dental care, including extractions, fillings and more, for over 100 community members.
The name DEAH Day stands for “Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor.” Deah and Yusor were a young married couple in the dental school who were killed in 2015 by their neighbor in what has been described as a hate crime.
Professor Allessandra Lowery, along with other faculty, supervised students in the clinic at the Chapel Hill service site.
“Just being a place where patients can come and not have to worry about the expense but know they're getting good quality care with good instructors and good students — I think it goes a long way,” Lowery said.
In the school’s 2017 commencement ceremony, the year Deah would have graduated, Dean of the School of Dentistry Scott De Rossi presented Deah’s family with a cap and gown and awarded him his diploma posthumously.
“The amazing thing to me about this continues to be how our students in our dental school community have taken something so senseless and so tragic and turned it around into something so special, and so impactful for the community,” De Rossi said. “And doing it in a way that not only honors Deah and Yusor’s lives — but also honors their commitment to service.”
Kasey Hornock, a fourth-year student in the dental school, said that although the COVID-19 pandemic limited the scope of what service the school could do, they’ve found ways to continue helping the community.
“This year is very different,” She said. “Unfortunately, we weren't able to have as many sites and in-person sites, but we still have had the opportunity to be able to reach out to the community and do some things virtually and in-person as well, so I think they've worked well with the circumstances that we’re under.”
Other sites for DEAH Day projects included Bahama, North Carolina where students cleaned up the Horton Grove Trail, as well as the DYOR Clinic in Raleigh, which also provided dental care.
Kent Moberly, a professor at the School of Dentistry, said that providing dental care is not only important medically — but greatly affects a person’s socioeconomic status as well.
“If you just look at the very simple thing of filling someone's front tooth so that they are actually employable — if they work in a restaurant, they're employable in the front of the restaurant rather than in the back of the restaurant where they're hidden,” he said. “If they lose a front tooth, it's very difficult to get a job where you're out in the public, so I think that that's a great service that we can offer.”
While students learned professional skills, they didn't lose sight of the day's meaning.
"They're learning dentistry, but they're also learning the importance of giving back to our society and to our community," De Rossi said.
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