UNE dental programs well-represented at 2024 Yankee Dental Congress

Several UNE dental medicine educators pose for a photo
The Yankee Dental Congress is New England’s largest meeting for dental professionals. From left: CDM's Barry Saltz, Albert Abena, Travis Erickson, Nici Kimmes, Annick Metoule, and Eva MacDuff.

The University of New England's College of Dental Medicine (CDM) and Department of Dental Hygiene within UNE’s Westbrook College of Health Professions were well-represented at the annual meeting of the Yankee Dental Congress, held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from Jan. 25 to 27.

The Yankee Dental Congress, organized by the Massachusetts Dental Society, is New England’s largest meeting for dental professionals. This year’s theme was “Connect and Collaborate.”

The University’s presence at Yankee Dental Congress provided the opportunity to engage with dental colleagues from across New England, said Travis Erickson, Ph.D., assistant dean of Student Affairs and Alumni Relations for the College of Dental Medicine.

“It was wonderful to connect with our friends and alumni, both from Dental Hygiene and Dental Medicine, at Yankee Dental Congress this year,” Erickson reflected. “Our booth also served as a welcoming space for alumni to connect with one another and as an important introduction for those curious about our dental medicine and dental hygiene programs, including high school students interested in dentistry and regional dentists wanting to learn more about our programs.”

During the event, Nicole Kimmes, D.D.S., dean of the College of Dental Medicine, and Mary Aube, RDH, M.S.Ed., associate clinical professor of dental hygiene within the Westbrook College of Health Professions, shared updates about their respective programs and recent collaborations between disciplines.

Updates included collaborative experiences between the Department of Dental Hygiene and CDM for annual Give Kids a Smile community events, statistics for first-year students, post-graduation plans for recent graduates, performance on licensure examinations, multiple community outreach events and rotations, and CDM’s collaboration with Harvard University and several other institutions on a National Institutes of Health grant, among other news. 

Aube updated alumni on the status of renovations to the Coleman Dental Hygiene Clinic, located on UNE’s Portland Campus for the Health Sciences, as well as continued collaboration between the Dental Hygiene and Doctor of Dental Medicine degree programs, including simulation and clinical opportunities in UNE’s Interprofessional Simulation and Innovation Center. 

Dental Hygiene alumni in attendance included Robert Davitt, RDH, and Richard Gouin, RDH, both of the Class of 2004, and Class of 1979 alum Dianne Smallidge, RDH, Ed.D., who is currently dean of the Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS). MCPHS is a collaborator with UNE on a $4.4 million, Harvard School of Dental Medicine-led grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research to launch a novel clinical practice-based research network to train future clinician-scientists.

Alicia Fereday, MBA, vice president for Institutional Advancement at UNE, also shared details with conference attendees about the University’s comprehensive “Doing Our Part” fundraising campaign, which places emphasis on the medical and health sciences education as one of its core priorities.

Three CDM students were awarded for their academic excellence during the conference:

Emily McKenney (D.M.D., ’25) received the Dr. June Warren Lee Dental Student Leadership Recognition Scholarship awarded by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), Region 1.

Created to honor the memory of a long-term AGD leader, June Warren Lee, this award is given to a dental student nominated by an AGD member for demonstrating professional dedication to the advancement of general dentistry and contributing to further the mission and vision of the AGD.

Macy Punzalan (D.M.D., ’24) was presented with the American College of Dentists (ACD) Outstanding Student Leadership Award. Awarded by the ACD New England Section to one dental student from each of the five New England dental schools, the award is given to a fourth-year dental student selected by the faculty who represents ACD’s principles of high achievement, strong leadership, and high ethical standards.

Owen Williams (D.M.D., ’24) was honored with the Eastern Dentists Insurance Company (EDIC) James B. Hanley, D.D.S., Legacy Scholarship, which honors Hanley’s legacy, his dedication to the EDIC Board, and his work with young dentists throughout his career and as the first dean of UNE College of Dental Medicine.

The award is given to a graduating UNE dental student selected by the faculty who has exemplified outstanding leadership and possesses the motivation to improve student involvement in the dental community, as well as supporting the dental profession in the state of Maine.

On Saturday, Jan. 27, Punzalan and Abby Campbell (D.M.D., ’24) participated in the 15th annual American Student Dental Association (ASDA) District 1 debate. The event is hosted by the Massachusetts Dental Society and many students and faculty attended to show their support for the CDM team.

In the first round, Campbell and Punzalan competed against Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, debating the topic “Can tele-dentistry increase access to care, or does it create new problems?” The duo progressed to the final round against Harvard University School of Dental Medicine to debate the topic of pediatricians applying fluoride varnish, where the latter school took home the top prize.

Kimmes said that, despite last round's loss, she is proud of the students’ work.

“Abby and Macy demonstrated the utmost poise and confidence during the debate as they tackled complex topics,” she said.

UNE CDM Students Leena Aly (D.M.D., ’25) and Leanne McDowell (D.M.D., ’24) served on the 2024 Debate Planning Committee.

CDM’s Albert Abena, Nici Kimmes, and Barry Saltz. Courtesy of Rich Powers/The Henry Studio.

 ACD Officers Maria Smith and Marian Royer with Kimmes. Courtesy of Rich Powers.

Abby Campbell and Macy Punzalan

Kimmes and Punzalan. Courtesy of Rich Powers.