Eastman Institute Graduates 77 Specialists from 30 Countries

Jul. 2, 2023

Thirty different countries were represented among the Eastman Institute for Oral Health’s 77 graduates who crossed the stage Friday evening at a ceremony held in the University’s Feldman Ballroom.

Dr. Eliav standing at podium
Dr. Eliav welcomed the Class of 2023, families and friends.

“You have all played a valuable role in helping address the many challenges Covid left behind,” Eli Eliav, DMD, PhD, EIOH director and professor told the graduates. “I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished together. You are joining a special group of Eastman Institute alumni, which now totals more than 2,000 people from around the world.”

He encouraged all to working as a team, and think about collaborating with other healthcare providers. “People are living longer and we must take into consideration their physical, social, mental and medical conditions to be able to treat them the best way possible. “During your time at Eastman, you have been exposed to many people who wouldn’t receive care if Eastman didn’t exist. We encourage you to do what you can to improve access for all people, everywhere.  That is the basis Eastman Institute for Oral Health was founded on and it continues to be our primary mission today.”

He introduced the evening’s speaker, Dr. Carlo Ercoli (Prostho ’96, OFP ’97, Perio ’12, MBA ’19), professor and chair of the EIOH Prosthodontic Department, as one who is passionate about education, prosthodontics and serving others. “His career has taken him through 25 years of study, research, teaching and administration,” Dr. Eliav said. “His dedication to the profession and his specialty have inspired him to serve and lead.”

Dr. Ercoli at the podium
Dr. Carlo Ercoli was the Convocation Speaker

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” Dr. Ercoli said, quoting William Butler Yeats. “It is, in other words, the passing of the torch, the torch or knowledge and leadership, to the next generation of learners and leaders, an enduring gift of self-discovery that transcends time and place and will undoubtedly continue for the remainder of your lives.”

He shared many gems of wisdom, quoting great leaders past and present, about the invaluable process and relationship of lifelong learning, discovery, empowerment, influence, education, service and the true depth of one’s full potential.  

“As you plan the next steps in your life and career, remember, what President Truman once said,” Dr. Ercoli shared. “’It is what you learn after you know it all that really counts.’”

The whole purpose of education and learning, he reminded the graduates, is to turn mirrors into windows, personal challenges into endless possibilities.

“Gandhi said once, “Live as you were to die tomorrow, but learn as you were to live forever” because if you are not willing to learn, nobody can help you; but if you are willing to learn, nobody will be able to stop you,” he said.

He then shared some important advice that he had been told by a close friend. “Life is a ladder. Climb it as fast as you possibly can; but if I catch you climbing it with both hands, I will cut one hand should always be right behind you to help your fellow men who happen to be behind. Not only it is the right thing to do, but when it will inevitably be your turn to run behind, you will surely appreciate that hand hanging back and helping you out at a moment of need.”

“The moment you were accepted to one of our programs, you became part of the Eastman Family,” Dr. Eliav said as the ceremony concluded. “As you leave today with your certificates and degrees, please remember you will always be an important part of this family. Stay in touch, and come back to visit.”

What the Graduates Said

“As much as I dreaded it at times, taking call at the Strong Pediatric Emergency Department and regularly seeing emergency walk-ins at the EIOH pediatric department during my first year increased my resilience and confidence as a provider. Not only did I get valuable experience dealing with facial trauma injuries and acute odontogenic infections, I learned that I can take charge and care for kids in extreme distress, even in the middle of the night with few resources.”—Zachary Hansen, DMD, Pediatric Dentistry

“I really appreciate that everyone here truly loves what they do. Every department is filled with talented, hard-working professionals and I think that is one of the major strengths of Eastman.”—Dr. Darren Morgan, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics

“The combined Master’s and Residency spanning only 2 years has been somewhat of a potent, thrilling, roller coaster ride. I have upskilled seriously in the areas of time management, boundary setting in a professional environment, and work ethics more generally.” – Dr. Shahneel Ahmed, Orofacial Pain


Dr. Linda Rasubala received the Bejan Iranpour Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

The Bejan Iranpour Award for Excellence in Clinical Education recognizes faculty members who spend significant time providing clinical education with an emphasis on patient advocacy and high-quality care. They exhibit a high standard of ethics and integrity, and have excellent communications skills.

Dr. Linda Rasubala teaches AEGD, OFP and GPR residents at the Howitt Urgent Care Clinic. She is patient, supportive, precise and direct in her interactions with residents. Recognized for her talent in clinical education, she received a $1 million HRSA grant for clinician educators in dentistry, and she is part of a new grant that helps train other faculty on interdisciplinary primary care. Mentoring residents well takes dedication, patience, communication, knowledge, availability and time. Dr. Rasubala exhibits all of this and more. 

Dr. Jin Xiao received the Bejan Iranpour Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching

Over the last five years, Dr. Jin Xiao has mentored four PhD students, 15 master’s students, and 20 residents and students. Anyone who knows Dr. Xiao can speak to her deep and extensive knowledge of research and its relevance to the clinical work. Her students always share how grateful they are to have had her as a mentor. She teaches in the Specialty Care Clinic, overseeing residents who are treating patients in the perinatal clinic. She is an outstanding researcher, a superb clinical teacher and clinician and someone who is fostering an excellent learning environment.

The Part-Time Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching acknowledges the important contributions of faculty who exhibit a high quality of clinical supervision or research mentorship, show leadership in conducting courses and have a positive overall impact on student learning. 

Dr. Sean Meitner was honored with the Part Time Faculty Award for his nearly 50 years of teaching.

Since he graduated from the Eastman Periodontology Residency program in 1975, Dr. Sean Meitner has been generously giving his time and talent to the residents, while also maintaining a busy private practice.  It’s easy to see Dr. Meitner’s commitment to promote teamwork among the residents. He helps enhance their performance and improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. One of his main strengths is his ability to explain complex procedures to his students. He is a highly skilled clinician, an excellent mentor and a well-respected supervisor. He is a wonderful role model for the residents and for the faculty.  Dr. Meitner is also an inventor, with a number of patents on devices, surgical instruments and planning tools. He encourages residents to get involved and contribute to professional associations and specialty groups. 

Named after dedicated staff members Clare Shaffer and Jane Devries, the Shaffer-Devries Award recognizes significant contributions made by a full-time staff member. They demonstrate excellence in operations, employee and patient interaction, very knowledgeable in his or her area of expertise, is respected by all, and demonstrates a high standard of ethics.

Dr. Eliav and Jane Devries presented Neha Naik (center) the Shaffer-Devries Award.

Neha Naik, an Analyst Lead for Axium/Dental Information Systems, started her career in dentistry 22 years ago at the front desk, before moving to the Clinton Crossing location of the University Dental Faculty Group. That experience helped her become an advocate for patients, and gain an understanding of administrative and clinical operations. Neha is very knowledgeable, skillful, and an expert in IT. A fantastic team player, she has participated in numerous research projects and her efficiency, outstanding technical support and feedback are always greatly appreciated.

The Handelman Fellowship was awarded to Dr. Edmund Khoo, an AEGD resident who previously spent years as an orthodontic faculty member at NYU. At EIOH he served as a teaching assistant, presented a lecture series, research and educational seminars both nationally and internationally, making him a unique and exceptional resource to the program.

The conference for the Rochester chapter of the American Association of Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research was held in person in early June, and comprised of 11 verbal presentations and 22 poster presentations.     

The Basil G. Bibby Award, given for outstanding scientific merit among oral and poster presentations by non-degree candidates was presented to Dr. Lawrence Camacho, for poster presentation “Dental Emergency Visits at Strong Memorial Hospital Pediatric Emergency- Department” and Dr. Tamer Marzouk for poster presentation “Treatment Characteristics of Children with Special Health Care Needs.”

The AADOCR Rochester Chapter Award Winners

The Michael G. Buonocore Award, given for outstanding scientific merit among oral and poster presentations by degree candidates was presented to Dr. Nisreen Al-Jallad for oral presentation “Artificial Intelligence-powered smartphone App for Early Childhood Caries at-home detection” and Dr. Ye Ding for oral presentation “miR-27 Restored Periodontal Defects Through Angiogenesis-osteogenesis Coupling.”

The William Bowen Award, given for outstanding scientific merit among oral and poster presentations by candidates in postdoctoral programs was presented to Dr. Ruqian Yang for oral presentation “Salivary Hormones Associated with Cariogenic Yeast and Bacteria during Pregnancy” and Dr. Matthew Sawaged for oral presentation “Association between body mass index and oral health in adolescents.”

The Gerald N. Graser Award, recognizing outstanding clinical case series and/or case reports that describe original, innovative and/or evidence-based clinical treatments was given to the team of Drs. Daniel Monroy, Rebeca Keegan, Hetienne Macedo, Livia Barros, Abdallah Michail, and Konstantina Tzouma for their case report “Dens Invaginatus Type IIIa.”