The American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD) recently named the Student Chapter at the University of Florida College of Dentistry the 2019 Chapter of the Year.

According to the nomination, submitted by AAWD chapter faculty advisor and clinical associate professor Dr. Susan Nimmo, the UFCD chapter of AAWD began in 2005 with only 25 members and has now has grown to nearly 100 members. Nimmo states, “I am proud of UFCD’s AAWD Student Chapter, not just today, but for all the women dental students at the University of Florida, who started this chapter 15 years ago and developed it into the powerhouse student organization it is today.”

One of the most active organizations in the College of Dentistry, the AAWD chapter hosted more than 30 community service and social events last school year. The chapter recruited alumni and successful women in dentistry to speak and inspire their members to reach their full potential, as well as serve as mentors. They also instituted tutors and big/little mentors to help with transitions year to year in dental school. Additionally, the chapter hosted multiple residency panels of women dentists and residents, who will be or are currently pursuing a career in a specialty field. The panels helped to promote the advancement in education of women dentists ranging from periodontics, orthodontics, prosthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and pediatrics.

The UF AAWD Student Chapter supports several volunteer organizations throughout the Gainesville, Florida, community. For Girl Scout Patch Day, local scouts are invited to our campus for a program to teach them about oral hygiene and healthy diets to earn their dental patch. Members also participated in the Guest Chef Fundraiser for Peaceful Paths, a local shelter for victims of domestic violence. At the Gainesville Rabbit Rescue, students provided care for rescued and abandoned animals. A joint service project at the Alachua County Humane Society was undertaken with Smiley Gators, UFCD’s pre-doctoral student organization for pediatric dentistry. The UFCD Super Sealant Saturday harnesses the efforts of the entire student body, as well as faculty volunteers. AAWD also hosted a women’s oral health booth to educate and support mothers about oral health for their children. Through community service programs, the UF AAWD was able to provide opportunities for all of its members.

Other events the chapter hosted include socials, painting parties, a “Friends-giving” Dinner, pottery parties, and a “GALentine’s” social, which brought members together to share unique experiences. Their chapter also placed an emphasis on improving the mental and physical health of their members through events and socials, such as Yoga in the Park, Friday Pamper Night, Pool Social, and Finals Week Sheet Masks.

Throughout the year, many chapter members were active in oral health research targeting women’s issues. Lauren Arguelles (Class of 2020) and Emily Waikem (Class of 2021) have been working on a retrospective caries risk assessment project that details the different parameters in which the college measures and assesses caries risk. One of the factors of importance is gender and is signified as an important differentiating factor. Arguelles and Waikem received grants to present the findings of their research in Vancouver in June 2019.

Additionally, Emma Domingoes (Class of 2019) worked on a retrospective analysis to characterize the clinical and epidemiological features of vesiculoulcerative conditions with emphasis on potential associations with other medical conditions such cancer, arthritis and hypothyroidism, which literature supports affect more women than men. Domingoes won a grant in 2018 to present her research at the International Association for Dental research in London, England.

“As the faculty advisor,” Nimmo states, “I am inspired by these dedicated young women, who are not only passionate about Dentistry but also support each other through the trials of dental education. If there is a ‘secret’ to cultivating a successful chapter, I mostly stay ‘out of the way’; the officers and executive board select their own projects and goals. Their success is their own.”

At the time of the nomination, the University of Florida College of Dentistry’s AAWD Chapter officers were Lauren Arguelles, president; Amanda Panousis, vice president; Morgan Kubis, vice president; Jessica Brewer, secretary; and Kelly Calderon, treasurer.

AAWD President Dr. Brittany Bergeron states, “We had many competitive applications this year; however, this chapter’s nomination stood out to the committee as being exceptional. I am so proud of the UF Chapter. They have grown so much over the past few years and truly become an inspiration for other student chapters within our organization. I look forward to seeing how they continue to develop in the years to come!”

The University of Florida College of Dentistry’s AAWD Chapter will be recognized September 28, 2019, during the organization’s annual conference, in Phoenix, Arizona. More information on the conference can be found at https://www.aawd.org/2019-aawd-conference/.

About AAWD

Founded in 1893, the goal of the American Association of Women Dentists is to serve as the leading resource for advancing, connecting and enriching the lives of women dentists. AAWD offers a variety of programs and services that benefit the unique needs of women dentists. For more information, visit our website at https://www.aawd.org or call 800-920-2293.