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Three Years of Hope

June 30, 2016

Last month the School of Dentistry had our annual Commencement ceremony, celebrating our DDS, Hygiene, Masters and Doctoral program graduates.  Here is DH4 Class President Hope Wooley’s speech from the ceremony.- Editor

hope grad pic

Welcome distinguished guests, professors, friends, family, and most importantly graduates. My name is Hope Woolley and I am honored to represent the Dental Hygiene Graduating Class of 2016.

About three years ago the dental hygiene students arrived on campus for the first time for transfer student orientation. The end of the campus tour brought us to the fountain located between the Bell Tower and the League. The fountain is titled “Sunday Morning in Deep Waters” and it’s tradition at orientation that incoming students walk through the fountain. This symbolizes their arrival on campus. When we reached the fountain we were asked to remove our shoes and socks and line up in a single file. As we walked through the knee deep water, our tour guide yelled over the pouring rain, “You may have been taught that your blood is red, but I assure you, as of this moment YOU BLEED BLUE.”


Now, at this moment not only was I concerned about being soaking wet from the rain and fountain, I was also worried about the fact that I had just joined a football loving, maize and blue wearing, Hail to the Victors-cult. I would soon be casually incorporating the phrases bleeding blue, leaders and best, and the Michigan difference in my everyday conversations.

About a month later we gathered on campus again and began to see what “the Michigan difference” was all about as we began our journey of becoming prevention specialists. Over the past 3 years we’ve practiced gagging patients with x rays, drowning them with the ultrasonic, and perfecting the phrase,  “sir, if you would just floss this wouldn’t hurt.”

We made it through histology by filling in every blank space on a test with the answer “neural crest cell.” We survived our first day of clinic quite honestly sweating through our scrubs, and we literally had our hands held by instructors as we practiced giving and receiving local anesthetic injections.

We’ve been able to participate in many community outreach programs including: Give Kids a Smile day, Taft Clinic, Donated Dental Days, and fluoride varnish programs. We’ve completed projects with Headstart and various elementary, middle schools, and high schools. We made an online continuing education course for certified nursing assistants in nursing homes and served a variety of underserved populations. We researched fluoride retention, salivary diagnostics, side effects of oral and maxillofacial piercings, the perception of the dental hygiene profession amongst other health care professionals, and the knowledge of oral health care professions among under-represented minorities such as African Americans and Arab-Americans and we’ve researched so much more. We are not an unaccomplished group.

I asked my classmates what their definition of  “The Michigan Difference” was, their responses: Tests that are harder than necessary. Never ending homework and research assignments. Community outreach. The dreaded motivational interviewing. Watching students enjoy fall break from the bleak, soulless confines of the commons and secretly wishing they would trip on the sidewalk and fall flat on their faces because the dental school does not observe fall break. Seemingly unreachable goals. Free lunches and candy during class. Still having clinic on the only snow day that the University of Michigan has had in about 70 years and on said snow day having your patient drive more than 3 hours in the -30 degree blizzard for you to clean all 4 of his teeth. True story- it happened and I lived to tell the tale. And lastly, people said, “Not being told the answers. Having to figure things out on our own.” This last point is one I want to focus on for a moment. Michigan has not taught us WHAT to think, but HOW to think- to think bigger- and that, my friends, is the Michigan difference.

We are heading into the unknown of clinical practice, and sometimes our lack of experience or insecurities may lead us to embrace other people’s expectations, standards, or values. May I propose that this doesn’t have to be the case. We have our own minds and we’ve been taught to think, not blindly follow. In these situations we have the opportunity to truly be the leaders and best.

Growing up I was taught that it is not enough to be good; you must be good for something. Today you are graduating from the number 1 dental school in the nation– you will hold a piece of paper in your hand that tells the world you are capable, and demand the best care. That you are the best in your field, that you are more than good, but are great. I am here to tell you that none of that matters. You can be the best clinician and still be good for nothing. What has to happen? What do we do to be good for something? Be caring, be genuine, be thorough and understanding, be thoughtful and wise, be encouraging, and above all be kind.

We’re all here today because of someone- or someones- who inspired and encouraged us. I would like for you to take some time today to think about and thank the people who helped get to where you are sitting now. I would be incredibly ungrateful if I did not thank our faculty and clinical instructors- thank you for the time and dedication to the profession and to each one of us. Thank you for teaching us the skills to be good.

Thank you to our friends and family, to those who were encouraging, caring, wise, understanding and kind- you helped make us good for something.

Thank you to my classmates- my time here was great because of you. I am better because of you.

And lastly, thank you to my sweet husband, who I’m sure is mortified right now. He tried so diligently to learn dental hygiene terminology so he could carry on intelligent conversations with my classmates and me. Thank you for loving me through the stress, wiping away my tears, and always seeing the bigger picture. I love you more everyday.

hope grad pic 2

As I said before, many of us will soon enter clinical practice, some will attend graduate school and become educators and researchers. A few will join the dark side and attend dental school. Many will stay here in Michigan; others will travel across the United States, and a few around the world. But no matter where we go, we’re taking Michigan with us, because whether you believed it three years ago or not, I promise you, that as of THIS very moment, you do and will ALWAYS bleed blue.


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