Dental School Honors Lost Students on Day of Service

Dentistry Today


More than 400 students, staff, and faculty members of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) School of Dentistry provided 1,624 hours of volunteer work on the school’s fourth annual day of service on September 27. The school cancelled classes and clinics for the day to allow the volunteers to conduct community service across the triangle area.

The day was established to honor the late Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha. Barakat was a member of the school’s class of 2017 and Abu-Salha was an incoming member of the DDS class of 2019 when they were shot and killed along with Yusor’s younger sister Razan in February 2015. The event is called DEAH DAY for Directing Efforts and Honoring Deah and Yusor. 

Barakat and Abu-Salha had been married six weeks at the time of their deaths. They had planned to travel to Turkey to provide dental care to Syrian refugees. Following their graduation from the School of Dentistry, they planned to open a dental practice together. 

“For myself and many others, the significance of DEAH DAY extends beyond the service that we provide. Through DEAH DAY, we are able to show our dedication to improving inclusivity and our support of all individuals, despite the many identities that make us all different,” said LaShawn Hart, DDS candidate 2019 and co-chair of DEAH DAY.  

“I think of DEAH DAY as a way to reconnect with one of our major roles as healthcare providers, which is to be leaders in serving our local communities,” said Ann Danello, DDS candidate 2019 and co-chair of DEAH DAY. “Deah and Yusor set the example for us with their selflessness and commitment, and it is an honor to carry on their legacy.” 

The 432 volunteers spread out at 31 sites across four counties and eight cities, including food banks and elementary schools. They delivered food with Meals on Wheels, organized inventory at community stores, read and provided oral health education to children, constructed homes with Habitat for Humanity, facilitated signups for Operation Christmas Angel with families that don’t speak English, landscaped, arranged and restocked food bank shelves, and more. 

The full impact of the day included: 

  • 20 pounds of dental supplies donated
  • 90 craft kits assembled
  • 247 families served
  • 337 meals served
  • 80 lunchboxes assembled
  • 38 walls painted
  • 1,200 care kits for pediatric hospital patients
  • 90 children given oral health instruction
  • 95 animals helped
  • 200 crops planted
  • 225 pounds of food donated
  • 1,900 books collected and donated
  • 9,200 pounds of food sorted

The school also held its fourth annual DEAH DAY Talent Show as a fundraiser for its free dental clinic, Dental SHAC. It raised $1,100 for Dental SHAC and the Light House Project. Barakat was involved with Dental SHAC as a student, and the Light House Project is based in the house where he lived in Raleigh, which has been turned into a community incubator space. 

“DEAH DAY is the day that we pause our usual work to remember what we lost in 2015 and to continue the positive impact of Deah and Yusor the best way we know how, through acts of service,” said Scott De Rossi, DMD, MBA, dean of the school.

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