Jessie Yuan: Regent for Regency 5

It is our pleasure to introduce Jessie Yuan (or JoJo), our Rambunctious Regent for Regency 5.
I’m Jessie, D3 at the Dental College of Georgia and currently in my 6th year of my 7 year BS/DMD program. I really enjoy volunteering and helping others.
Where you’re from: Atlanta, GA
Why you are in dental school: I’ve always had congenitally bad teeth so I know how important dentists are to me and they really helped me throughout my life. I would love to give back to the community and help others in the same way they helped me.
Biggest pet peeve: Aggressive drivers
Spirit Animal: Sloth
Biggest fear: Driving on the highway
Favorite season and why: Fall because of perfect weather
Favorite thing about dental school: Seeing patients and cutting teeth
Least favorite thing about dental school: Lack of sleep
Jessie loves adventures and loves the outdoors. She only ever has positive things to say. If I had to describe Jessie in one word, my word of choice would be firecracker. She works insanely hard and cares so much about growing this wonderful SPEA organization. When you see Jessie at Annual Session be sure to work sloths into your conversation somewhere and I’m sure she’ll want to be your best friend. Thanks Jessie for adding so much to our organization.
If you haven’t registered for Annual session yet, DO IT NOW!! You won’t want to miss out. SPEA’s Annual Session will be held in San Francisco from Sept. 6-7. For more details and to register, click here.

Sophie Jelke: National SPEA Vice Executive Chair

Get to know our Vivacious Vice Executive Chair, Sophie Jelke!


My name is Sophia Jelke (Sophie) and I am a Cuban-American woman from Miami, FL (dale). I have been living in New York for 7 years now and so feel like I have dual-home cities. I love theater, just about all kinds of food, and the beach. Recently I have gotten into listening to podcasts- it’s a good way to pass the time on the subway. I decided to go to dental school after having a great experience as a patient working with a team of a general dentist, oral surgeon, and orthodontist. I love the impact they had on me and feel I can connect to my future patients when coming from this experience.

Biggest Pet Peeve: second-hand smoke

Spirit Animal: otter

Biggest fear: bees

Most embarrassing moment: sat on a fudgesicle at lunch in high school…I was wearing white pants…let that sink in

Favorite season: Spring- great temperatures, pretty flowers, cute clothes

Favorite thing about dental school: meeting some of the coolest people I know

Least favorite thing about dental school: the tiny tasks that can take away from the big picture when they add up

As you can see in the above picture (Sophie standing in front of To Kill a Mockingbird), Sophie also loves attending broadway plays, heck you may even see her up on one of those stages someday. She is passionate about everything she does and is nothing but smiles. We are so lucky and glad to have her as part of our amazing SPEA team. When you see Sophie at annual session, be sure to keep your second hand smoke away from her, and don’t make mention of fudgesicles…it’s still a sore subject.

It is still not too late to register for Annual Session in San Franciso from Sept. 6-7. Follow the link for more info and to register. At the conference, you can run for a National SPEA position. You can view a list of available positions with responsibilities and duties here.

July SPEA Spotlight: UPenn

Happy Summer from all of us at SPEA! This month we are highlighting the amazing SPEA chapter at UPenn School of Dental Medicine. I think most of us can agree that it is a real challenge to get people excited about ethics. When people hear the word ethics it is often associated/linked with the words boring, or uninteresting. Unsa Malik, the SPEA chapter president at UPenn, has been creative and innovative in trying to get her student body more interested and involved with ethics and ethical dilemmas at their school. We are very excited and proud of what is being accomplished at UPenn. Read further to see the ideas that Unsa and her presidency have initiated and incorporated into their SPEA chapter.


How many members do you have in your SPEA chapter?
We have approximately 65 people in the Penn chapter of SPEA including 6 board members.
What are some things you have done to increase membership/how have you more effectively promoted SPEA?
At the beginning of each semester, the school organizes a club fair where each student club has the opportunity to promote their mission and offer information about events and how to become a member. Membership is free for all students and is open to all class years.
What are some problems your SPEA chapter has faced? How have you overcome those?
One of the challenges our team has faced was low attendance at some of our smaller events earlier this year. We hosted a few guest speakers but attendance was on the lower end and it wasn’t long before this concern was brought up at our next Board Meeting where we brainstormed ways increase student engagement.
What has been your most successful event this year? (Please provide a summary of the event and pictures)
When I became President of SPEA, I was more than thrilled to say the least. While I enjoyed many of the events and traditions our past presidents held, I had a vision of my own. This year, our board members and I launched “SPEA Week”, a weeklong series of events regarding ethical dilemmas specifically geared towards students and new dentists. For Monday’s event, we made an “Ethics” box where students can anonymously submit ethical concerns they had regarding school or clinic. At the end of each week, board members and I would read these concerns and discuss them with our faculty advisor. On Tuesday, we hosted a photo-op with students and faculty to re-vamp our social media profile. This included getting a Penn Dental backdrop, with face props (speech bubbles that named the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Conduct). This event, in particular,  was a fun way to gain awareness and engage our student body to learn more about our chapter. On Wednesday, I invited one of my mentors, a local dentist in Center City Philadelphia, to discuss ethics in providing comprehensive cosmetic care. Thursday’s event was a lunch and learn debate between two students regarding the licensing exam, ADEX. To conclude SPEA week, Friday’s event entailed an arts and crafts project where some of our creative board members made a poster board titled “What does ethics mean to you?” Students and faculty would write a few words in response. Donuts were provided for participants.
Have you done any fundraising? If so, what types of things have been successful? If not, how have you received funding in the past?
We were fortunate enough to collaborate with the Office of Alumni Relations in hosting many of our events. Some of our alumni were very generous in sponsoring the food we provided for our attendees. In previous years, we held bake sale fundraisers where all the proceeds went to sponsor students to attend Annual Session.
What have you found to be the most successful way to get students excited about SPEA?
Some of the most effective ways to increase student engagement and attendance is 1)adequately advertising events on different social media platforms 2) providing free food, and 3) offering selective credit to students who attend (students have a certain amount of credits to fulfill in courses outside our curriculum, “selectives”, and some of our guest lectures qualified to count towards that graduation requirement. 
Keep up the great work UPenn. As the reader, we hope this spotlight has given you some ideas to maybe try and adopt at your school. Ethics really can be interesting and exciting! If you have questions for Unsa, feel free to email her at If you have questions for us, our email is We look forward to seeing UPenn at Annual Session this year, held in San Francisco from September 6-7. If you are interested in attending Annual Session, there is still time to register. For more information, and to register for Annual Session click here.

June SPEA Spotlight: UNC

During this wonderful month of June, we would love to highlight the up-and-coming SPEA chapter at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry. I had the opportunity to ask their new chapter president, Pegah Khosravi-Kamrani, some questions. From the answers to these questions, we hope you can get a better idea of how UNC’s SPEA chapter is set up and what amazing things they are doing to spread the word about SPEA!

How many members do you have in your SPEA chapter?

Our chapter is actually unique in that every student is a pre-enrolled member of SPEA! In this regard, we don’t actually take formal dues and our events are open and free-of-charge to all dental students.

What are some things you have done to increase membership?

To increase awareness and presence at our events, we focus planning events that are relevant and beneficial to a range of students, from those at the beginning of their dental school journey to those approaching graduation. For example, we like to host events that will provide practical advice that can be applied both in our school clinics, on rotations, and in private practice. We advertise and send out reminders about our
events through our Facebook page and through our school newsletter. Lastly, we always provide lunch or dinner – which never hurts!

What are some problems your SPEA chapter has faced? How have you overcome those?

I believe one problem our SPEA chapter has faced is the issue of whether we’d like to become an exclusive club that charges membership fees and hosts more involved events. At UNC, SPEA has always been a group each student is a part of formally a part of and this allows our events to be open to anyone (and our events are quite successful as far as outreach). However, by becoming an exclusive group that has dues, we could host more involved events (such as dinners and certain speakers) and have a greater presence at conferences. We decided to continue to stay an open group for this
academic year while we weigh the pros and cons of each option, keeping our future open to the possibility of becoming an exclusive group.

What has been your most successful event this year? (Please provide a summary of the event)

In March, Dr. Wester (president of our state dental board) talked about issues brought to the board, such as alcohol and drugs, upcoding (charging for a more complex surface than providing), OS treating patients without an adequate preop consult. He also discussed the importance of legislature laws such those requiring yearly opioid courses and continuing education for prescribing narcotics. He discussed sleep apnea and our limitations in diagnosing this disease. He touched upon DSO’s and the importance of us doing only procedures we feel ethically reasonable. He also discussed the ethical implications of Smile America and the importance of informed consent. Lastly, he concluded with the ethical implications of our heavily debated and controversial CITA examination. He entertained many questions and discussion regarding CITA, its pros, and cons. It was incredibly informative and inspired our future events to be just as beneficial with regard to current issues and policies.

Have you done any fundraising? If so, what types of things have been successful? If not, how have you received funding in the past?

We are fortunate to have received a generous donation from a past alumni dedicated towards events focused on ethics and professionalism. This donation covers our lunches and we aim to be budget-friendly with our events (making food the only cost of the event). Any leftover money from
the donation that we did not spend can be re-invested for the following term, which has allowed us to use this donation for the past few years!

Although Pegah stated to me that their chapter is not a “formal” membership as of now, they are growing and doing some great things. Keep up the amazing work UNC! For any questions feel free to reach out to us at or Pegah at We hope to see UNC at SPEA’s Annual Session this year in San Francisco. If you would like to register for SPEA Annual Session held from September 6-7 this year, or want more information about it, click here.

*Note that the picture only includes their D3s in the presidency. Their D4 leaders were off on rotations at the time this picture was taken

Let’s Get Ethical!

Simply put, ethics is defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. In our profession, it is important to understand that our definition and understanding of ethics goes far beyond what we are taught at school, and goes far beyond what this group, SPEA, is trying to promote. Defining and keeping morals in which to help you better govern yourself and your actions as a dental professional are something that everyone in this great profession must strive to adhere to, not just those involved in the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association.

At the end of April, Ariana Etessami, a dental student at the University of Maryland and Co-Wellness Chair of their ASDA Chapter, reached out to Dr. Theresa Gonzales, Executive Director of the American College of Dentists (ACD). Dr. Gonzales agreed to visit the students at the University of Maryland and spend some time with them while lecturing about ethics. Believe me, when I say that a lecture about ethics is way cooler than it sounds. Dr. Gonzales began by giving a brief history of ethics, sharing some major events in ethics history relevant to health care professionals. Examples included the Tuskegee research trials, a study which lacked proper informed consent and lacked adequate treatment for a group of black men receiving treatment for syphilis (more information can be found here); and the HeLa cancer cell controversy, which also involves the lack of informed consent Henrietta Lacks was faced with when her cells were harvested and then widely used (more information can be found here).

Dr. Gonzales then shared a more recent example of a Californian dentist caught giving unwarranted root canal treatments (click here for the article detailing this incident).

After sharing these examples, Dr. Gonzales began to explain more about how ethics becomes extremely relevant in the clinical setting, and how understanding these principles and responding appropriately in these scenarios is vital to patient care. Although the University of Maryland currently doesn’t have an active SPEA chapter we commend the efforts of Ariana and the University of Maryland’s ASDA chapter for organizing an event where ethics was the main theme. Ethics really is a vital topic to discuss and address while in Dental school, and we as SPEA would love to see more events like this nationwide at dental schools.

Bio on Dr. Theresa Gonzales:

Theresa S. Gonzales, D.M.D., M.S., M.S.S., Colonel, Dental Corps, U.S. Army (retired), currently an At-large Regent, will be assuming the position of Executive Director of the American College of Dentists (ACD) this fall…After nearly 30 years of distinguished service, Dr. Gonzales completed a distinguished career in the United States Army in 2013, retiring with the rank of Colonel. Most recently, she was a nominative selection as the Director of Strategic Communications for the Army Surgeon General. She has commanded formations in Europe and the United States. Prior to her successive command selections, she served as Director of Orofacial Pain Management and as a Staff Oral and Maxillofacial Pathologist at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, HI.

After her retirement from the Army in 2013, Dr. Gonzales assumed the role of Professor, Oral Pathology and Director of Orofacial Pain at MUSC CDM. She held that position until her promotion in 2016 to Associate Dean of Curriculum and Strategic Communication.

She has authored over 50 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals and was the recipient of the International College of Dentists Award for Excellence in Research. She has received the Order of Military Medical Merit and the Surgeon General’s “A” Designator for clinical excellence. Dr. Gonzales’ research interests have included orofacial pain, oral medicine, forensic odontology, and oral pathology.

Her complete bio can be found by clicking this link.

We would like to commend Ariana and The University of Maryland’s ASDA chapter for hosting such an informative and successful event. Feel free to reach out to us at for any questions you may have.

May SPEA Spotlight: LSU

In 2007 a group of dental students at the University of Southern California wanted to find a way to become more involved with the ethics and professionalism surrounding dentistry and promote better ethical practices at their school. The results of their efforts led to the founding of SPEA, which stands for Student Professionalism and Ethics Association in Dentistry. The organization grew and was eventually recognized as a national organization in 2011.

Since SPEA’s national recognition, it has spread throughout North America, consisting of over 57 chapters; 3 of those being in Canada. Membership has been increasing more drastically each year with new chapters being founded across America. The intention of these blog posts is to spotlight some of the amazing SPEA chapters we have, be it new or already well-established. We hope that these spotlights will either inspire you to organize a chapter at your school if one doesn’t exist or grow the chapter already set up.

Recently LSU Health School of Dentistry’s SPEA chapter was formed by first-year dental students Alexander DeGenova and Katelyn Kirkpatrick. Since its formation, the chapter’s membership has grown to 60 members. We asked Katelyn and Alexander a series of questions to give you a better idea of how their chapter is growing and how they have found success in spreading the SPEA fire at LSU.

How many chapter members do you have this year, and how much growth have you seen from the previous year?

60 official members – 20 to 30 who regularly attend meetings. Our first meeting was in February 2019 and we have met once a month since then.

What sort of things have you found most successful in improving chapter involvement?

Providing food at events and sending out reminders helps keep members coming. I’ve noticed when we fail to send out reminders just before the event there is a significant drop in attendance.

How do you get students at your school excited for SPEA?

We like to highlight the opportunities SPEA provides for leadership and professional development. Our curriculum does include a Professional Development course, but there just is not enough time to cover everything we would like. A good number of students hope to run their own businesses someday, so we try to bring in speakers and discussions that will be of interest to future business leaders.

What types of events have you hosted this year? Please highlight your most attended event.

Because we are just getting our chapter started we have mostly focused on lunch and learns, but do have some great ideas in the works for the future. Our most successful event was our very first lunch and learn at which Dr. Klintmalm gave a short discussion on SPEA and how the organization benefits members now and in the future. He also highlighted a couple of real life ethical situations that he experienced first-hand which left a lasting impression on students. We had about 60 members attend this meeting.

Alex DeGenova and I were invited to attend an ACD/ICD dinner in Baton Rouge where we gave a short talk about SPEA and how it related to ACD/ICD. This was a great opportunity to network with dentists in the community and several volunteered to speak to at one of our meetings.

How have you received funding, or found necessary funds, for your chapter this year?

We received a generous donation from the ACD to get things started and our Dean has volunteered to sponsor our lunches. He has also volunteered to fund 2 student’s attendance to annual session this year. We are in the midst of planning some fund-raising activities now, so that we will have money to invest in other activities later this year.

The LSU SPEA chapter has found a lot of success, and we are amazed at how fast their chapter is growing. We, as the national SPEA Executive board, hope that LSU’s answers to these questions spark some ideas on how to improve your chapter. If you have questions for Katelyn or Alexander, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. They can be reached via email at We look forward to seeing LSU SPEA at our Annual Session in San Francisco this year, September 6-7. If you are looking to attend Annual Session, more details and registration can be found on our website under the Annual Session tab, or you can contact us at Keep up the great work LSU!