Dental Student Speaks at NSU's 1964 Society Annual Luncheon

Divya Puri on research and leadership opportunities at NSU - Nova Southeastern University College of Dental MedicineMy name is Divya Puri, and I am graduating with a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree from NSU. The last leg of my academic journey is a pediatric dental residency. I doubt my parents ever thought their daughter would one day be able to say those words. My parents worked their entire lives, emigrated from India to Denmark and started a family in a foreign Scandinavian country. They raised my brother and me, and ensured that their children received the best education possible. At age 17, I graduated high school and moved from Denmark to the United States with dreams of becoming a dentist. After three years of college, I received a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and gained acceptance into NSU's College of Dental Medicine Program.

NSU was my first-choice. I wanted a dental program that promoted extraordinary thinking, that prioritized student learning, and that would help me transform into the professional I aspired to become. Looking back over the past four years at all opportunities I’ve been afforded by this institution, I can honestly say that NSUs dental program was everything I had dreamed it would be and more. And while it would be impossible for me to convey in such a short time all of the ways in which NSU is creating a lasting legacy, I would like to take just a few moments to share some of the ways NSU has impacted my life for years to come.

NSU provides students with the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential. There is something for every student here at NSU. Opportunities in leadership, community service, and research. For me, the opportunity to serve as Co-Director for Give Kids A Smile and to become President of the Pediatric Dental Club helped me solidify my career choice to specialize in pediatrics. It also helped build leadership skills applicable to whatever job I may find myself in.

The impact that programs like Give Kids A Smile has on this community is breathtaking. The event provides free dental care to all children. I will never forget waking up on those mornings to the excitement of over 500 bright faces waiting with their parents to be seen. In addition, to Give Kids a Smile, I was able to volunteer with the Colgate Van Screenings for Children, provide oral hygiene instructions at A Day For Children, and give free fluoride and sealants to the underserved here in Broward County.

Yet, NSU’s impact extends far beyond Broward and the borders of Florida. As a sophomore, I traveled to rural Jamaica and served hundreds of people every day, some of whom had never received dental care in their entire lives. With a keen interest in research, I connected with leaders in dental research and embarked on a yearlong research project exploring cutting-edge work in bone regeneration. Just a few months ago, I was able to present the results of my research on periodontal stem cells at a conference in San Francisco, traveling with my research mentor and networking with the research dental community around the country.

Give Kids a Smile, Pediatric Dental Club, Colgate Van Screenings for Children, Jamaica, and research – all of these are things I can easily relate to you, things I can point to as evidence for how NSU imprints its legacy upon the community and its students. But it is the things rarely anyone sees that ultimately make up the heart and soul of NSU. The numerous professors and teachers nurturing us, challenging us, and celebrating our success and our failures, inviting us into their homes and into their lives. The phone call I made to NSU when I didn’t have the full funds to cover my research trip, and the two seconds it took for them to say they had my back no matter what. It is the love and kindness and unwavering support that NSU provides to its students that ultimately goes above and beyond all other institutions.

This is how NSU creates its truest legacy. It inspires its students. Helps them give back to their community. Gives them the skills to succeed, and the passion to one day create a legacy of their own. Thank you to NSU and all the people that support this institution. You have written your legacy in my life and the lives of other students.