Building student involvement, fostering civic engagement and enhancing community service to advance public health. 

Over 70 female TUSDM students attended the ‘sold out’ student-run Women in Leadership Forum, held on February 25, 2016 – an evening dedicated to promoting and enhancing the development of women in leadership as students and community members at TUSDM.

The good news is that the number of women in dentistry has been rapidly expanding, and the Class of 2019 at TUSDM boasts the highest percentage of women in its history at 58%! However, despite the increase in female presence in dental school, their numbers are not reflected in on-campus leadership positions. The last female class president at TUSDM graduated with the Class of 2012. Poorna Phaltankar, D17 Vice President, recognized the need to address this gap and organized the Women in Leadership committee (Hana Gilman D16, Poorna Phaltankar D17, Aekta Patel D18, Jacqueline Liu D19, Nari Park D19, Abigail Manzella D19). They were joined by event advisors Nancy Marks and Karen Alexander.  With the support of Dean Thomas, Associate Dean Kasberg, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Tisch-TUSDM Community Service Learning Program, thus was born TUSDM’s first Women in Leadership Forum.

What set this forum apart from the numerous other women in dentistry events held in the school is that students created it with a focus on how student leadership styles can be developed and utilized throughout our four years at TUSDM.  Dean Thomas set the tone for this inspirational night with his message of support and encouragement. The evening delivered a workshop on leadership styles, a panel on Leadership in the Community, and a panel on Leadership in the Clinic.

With two incredible and inspiring panels of women sharing their experiences and offering advice on leadership and empowerment, every attendee was able to leave feeling confident and inspired to take on more opportunities. Panel moderators Nancy Marks and Dr. Yun Saksena also shared their experiences as female professionals and pearls of wisdom. The event showcased all different types of leaders, both in the clinic and in the community and showed that there is not one personality type that makes for a great leader.

All of the panelists, D16 students and a D15 alumna, were candid and honest about their experiences and had the attendees in awe.  A big shout out to Joke Alesh D15, Mandy Alamwala D16, Stephie Castera D16, Yamila Garber D16, Johanna Hauer D16, Lauren Marzouca D16, Jessie Reisig D16, and Meera Sahni D16. They explained how to enhance your qualities to become a better leader and also how to recover and bounce back from setbacks. Many of the panelists commented that they were surprised to learn that they were viewed as leaders. This reflected an overarching theme of the evening – there is a leader in all of us. We just have to be self-assured, accept and learn from adversity, and remember that it is never too late to step into a leadership role. One attendee noted, “I had a sense of ‘I can do anything’ when I left the event and I hope that little fire inside doesn’t fade anytime soon.” Dinner was accompanied by a table discussion on leadership and personality styles and allowed students the opportunity to connect with their peers and mentors.

The evening brought together so many different women and by the end of it, everyone felt like they were a part of a community. A big thank you to the D16 panelists who truly epitomize leadership, community, and Jumbo love! “This event reflected the honesty and humbleness of many of the graduating class’s women leaders. It was a very motivational and encouraging event. I look forward to future events and recommend other underclasswomen get to know other upperclasswomen and fellow leaders that they can look up to and potentially have as a mentor!” said one attendee. The Women in Leadership committee agrees and hopes that this is just the first step in inspiring women to becoming leaders in dental communities, both at TUSDM and beyond. Thank you again to Dean Thomas, without whose support this event would not have been possible. Look forward to more events, including including a Lunch and Learn workshop dedicated to different leadership styles, as well as events designed for next year’s incoming D20s! 

If you have any questions regarding future events or would like to get involved, please e-mail Nancy Marks at

-Abigal Manzella (D19) and Nari Park (D19)

Categories: EventsReflections