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TUSDM Unsung Heroes Series

February 19, 2021 - Alyx Ortiz, Tommy Tran & Flavio Ferreira

February 19, 2021

We continue to honor individuals with our unsung heroes series (submitted By Dr. Ghaffari):

This week we honor the three Pre-Doc Practice Administrators: Alyx Ortiz, 2nd Floor, Tommy Tran, 3rd Floor, & Flavio Ferreira, 4th Floor. Practice Administrators are responsible for the successful clinical and front-end operations for two group practices that are comprised of 3rd and 4th year DMD students. Each group practice has approximately 80 active students, 160 students per floor.  They are the first to introduce the D3’s to clinic and are instrumental in ensuring the students become knowledgeable in clinic operations and front desk protocols.  More importantly, Alyx, Tommy, and Flavio provide a supportive and caring environment along with a genuine commitment to providing the best clinical experience possible for the DMD students’ last 2 years of dental school.  They are always available to provide guidance, a shoulder to cry on, and sincere words of encouragement to the students and staff. In addition to orienting the D3’s to clinic, they are instrumental in the clearance process required for the D4’s graduation.  They truly go side by side with the students from the start of their clinic experience to graduation.

Alyx: AKA the “Supportive and protective mother“ to her staff and students due to her inherent nurturing style and ability to create her own systems that work for her and her floor. She  leads by example, is respected by her team, and maintains the utmost professionalism – she has been with TUSDM for almost 20 years!

Tommy: AKA the “Rock” due to his consistent ability to stay calm and in control while jumping in to fill a needed task such as: sign off for student’s clearance for the Pre-Doc clinics,  show up with no notice to fit test N-95  masks for students, or cover any area of great need within the Pre-Doc clinics.  And always with the most positive of attitudes. The thoughts that come to mind when you think of Tommy are friendly, competent, steady, respected, and reliable. He has been with TUSDM for almost 20 years as well!

Flavio: AKA “ The Wiz and the problem solver” which is well deserved. Flavio is the go-to guy when IT genius is required.  He created the system for electronically submitting the required N-95 medical clearance forms needed in order to fit test the entire TUSDM community of students, residents, faculty, and staff.  This was integral in orchestrating the process of mask fittings and streamlined the process immensely. His input on creating various reports, tracking data, and how to electronically sign DMD students up for assisting are just a few of the many times we have gone to the well with Flavio. In addition, he is very dedicated, a true gentleman, composed and knowledgeable to address most concerns on his own. He has been with TUSDM for 15 years!

During COVID, their high level of flexibility, ingenuity, and dedication were exhibited consistently without waiver. The tireless hours put in, not only Monday through Friday, but also weekends, being available while taking a “vacation day”, evenings and holidays (Father’s Day was zooming between balancing a cookout). It didn’t matter; they showed up and made whatever project happen with a can-do attitude. Many hours were spent ensuring students had equitable clinic time, managing the many layers of the clearance process for the D20’s during shut-down, handling the financial responsibilities for their floor and being the rock for their staff. Emergency clinic remained operational throughout the entire time and went through several transitions based on occupancy limits which required teamwork and organization.

COVID has presented unprecedented trials and tribulations for all. Fear and uncertainty within the student and staff population were at an all-time high. Alyx, Tommy, and Flavio relentlessly set their own fears and uncertainties aside to always provide a warm smile and genuine words of encouragement to the students and staff.  They continue to cover multiple positions for their floor working with reduced staff and rarely going a week without multiple staff out due to COVID quarantining. The knowledge, support, and dedication to the students and staff of TUSDM shows they are not in it for any other reason than a passion and love for what they do.

February 5, 2021 - Dr. Darren Drag

February 5, 2021

Darren Drag, DMD
Assistant Professor, Director of Tufts Dental Facilities for Persons with Special Needs
Department of Public Health and Community Service

Unsung Heroes Recognition for all that his team does for providing care to people with disabilities.

Everyone at 1 Kneeland can appreciate the thousands of hours of work in preparing the School for its reopening.  It involved hundreds of dedicated faculty, staff, Tufts and University facilities, and outside contractors.  Now, think about the seven Tufts Dental Facilities (TDF) across the Commonwealth which provides comprehensive dental care for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. TDF has more than 8,500 patients who are receiving care from oral health providers who have the expertise, experience, and, most importantly, the passion to treat these patients who may be non-verbal and in pain or have major behavioral issues and living in group homes. These are epicenters of possible COVID-19 transmission.  This is the task facing Dr. Darren Drag, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health and Community and Director of Tufts Dental Facilities for Persons with Special Needs. We must understand that there is shared oversight of the  Facilities and TUSDM provides the caregivers and some of the infrastructure and supplies needed to run the service. Darren and his dedicated staff have overcome so many barriers to continue to serve this most vulnerable and helpless of our population with compassion and commitment. Darren has become a strong advocate to provide care with the support of TUSDM and the Commonwealth. We should all be so proud of this program for it represents what TUSDM stands for as a Beacon of Safety and Care for our patients, and Darren and his staff make TUSDM so special by continuing to address the needs of this underserved population in the face of this pandemic.

January 29, 2021 - Dr. Laura Kogelman and Dr. Michael Jordan

January 29, 2021

This week we acknowledge members of our community who have contributed to our health and safety by developing infection control protocols, reinforcing the importance of testing and surveillance (contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation), advocating for vaccines and for offering medical opinions and advice!

When the first COVID-19 case was reported on February 1, 2020 in Massachusetts, no one could truly foresee the impact on our country, Commonwealth, University, TUSDM and our professional and personal lies. The extent, transmissibility, symptoms, testing, treatments, and guidelines were confusing, constantly changing, and overlayed by an Administration that continued to send mixed messages, politicized health care agencies, and refused to recognize the seriousness of the impending pandemic.

As the University and Dental School began to address the health and safety of our communities, we were so fortunate to have two physicians step up to give us direction and care.

Dr. Laura Kogelman, Director, Infectious Diseases Clinic; Director, Traveler's Health Service; Associate Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine, became the TUSDM dedicated physician directing the care of those directly affected by COVID-19. She is professional, compassionate, and caring. Her decisions and care are both reality and medically evidenced based, and tailored to one’s personal needs and situations. We cannot thank her enough for the long hours, responsiveness, and commitment in caring for those with COVID-19 issues through these unprecedented times.

Spanning four campuses with patients, students, faculty, animals and staff, Tufts University made the courageous decision to find a person who could lead all aspects of the effects of COVID-19. The person had to have a public health background, and be a hands-on clinician critical thinker, and excellent communicator. It was Tufts great fortune, to find Michael Jordan, MD in our midst.

Dr. Michael R. Jordan is an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine at Tufts Medical Center and is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Jordan is board certified in Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Jordan is a graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has a broad interest in general infectious disease with special emphasis on HIV and emerging pathogens.

He is recognized nationally and internationally with positions at the World Health Organization. He continues to pursue research in COVID-19, emerging pathogens, and surveillance epidemiology.

Named Tufts University Infection Control Health Director in the Office of the Executive Vice President, Dr. Jordan has worked to create policies, follow up-to-date science and guidelines, address environmental issues, mandate appropriate PPE, develop testing protocols and so much more. Dr. Jordan has been available at a moment’s notice to guide us through perplexing and immediate COVID-19 issues. He has been a strong friend and advocate in assuring the safety of the TUSDM community and our patients.

We cannot thank these two outstanding physicians enough for their contributions to our School and the University.

January 22, 2021 - OMFS Residents and D24 E-Board

January 22, 2021

Many students contribute in meaningful ways on a daily basis.  This week we honor two groups (residents and students) out of the many.


The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residents showed exemplary service during the COVID pandemic. At the height of the first COVID surge, and during the initial lock-down (March to May 2020), the OMFS residents continued to care for patients at Tufts Medical Center alongside their emergency department colleagues and throughout the hospital. The PGY1s (Hillary Creed and Hamza Al Atassi), PGY3s (Dimitris Fakitsas and Pasquale Eckert) and PGY4s (Jonathan Bishop and Daniel Reid) also served in the TUSDM emergency clinic, treating patients with acute infections, pain, and pathology.  All of the residents shared emergency call and clinic responsibilities during this time.

Additionally, the PGY1s, Hillary and Hamza, were assigned to Internal Medicine at Tufts Medical Center where they spent 2 months on Pulmonary service and Medical ICU caring for COVID-positive patients alongside their medical colleagues.

The PGY2 OMFS residents were assigned to hospital departments. Lauren Trager served on General Surgery and was assigned to the Surgical ICU, which was converted into a COVID ICU. Lauren was treating, firsthand, COVID positive patients, who were intubated, with advanced disease and many comorbidities. She provided care for critically ill COVID patients at the height of the pandemic. Rohit Sahdev was assigned to Anesthesiology, also in the epicenter of COVID risk, as intubation and extubation of patients is recognized as extremely high-risk procedures for COVID. All of the oral and maxillofacial surgery residents contributed in helping numerous patients receiving much needed care, throughout the pandemic, both at Tufts Medical Center and TUSDM, especially when the only functioning dental school emergency service in Boston was here at TUSDM.

D24 E-Board (submitted by Associate Dean Kasberg).

While being a class leader always presents challenges, the D24 E-Board accepted the immense task of leading and advocating for their class during a historically unprecedented time. Under normal conditions, first year dental students experience exciting and memorable moments from meeting new classmates and professors to holding a handpiece for the first time. Memories of the first few months are recollections many never forget. Due to COVID-19, however, the D24 class began the first year remotely, which delayed many of these cherished firsts. The E-board and the D24 class confronted hurdles never encountered by previous classes. Despite the challenges, the D24 E-board made sure their class neither fell behind nor sank into a morass. They responded to the class’ concerns and prioritized considering everyone’s opinions before making decisions. While the four E-board members have their own assignments, they made sure to work as a team to make the best decisions for the class.

Nicholas Wong, D24 Class President, faced the unenviable task of leading the class during this tumultuous year while representing them to the Administration; and he has exceled at both. Nick addressed his classmates’ every question and concern, no matter the magnitude; thus, students never feel their voices are not heard. Nick coordinated with the class liaisons to make sure courses run as smooth as possible. As soon as a task needs to be completed, Nick either tackled it himself or delegated it to the person who could best accomplish the job. Nick willing lends a hand, not only with schoolwork but in classmates' personal issues. If there’s anyway Nick can be there, he will.

Brianna Sammon, D24 Class Vice-President, has been the class’ calm in this stormy year of uncertainty. She accepted all their concerns and addressed them forthrightly. Bri served as the primary coordinator and contact to accommodate instrument distribution, COVID-19 testing protocols, class scrubs, and mask fitting for the D24 class. She organized course liaison applications and selected those best suited for the job. Bri has always been there as a friend to each of her classmates; she delivers cookies, sends cards, and is simply there when someone needs her.

Vidhi Desai, D24 Class Secretary, has been the class Swiss army knife, taking on any task asked of her. She compiled, updated and organized weekly emails with all the links and important dates/reminders for the class. She updated a Weekly Google doc schedule that contained class times and assignments and created a google calendar for the class. Vidhi kept the class organized in a time of chaos and served as the primary email correspondent to relay important information and updates.

Debora Yoon, D24 Class Treasurer, volunteered for the extraordinarily difficult job of organizing events and fundraisers while the class was initially dispersed and now while trying to maintain social distancing. She made sure that the class could remain cohesive by coordinating all gift ideas and D24 fundraisers, including badge reels, badge holders, and future class events. She has handled all financial and budgetary transactions, such as organizing flowers being sent on behalf of our class and organizing the donations for the Thanksgiving Pine Street Inn fundraiser. Debora steps out of her role as treasurer to help make executive decisions, answer classmate’s questions, and assists wherever help is needed.

January 8, 2021 - Paula Callahan

January 8, 2021

Paula Callahan
Clinic Services Manager

In every organization, there is an individual who is the “glue”. This is the person who pulls it all together, addresses issues thrown their way without fanfare, rises to every occasion, and makes everyone around them better due to their efforts.  There is no doubt that at TUSDM that person is Paula Callahan.  Every aspect of our clinical operations has been impacted by Paula’s work ethic and more so during these horrific pandemic times.  Her contributions may go unnoticed for they are the nuts and bolts of the work behind the scenes and the fact that she never brings attention to herself. Her work is not glamorous, but vital in addressing safety issues and assuring that our clinical mission can be fulfilled. If anyone could be named an unsung hero at TUSDM, it would be Paula Callahan. No matter the stress, the deadlines, or immediate needs, Paula manages to do it all with a smile and positive attitude that influences all of those around her.  Whether addressing waterline issues or assuring that Board examinations for our students occur seamlessly during the pandemic, Paula is always there making it happen without drama and with quiet confidence and competence. There is a thought that in any organization, no one is indispensable, but there is little doubt that others may fill her role eventually but will quickly find how indispensable Paula was.  She is someone who we all should emulate and appreciate what she has brought to TUSDM over these many years and it not surprising of her accepting so many additional responsibilities work during this pandemic is just part of being the “glue” of TUSDM.


January 4, 2021 - Dr. Patrick McGarry

January 4, 2021

As the days start to get longer and as our “hope spring eternal”, we recognize everyone’s contributions during the most unsettling of times.  In the coming weeks we will honor individuals with a write-up/certificate for their extraordinary efforts.

The first recognition is for Dr. Patrick McGarry.  We will honor each recipient with certificates when we are able to gather in person!


Patrick McGarry, DMD, MS
Assistant Professor, Director of the Emergency Clinic
Department of Comprehensive Care

The mantra of first responders is when confronted by an emergency, they run to the danger and not away from it. Dr. Patrick McGarry, Assistant Professor of Comprehensive Care is such a responder and professional.  Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, he has been on the front line in directing our emergency clinic at TUSDM- a position he continues to hold as the pandemic increases and its severity mounts. Many caregivers in the front-line experience intense fatigue and burnout, but Dr. McGarry continues to lead this effort with compassion and diligence.  This has been a period of great uncertainty as knowledge as to transmission of this deadly virus, what type of protection our caregivers needed and how to treat patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms slowly began to evolve.  What Dr. McGarry and his team knew is that patients were in pain or had infections that had to be treated.  TUSDM never closed nor turned away patients needing acute care.  Dr. McGarry took this leadership position with competency and caring and as a role model to students, residents, faculty and staff. The work was not glamorous and dangerous, but Dr. McGarry’s calm and cool demeanor set the example of making into reality the motto of our Dental School-A Beacon of Hope and Safety.  He is an example of who and what are as caregivers coming together in times of great need.  We salute and honor him as the first in a long line of unsung heroes of the pandemic at our School and thank him of behalf of our School and patients for his contributions.