OU College of Dentistry Welcomes an All-Women ASPID Class
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OU College of Dentistry Welcomes an All-Women ASPID Class

OU College of Dentistry Welcomes an All-Women ASPID Class


Published: Tuesday, March 8, 2022

OU College of Dentistry Welcomes an All-Women ASPID Class

The University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry boasts many accomplishments. With leading faculty and new facilities to train the next generation of dentists, OU is at the forefront of the career field.

One of the more outstanding facets within the College of Dentistry is a training program for international dentists to obtain certification in the United States, known as the Advanced Standing Program for International Dentists (ASPID). 

The newest ASPID cohort, who began their studies at OU in January, claims two unique accomplishments. With 17 students, the Class of 2024 is not only the largest in the program’s history; the class is entirely made up of women.

“The OU College of Dentistry prides itself on attracting the best and brightest students, and the ASPID Class of 2024 is full of exceptionally talented dental professionals,” said Paul M. Mullasseril, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the OU College of Dentistry. “It just so happens they are all female. While this was not a determining factor in the admissions process, it is reflective of the national trend showing more and more women entering STEM professions and seeking a career in dentistry. We are excited to welcome these students to the College of Dentistry and the OU family.”

According to the American Dental Association, female graduates from dental schools rose from 46% to 50.6% from 2010 to 2019, raising the overall percentage of women in the dental workforce from 24.1% to 34.5% in the same period.

The ADA predicts that by 2040, the dental workforce will reach gender parity. 

Rita Mure and Paniz Sheikh Hassani are two of the 17 students in the 2024 ASPID cohort. Mure hails from Baghdad, Iraq, while Hassani is from Tehran, Iran. Their journeys to OU differ in detail, but both students share a passion for dentistry. 

When Mure decided to apply to OU, she went through a five bench interview course and was impressed with the college and its program.

“I admire and love all the instructors because they give the maximum effort and [possess the] knowledge to train us in the bench prep course,” Mure said. “So, the bench prep course drew my attending to ASPID in OU.”

Sheikh Hassani hails from a family tradition of dentists in her native Tehran. She attributes her passion for dentistry to frequent visits to her aunt’s dental office over the years, as well as being in a family of physicians. 

“OU has a reputation for an excellent education,” Sheikh Hassani said. “There are many patients, and we get a lot of clinical experience. Some of the methods and legends of dentistry also come from this school.”

Sheikh Hassani's pathway into the field began in Tehran at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, School of Dentistry. Both Sheikh Hassani and Mure credit the program’s instructors and the College of Dentistry community for helping them transition to life in the United States.

The 2024 ASPID cohort boasting 100% female is of little consequence in the student’s’ day-to-day responsibilities; they have come to OU to pursue their passions. Yet, with the class mirroring a positive growing trend in the field, Mure and Sheikh Hassani find family among their classmates and understand the importance of this group.

“I’m very happy to be part of it,” Mure said. “It shows that the ASPID program at OU selected candidates according to their knowledge, skills and personality without being affected by gender. Being a woman and being part of the 100% female ASPID program encourages me to believe I can be a successful as a woman, as mother and as dentist as well.”

“While diversity and class-size are appreciated, we are all close to each other as a family,” Sheikh Hassani said. “We are proud and encouraged by our faculty who notice this fact. Most of the time they notice this and are fascinated more than we do!”

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COLLEGE OF DENTISTRY

The OU College of Dentistry is home to the state’s only doctor of dental surgery program and baccalaureate degree program in dental hygiene. More than 70 percent of the state of Oklahoma’s dentists are graduates of the OU College of Dentistry. The college provides general dental care and specialty care to Oklahomans through student, resident and faculty practice clinics. The OU College of Dentistry has established a reputation of training its students to provide the highest quality of clinical care available.