Ann Arbor, MI — March 10, 2016 — A staff member who “exemplifies a heartfelt desire to fight for the underserved,” a dental student “who actively pushes boundaries to break down barriers to inclusion” and an administrator and faculty member whose “commitment to diversity, inclusion and improvements to the school’s culture is embodied in her everyday words and actions” are three recipients of an Ida Gray Award.
The award is presented annually by the School of Dentistry’s Multicultural Affairs Committee (MAC) to a staff member, faculty member and student, or group of students, who contribute to advancing diversity and improving the climate for working, learning, patient care and research at the school. This year, the awards were presented during the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Day.
Staff: Dr. Bonita Neighbors
From 2011 until this January, Neighbors directed the Community Dental Center in downtown Ann Arbor. The center began as a cooperative venture between U-M and the city of Ann Arbor in 1981 and provides Washtenaw County residents of all ages with a full range of oral health care services and education.
Before becoming CDC director, Neighbors (DDS 1986) was dental director of the southern region for the Michigan Department of Corrections for 23 years. Previously, she was an instructor in the school’s Patient Admitting and Emergency Services clinic.
“Dr. Neighbors has a heartfelt desire to fight for the underserved. And she does so with a glad heart and open hand,” wrote Cheryl Quiney, MAC co-chair, in her nomination. Neighbors was praised for her “steadfast willingness to serve as a role model, open hearted passion for all people, and lifelong service to the underserved.”
In addition to her work at CDC, Neighbors is actively involved in the Washtenaw Health Initiative and Health Plan, Dental Triage for the Michigan Mission of Mercy, the ADA and MDA.
Student: Guneet Kohli
A first-generation Sikh American, third-year dental student Guneet Kohli “has always viewed diversity as an important extension of her identity,” wrote My Yang (D4) who nominated Kohli.
Since beginning her dental education at U-M, Kohli has been active in MAC as a student representative of her class, the Special Smiles Special Olympics in Mt. Pleasant, the ADA’s Women’s Health and Fitness Day in Ann Arbor, and was nominated to attend the ADEA Student Diversity Leadership Program in Boston.
Recently, Kohli was enthusiastically involved in a school effort to collect bottled water for residents of Flint, Michigan, to help them deal with their water contamination crisis.
Faculty Member: Dean Laurie McCauley
Dean Laurie McCauley was nominated for her commitment to diversity, inclusion and improvements to the school’s culture. “They are embodied in her everyday actions and words,” wrote those who nominated her: Cheryl Quiney, patient care coordinator; Kim Huner, assistant to the dean; and Bonnie Dawson, clinical services manager.
McCauley was lauded for spearheading the school’s cultural climate initiative last year, supporting re-establishing the Pipeline for Success program to attract more minority students to dentistry, helping to secure funding for a special needs clinic, frequent participation in activities that involve students, faculty, alumni and other DEI activities.