Philadelphia — Dr. Marie-Elena Cronin (D’20, GD’22), a 2020 graduate of Penn Dental Medicine’s DMD program, has been recognized by the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation as a recipient of its 2020 Student Leadership Award.
The Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of California, recently announced this year’s recipients of this annual award, which is presented to exceptional graduates in recognition of their leadership and dedication to providing dental care and oral health education to the various communities in which Delta Dental serves. Recipients are nominated by the dental schools in Delta Dental’s 15-state and D.C. service area, chosen for their leadership skills as demonstrated by the student’s activities and accomplishments during dental school; public service commitment as demonstrated by civic and community involvement related to dental service, and outstanding service or accomplishments in the field of dentistry or related science.
Dr. Cronin was actively engaged in a variety of leadership roles and service activities throughout her time at Penn Dental Medicine. One of her key positions was serving as Executive Director of the Philadelphia Oral Cancer 5K & Walk, an annual student outreach and fundraising event. Through her leadership and passion for the project, she helped to motivate student volunteers to build participation in the event to new levels. In 2019, they had over 500 runners and walkers and raised $20,000 in support of oral cancer research (The 2020 event had to be cancelled due to COVID-19).
“While working with this organization, my goal was to grow our program and leave it better than when I started,” says Dr. Cronin. “This past year, we created a fund where all the money we raise goes directly to oral cancer research right here at Penn Dental, which was a breakthrough for our organization.”
“Seeing oral cancer survivors and the families of those who have lost loved ones to this devastating disease participating in our race serves as an important reminder of our responsibility to raise awareness about oral cancer and fundraise for research breakthroughs,” she adds.
In the area of community service, Dr. Cronin was a community honors students, completing her community health honors project with the Homeless Health Initiative (HHI), a multidisciplinary program through Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) that provides free education and health services to children living in homeless shelters. For two years, each Tuesday evening, she volunteered along with two dental school colleagues and a pediatric dental resident, providing comprehensive, full mouth exams and fluoride varnish applications to the children as well as educational instruction to them and their parents.
“When I started volunteering with HHI, I thought the most important part of this program was detecting cavities,” recalls Dr. Cronin. “Now, I realize the value of patient education. By simply spending a few minutes with each child to educate them on the importance of taking care of their teeth through oral hygiene and diet, we can make a great impact on the lives of these especially vulnerable children.”
She continued working at HHI for an additional year after completing her community honors project to help expand the dental referral services for the children. “Our next goal is to expand the program to offer prophylaxis dental cleanings to these children,” she says.
Dr. Cronin also held leadership roles within a number of student organizations. She served as Academic Co-Chair for her class’s Student Council, acting as a liaison between her classmates and faculty. She also was an active committee member for the Penn Dental Women’s Network, Orthodontics Journal Club, and American Student Dental Association. During her third and fourth years, she tutored first-year students in biological systems.
Selected for the Omicron Kappa Upsilon, a national dental honor society, Dr. Cronin completed her clinical requirements early in the fall semester of her fourth year and became a restorative teaching assistant, guiding third-year students in clinic and providing feedback on lab work and procedures. She also served as an Orthodontics Lab teaching assistant for second-year students learning wire bending and orthodontic appliance fabrication.
Dr. Cronin is presently pursuing postdoctoral training in orthodontics, joining Penn Dental Medicine’s program in July.
“Dr. Cronin has been such an outstanding student leader at Penn Dental Medicine, and we are pleased to celebrate her achievements and this well-deserved recognition,” says Dr. Joan Gluch, Division Chief of Community Oral Health. “We look forward to continuing to work with her through her time in our orthodontics program.”
Selected Student Leadership Award recipients receive $10,000 from the Foundation as they embark on the next stage of their dental careers. The hope is that these students will carry their passion for service forward as they begin clinical practice and give back to their communities.