NEW YORK (May 26, 2009) - Twelve New York University graduate students received their commission during a ceremony at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. Family and friends gathered at the world's most famous arena to witness the newly-minted captains embark on a career in the Army Dental Corps.
Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Russell J. Czerw, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School and Fort Sam Houston, and Chief, Army Dental Corps, served as commissioning officer during the ceremony.
Czerw credited the graduates' supporters as being a driving force behind their success.
"Without your love and support over the years," he said, "they would not be here today."
The graduates attended NYU under the Health Professional Scholarship Program. A vastly competitive program, it is the Army's premier scholarship for health care professionals.
As part of the selection process, applicants were selected based on their undergraduate GPAs, Dental Admissions Test scores, recommendation letters and personal statements. Applicants were also responsible for providing recruiters with an acceptance letter from the college or university they will attend.
Students receive either a 3- or 4-year full scholarship, which included a monthly stipend during their course of study. Upon graduation, they are required to fulfill a minimum three-year, active-duty obligation to the Army.
Each NYU graduate received the Army's Dental Corps portion of the HPSP.
Czerw also praised the graduates' decision to serve.
"At some point," said Czerw, "you made the determination to wear your nation's cloth."
He added that each doctor holds two professions: one as a dentist and another as a "professor of arms" who made the conscious choice to "defend the freedoms we hold so dear."
Unlike most of his fellow graduates, Capt. (Dr.) Joel Figueredo entered the program already a dentist, having been certified in his native Cuba. Figueredo came to the U.S. 10 years ago, but joined the Army to help support his family.
"I joined the Army for my mom, to take care of her," he said.
Figueredo took a moment to appreciate the opportunity to serve while doing something he loved.
"Here you have the freedom to achieve anything you want," he said. "I am proud to be in the Army."
For twin brothers Dmitry and Aleksandr Baron, this served as an opportunity they could not achieve in the Ukraine. Recruited four years ago, the two were inspired by a friend who joined the military under the Dental Corps. "We always had an interest," said Aleksandr. "It wasn't just financial, we wanted to serve."
Post graduation, the Soldiers will attend AMEDD Officer Basic Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. They will then move on to an active-duty assignment or continued education/residency of their choice.