A paragon is someone of exceptional merit who exhibits unparalleled excellence. ASDA’s Paragon Award recognizes an individual who has significantly contributed to the advancement of the rights, interests and welfare of dental students throughout his or her career. It is the highest and most prestigious award given by the American Student Dental Association.

The Paragon Award is given per Board of Trustee discretion, and only a member of the Board of Trustees can nominate an individual. For more information, contact advocacydept@ASDAnet.org.

Dr. Raymond Cohlmia (2021)
Dr. Raymond Cohlmia

Dr. Cohlmia is dean of The University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry and most recently served as the 12th District Trustee to the board of the American Dental Association (ADA). He has also chaired both the ADA's Council on Membership and New Dentist Committee. In addition, Dr. Cohlmia has served on the ADA's Council on Dental Benefits Programs, the Council on Annual Sessions and International Programs, and the American Dental Political Action Committee board. Dr. Cohlmia is also actively involved in the Oklahoma Dental Association, having served in numerous leadership roles.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Cohlmia shared his belief that "ASDA provides the tools to be a true professional and change the life of one person every day." A graduate of The University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Dr. Cohlmia joined ASDA in his first year of dental school and has been a member of the OUCOD faculty since 1988. In his various capacities at OUCOD, he has mentored countless dental students and attends nearly every ASDA OU Chapter meeting or event. Dr. Cohlmia has also advised ASDA members throughout District 9 and beyond. Remarked ASDA 2019-20 President Craig McKenzie, "His consistent leadership in organized dentistry and commitment to the rights, interests and welfare of dental students, demonstrate that Dr. Cohlmia is the very definition of what it means to be an ASDA Paragon."

Dr. Jeffrey M. Cole (2020)
Dr Cole annual session 2020

Dr. Cole has served as a mentor for many dental students over the years. Recently, he spearheaded a joint meeting between ASDA and ADA leadership at the 2019 ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day. He consistently advocates on behalf of dental students, particularly around student debt and helping new dentists find a place in state and local dental societies.

“Countless dental students have benefitted from Dr. Cole’s guidance and friendship,” shared ASDA 2019-20 President Craig McKenzie, The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine ‘21. “He ensures students are prepared and excited for lifelong involvement in organized dentistry. He fully embraces ASDA’s mission and we are thankful for his contributions.”

Dr. Cole is the immediate past president of the American Dental Association. He is past trustee of the ADA 4th District, former chair of the ADA Budget and Finance Committee, former member of the ADA Council on Dental Practice, former chair of the ADA Strategic Planning Committee and the ADA Business Model Project Oversight. He is also the past president of the Academy of General Dentistry, past president of the Delaware State Dental Society, and a member of the American College of Dentists, Delta Sigma Delta International Dental Fraternity, and the International College of Dentists.

Dr. Cole graduated from Georgetown University School of Dentistry in 1986 and completed a general practice residency at Christiana Care Health System. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management.

“This award has even more significance because I am not a dean, nor on faculty of a dental school, but in private practice,” Dr. Cole shared. “There is an important message here for dental students as they grow professionally. It is not necessarily a position they may hold, but instead their passion, their commitment and their desire to help others that is most important and that results in making the biggest difference in a person’s life. With the guidance of mentors along the way, they can achieve all they aspire to as professionals. They are in control of their own destiny."

Dr. Linda Niessen (2017)

2017 Paragon Award Winner“In three short years, Dr. Niessen has transformed the dental student experience at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine. Students are actively engaged in organized dentistry and committed to service and academic excellence. She inspires them to think critically about dentistry and seek opportunities for improvement and growth,” says Adam Saltz, Nova Southeastern ’17, ASDA editor in chief. “As a world-renowned lecturer on public health issues, Dr. Niessen gives voice to the inequalities that exist in the oral healthcare system for women and the elderly. I proudly consider her my dean, mentor and friend.”

Dr. Niessen has been active in dental organizations throughout her career. In the past, she served as president of the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry (AAED), president of the American Association for Women Dentists (AAWD), president of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) and president of the Dallas County Dental Society. Among her professional achievements, Dr. Niessen is also a member on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry. She joined the Nova Southeastern University faculty as dean and professor of the College of Dental Medicine in October 2013.

Dr. Niessen is a graduate of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (DMD), and received her public health degree (MPH) at the Harvard School of Public Health. In addition, she earned a master's degree in public policy (MPP) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

“It is an honor to receive the Paragon Award from the American Student Dental Association. This award is a tribute to all the faculty and mentors in my life who helped prepare me for a career in dental education,” Dr. Niessen remarked in her acceptance speech. “I thank the incredibly talented students, outstanding faculty and dedicated staff at Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine for their support and my family for their encouragement throughout my dental career. I dedicate this award to all ASDA students with a hope that as you realize your potential as dentists, you pay it forward and consider dental education as part of your career plans.”

Dr. Gregory Chadwick (2016)

Dr. Gregory Chadwick accepting the 2016 Paragon Award“As students, we know Dr. Chadwick as our dean and the visionary leader who led in the establishment of the ECU School of Dental Medicine. He knows each of us by name and is committed to our learning and our professional development,” says LaJoi Wiggins, East Carolina ’17, District 4 Trustee. “Dr. Chadwick believes in ‘educating leaders with a passion to serve.’ He challenges us to rise to the occasion not only to be great students, but also to become strong leaders in organized dentistry.”

Dr. Gregory Chadwick’s extensive involvement in organized dentistry includes serving as past president of the North Carolina Dental Society, the Second District Dental Society, the Southern Endodontic Study Group and the Tar Heel Endodontic Association. He served four years on the ADA Board of Trustees before becoming ADA President in 2001. He also served as the 2006 FDI World Dental Federation Speaker of the House and was awarded International Dentist of the Year in 2012 by the Academy of Dentistry International.

Dr. Chadwick earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and served in the U.S. Naval Supply Corps for four years before entering dental school. He completed an MS in endodontics and his dental degree, both at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and practiced endodontics in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, for thirty years.

His clear understanding of the oral health needs that exist within his home state, combined with his vision and passionate advocacy for advancing the oral health of North Carolinians, led to the creation of East Carolina University School of Dentistry. Dr. Chadwick’s hope in working towards the school’s establishment is that graduates would serve in the region’s rural and underserved areas. In addition, he has advocated for community service programs through the dental school that provide opportunities for fourth-year students to gain more experience.

“One of my mentors, a previous recipient of this award, Art Dugoni, is credited with saying ‘in dental education we are in the business of educating leaders and along the way they become dentists.’ ” said Dr. Chadwick. “I accept this award on behalf of my mentors over the years and the faculty, staff, students and residents at our school who also share the values of ASDA — integrity, fairness, competence, responsibility, respect, and last but not least, service to our fellow man."

Dr. William Calnon (2015)

Dr. William Calnon accepting the 2015 Paragon Award“Dr. Calnon has been an excellent mentor for dental students both in New York and across the country throughout his career in organized dentistry,” said Greg Shank, Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine ’16, 2014-15 ASDA District 2 Trustee. “He has made advancing the rights and interests of dental students a priority, and he serves as a paragon for the members of the American Student Dental Association. He is very deserving of our recognition.”

Dr. Calnon’s commitment to the advancement of organized dentistry is demonstrated in his participation on numerous dental committees and boards. He is an example of what student leaders in dentistry should aspire to. His dedication to the advancement of dental students and the dental profession has truly inspired students.

Calnon’s extensive involvement includes serving as past president of the New York State Dental Association, the Seventh District Dental Society and Monroe County Dental Society. He served four years on the American Dental Association Board of Trustees before becoming the 2011-2012 ADA President. He is a fellow of the American College of Dentists, the International College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.

As ADA President, Calnon advocated for enhancing student involvement within the ADA and at ADA events he actively seeks out students to involve them in networking. Despite his demanding schedule, he makes time to mentor and assist students, including through the Emerald Project, a program that enhances the experience and aids in the transition of graduating dentists from ASDA into the ADA.

Calnon graduated magna cum laude from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University and received his dental degree from the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. He is a general dentist near Rochester, N.Y. and serves as the current president of the Eastman Dental Center Foundation.

“Over the last few years, I have witnessed a tremendous increase in involvement of more and more dental students in the issues facing the profession. I think the interest is due in part to the increased focus placed on students by organized dentistry as well as the unbelievable role played by ASDA,” said Calnon. “I am receiving this wonderful award, but you have been giving me my rewards for years. I take great pleasure in watching student leaders impact audiences, whether it be at the ADA House of Delegates, a reference committee or a state legislature.”

Dr. Roger Triftshauser (2012)

Dr. Triftshauser accepting the 2012 Paragon Award“[Dr. Triftshauser] has spent his life forging his own path through hard work, professionalism and dedication to his family, his community and the profession of dentistry,” said Rick Andolina, University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine ’13. “We are very lucky to have [him] not only as a mentor, but also as a great friend who through his life’s journey has shown us the importance of giving back. I cannot think of anyone that is more deserving of ASDA’s highest honor.”

Triftshauser received his degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1961 from the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine. He then served in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps and eventually reached the rank of two-star rear admiral, the highest rank in the Navy Dental Corps. Upon release from active duty in 1967, he received a Master of Orthodontics degree from Loma Linda School of Dentistry. Triftshauser’s total service with the U.S. Naval Reserve Dental Corps spanned 33 years. He was selected for Flag rank in 1990, was promoted to the permanent grade of Rear Admiral on March 1, 1994, and retired from the Naval Reserve on Oct. 1, 1995.

Triftshauser is a member of the American Dental Association, in which he served as a delegate and as a board member to the New York State Dental Association. He is the immediate past chair of the American Dental Political Action Committee. He is a past president of the New York State Dental Association’s Eighth District Dental Society, past president of the American College of Dentists, a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics and a Fellow of the International College of Dentists. He has also held leadership positions in The New York State Association of Counties, The Rotary Club of America and the Batavia City School Board of Education.

When asked about his career, Triftshauser said, “As long as you have something left to offer, you can always do more. I have never really considered myself an extremely successful or motivational person, but I am happy if I have had a positive impact on others. I have had mentors in the past, I have mentors now, and I see the students in ASDA as being excellent mentors in the future.”

Dr. Arthur A. Dugoni (2011)

Dr. Dugoni accepting the 2011 Paragon AwardAs a guest speaker at many ASDA national meetings and continuous supporter of programs that build future leaders within organized dentistry, many students have experienced first-hand Dr. Dugoni’s passion.

“One of his famous quotes is ‘at Pacific we build people, and along the way they become doctors,’” said Naomi Sever, San Antonio ’11, 2010-11 vice president. “He’s a model of excellence and wonderful mentor … the type of person we aspire to become.”

The Paragon Award is not his first professional citation. Dugoni was elected to the prestigious FDI World Dental Federation List of Honour in 1998, which is limited to 30 individuals worldwide, and has been named Dental Alumnus of the Year by four universities: Gonzaga University, University of Washington, University of San Francisco and University of the Pacific. In 2004, he became the first and only person in the United States or Canada to have a dental school named in his honor while holding the position of dean.

Dugoni has held leadership positions in the American Dental Association, the American Dental Education Association, the American Association of Dental Schools, the World Dental Federation, the American Board of Orthodontics and the California Dental Association.