A dose of empathy

School rallies around displaced student after crane collapse
July 1st, 2019

The Student National Dental Association stepped in when a fellow student lost her belongings.

In times of tragedy, Texas A&M College of Dentistry’s “family” doesn’t hesitate to pull together.

When D3s Lianna Pulliam and Washington Akharamen heard that a D4 student and her spouse lost everything in the aftermath of a crane collapse caused by high winds June 9 at the Elan City Lights Apartments less than a mile from the school, they scrambled to respond.

As co-presidents of the Student National Dental Association, Pulliam and Akharamen put their outreach skills into motion, emailing a plea to fellow students, as well as faculty and staff, to pitch in what they could. Pulliam says her first concern was the student’s need for life’s most basic necessities: a bed and some food. The dental community responded en masse, she says, asking what else they could do. A donation box for household items was set up in the student affairs office.

“The response has really reignited our faith in the community,” she says.

Soon after the tragedy, select renters whose units weren’t too close to the destruction were allowed just a few minutes to fill up a suitcase with their most vital belongings and retrieve any pets.

SNDA co-presidents Lianna Pulliam (left) and Washington Akharamen

“She was just happy to be able to get her car and her dog,” says Pulliam, who is keeping the student’s identity under wraps to honor her request for privacy.

“From what I’ve heard, they didn’t really have very much time to go back in and grab many things,” Akharamen says. “She’s a trooper and still manages to have a good attitude about everything.”

SNDA will keep collecting items as long as they’re still coming in, only asking that donations be run by the co-presidents first as they keep a running tab of what has been donated and what is still needed.

“People have been extremely generous with their giving,” Akharamen says.

Pulliam says they wanted their fellow student to know that her dentistry family has her back, and it only took one email.

“This just reminds people that they can do something to make an impact when it’s put on their heart to do something,” she says. “That’s what dentistry is about: giving and using our gifts to bless people.”

— Kathleen Green Pothier