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GRCC dental professors Julie Bera, Colette Smiley earn state awards for commitment to education, public service

April 26, 2021, GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two Grand Rapids Community College dental professors earned awards from the Michigan Dental Association for their commitment to public service and education.

Professor Julie Bera is the first recipient of the MDA’s Allied Dental Professional Educator Award. Dr. Colette Smiley, an adjunct instructor, earned the John G. Nolen Meritorious Award – the organization’s highest honor.

MDA leaders said Bera demonstrated outstanding commitment to the advancement of oral health.

“Besides her teaching activities at GRCC, she has worked statewide to promote careers in dental assisting,” the organization wrote.

Bera, who started at GRCC in 1990, has served on a variety of task forces and committees to address the shortage of licensed dental assistants, and she was instrumental in developing GRCC’s new pathway for working dental assistants to advance in their education and careers.

She has served on the Michigan State Board of Dentistry and nationally as a site visitor and review committee member for the ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation.

“Julie is a wonderful educator,” said Jamie Klap, director of GRCC’s Dental Auxiliary Program. “Year after year, our students look up to her, and she is always helping students find their place in the dental profession, even after they have graduated. Julie's heart is full of passion, drive, and determination for the dental profession and it shows in her commitment to all the roles she's had and currently has. Julie is not only a wonderful educator, but as a colleague, she has been a great mentor to me -- a relationship I'll never take for granted.”

Smiley’s award is intended to honor a dentist for material contributions to the Michigan Dental Association, toward the advancement of the art and science of dentistry, or for contributions and activities of a nature that reflect great credit on the dental profession.

Smiley practiced dentistry for more than 24 years and served in roles at the local, state and national level. She retired from practicing in 2010, but has not slowed down.

“Dr. Smiley was re-energized and redirected her focus toward helping people, especially those who are underserved in West Michigan,” the organization posted. “She works tirelessly as a leader, as a spokesperson, and in her various roles and activities—and has painted organized dentistry in a most favorable light. Above all, Dr. Colette Smiley has done all of these things with a most humble and compassionate nature.”

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