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UNC, dental foundation establish memorial award for slain students

June 23, 2015

By Kelly Soderlund


Time of celebration: Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, left, and her husband, Deah Barakat, 23, stand at his white coat ceremony at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Dental Foundation of North Carolina have established a memorial award in honor of two dental students killed this year.

On Feb. 10, Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and his 19-year-old sister-in-law Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were fatally shot in their Chapel Hill, North Carolina, apartment. Police officers arrested their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, for the shooting.

The Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha Memorial Award was established in consultation with both students' families and will be presented for the first time this fall. Mr. Barakat was a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry and Ms. Abu-Salha was to enter as a first-year in August. The award will provide support to a UNC School of Dentistry student or group of students who plan a local, national or international service product that, Mr. Barakat's brother, Farris, said "will give back to communities that need help the most," according to a UNC news release.

"Deah and Yusor led lives of great purpose and this fund is a fitting tribute to their humanitarian devotions," UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt said in a news release. "Through this award, the Carolina community is honoring their legacy of creating a more compassionate world through dentistry and delivering aid to those who are more vulnerable and in need."

Mr. Barakat had volunteered at dental clinics overseas and had plans to travel to Turkey with 10 dentists this summer to help Syrian refugee students in need of dental care. He had posted a YouTube video last September asking for donations to raise money for supplies and equipment. Through his efforts, Project Refugee Smiles successfully raised the funds for the trip.

"Deah and Yusor had incredible hearts for service," said Dr. Jane Weintraub, dean and alumni distinguished professor at the UNC School of Dentistry. "They often gave their weekends to working at homeless shelters or the North Carolina Missions of Mercy clinics and were no strangers to international service trips. Through this award, we'll be able to not only educate our students about their lives of service but also continue their legacy of giving back for years to come."

The Dental Foundation of North Carolina and UNC each committed $30,000 to the endowed fund. Those who wish to contribute can visit giving.unc.edu/gift/sod and select "Barakat Memorial Fund" from the dropdown menu.