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ADA, dental community mourn victims of Chapel Hill, N.C. shooting

February 11, 2015

Tremendous loss: (Center) Deah Barakat, a dental student at University of North Carolina, was shot and killed Feb. 10, along with his wife and sister-in-law. In this 2012 photo, Mr. Barakat poses with fellow volunteers and tour guides while enjoying a nonclinic day in Jerusalem during a Miswak Foundation mission trip.
The American Dental Association, along with others in the dental community, released statements Feb. 11, offering condolences to the friends and relatives of University of North Carolina dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, who was shot and killed Tuesday, along with his wife and sister-in-law.
"We mourn with Deah's family and friends at this upsetting time," said Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president. "The thoughts and prayers of the dental community go out to all who have suffered this tremendous loss, made even more painful by the alleged religious intolerance."
Mr. Barakat's wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, was also recently admitted as a member of the incoming D.D.S. class of 2019, said Dr. Jane Weintraub, UNC School of Dentistry dean, in a statement.
Mr. Barakat, 23, his wife — they were married in December 2014 — and his 19-year-old sister-in-law Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were found shot and killed around 5:11 p.m. Tuesday at an off-campus condominium complex, according to the Chapel Hill Police Department. Police officers arrested the victims' neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, for their deaths.

"Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act.  We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.  Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly," said Chris Blue, police chief of the Chapel Hill Police Department, in a press release.

Dr. Weintraub said Mr. Barakat, 23, was involved in many aspects of UNC's dental school, including research with the Department of Pediatric Dentistry, serving as a co-president of the new Dental Student Ambassadors group and leading dental mission trips to Turkey to treat Syrian refugees.

According to the American Student Dental Association, Mr. Barakat, before he died, was preparing for a dental outreach trip to Turkey to provide dental care for Syrian refugees who have been displaced due to the Syrian civil war. The online fundraising campaign he created with a goal of $20,000 had raised more than $200,000 for the Syrian American Medical Society as of Thursday morning.
"This is an especially difficult time for ASDA and the dental community. We have lost valued colleagues in Deah and his wife who was to enter dental school next fall," said ASDA President Kristopher Mendoza, a fourth-year dental student at the University of California Los Angeles School of Dentistry, in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by the news of their passing. Through his unselfish actions, Deah reminds us all that dentistry goes far beyond treating the oral cavity—it's about caring for people. We will greatly miss his dedication and commitment to serving others."

Mr. Barakat was a volunteer of the Miswak Foundation, which was formed in 2011 by a group of American Muslim dentists and dental students to promote the oral health of underserved populations through education, prevention and service. Miswak Foundation has made dental relief trips to Haiti and Sierra Leone. Miswak Foundation recently helped establish dental clinics in Syria, in cooperation with the Syrian American Medical Society, as reported last year in ADA News.

"This is an incredible tragedy for our school, the dental community and the university," said Dr. Weintraub. "Today, everyone here is grieving. Our deepest sympathy goes out to their families and friends."