Cayla Ray '14 to receive PGAA Young Alumni Leadership Award

Cayla Ray headshotThe Pitt-Greensburg Alumni Association (PGAA) will present its Young Alumni Leadership Award to Cayla Ray, DMD ’14 at the Alumni Celebration Dinner on Saturday, October 5, at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg as part of Blue & Gold Celebration: Homecoming 2019.

The PGAA Young Alumni Leadership Award, initiated in 2015, recognizes established and future leaders among Pitt-Greensburg’s young alumni who are age 35 and younger. The winners of this award have distinguished themselves as leaders among their peers and in their profession, community, and/or at the University. To register to attend the Alumni Celebration Dinner, please visit Registrations, made prior to September 30, are $25 per person (with $1 handling).

Ray, a native of Derry, PA, graduated with a biological science major and a minor in psychology from Pitt-Greensburg in 2014. She then went on to earn a doctor of dental medicine and a certificate in dental public health from the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH) at A.T. Still University (Mesa, AZ) and is currently serving her pediatric dental residency at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT.

"It is a true honor to be nominated and chosen as the 2019 Young Alumni Leadership Award winner for Pitt-Greensburg,” said Ray. “To this day, I still connect with many of my mentors, professors, and coaches from Pitt-Greensburg, and I truly can't thank them enough for their commitment to my success and long-term camaraderie. I am confident that Pitt-Greensburg helped me develop the foundation for a successful future, and I am honored to share in those achievements as my academic and professional journey continues." 

While at Pitt-Greensburg, Ray was mentored by Olivia Long, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry. As an undergraduate, Ray’s research project and presentation, “The Investigation of Oral Hygiene, Dietary Habits, and Microbial Diversity Among Undergraduate Students,” was awarded first place among undergraduate students at the Allegheny Branch of the American Society for Microbiology, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate, she worked with a local pediatric dentist to research “The Use of Fluoride Among At-Risk Pediatric Populations.” Ray was named an NCAA Woman of the Year (2015) in recognition of her outstanding community service and grades within the NCAA Division III and earned Pitt-Greensburg’s “Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year” recognition.

“While a student at Pitt-Greensburg, Cayla completed independent research in my lab,” said Oliva Long, PhD, associate professor of biology/biochemistry. “Cayla dedicated her senior year to determine if there was a different population of microbes in college students’ mouths than those of reported adult population. Although she had only collected two- weeks’ worth of data, she presented her research at a local conference and won first place for her poster presentation. This just showed her level of dedication and her passion for science.  Cayla was a true leader on this campus, an outstanding student, and a compassionate person. I am so proud of all that she has accomplished!”

Ray’s leadership abilities were evident at Pitt-Greensburg where she co-founded the campus’ Pre-Health Committee, developed unique guidebooks for entrance into various health programs, and organized study groups for various admissions tests (MCAT, DAT, and GRE). She also served as a Commuter Mentor, helping non-resident freshmen students acclimate to their first year of college, as well as serving as president and vice president of the campus chapter of Beta, Beta, Beta, the national biological science honor society. She was a regular volunteer at The End Hunger Café, posting more than 400 volunteer hours, serving food, creating a bimonthly clothing closet, and organizing a back-to-school fundraiser for three under-served families.

Ray’s hard work and dedication continued to be recognized at A.T. Still University where she received the Tami Hunger Award (2019) for most community service at ASDOH in four years; the ADA Samuel D. Harris Fund for Children’s Dental Health Grant (2016-2017); and was a nominee and scholarship recipient from the Dental Trade Alliance (2017).

At ASDOH, she was a general student member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and served as the community service committee coordinator for the local chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry. Her commitment to community service led her to found and serve as president of the ASDOH chapter of Students United with America’s Toothfairy (SUAT). Under her leadership, the organization held an Oral Cancer Walk, mobilized resources to provide dental education and supplies to parents and children through a teen outreach pregnancy center, organized a Day in the life a Dentist Educational event, and provided oral health instruction and dental supplies to children with hearing impairments during the Read to Me at UMOM and E.A.R. Day.

Ray served as the Pre-Dental Team Lead for the ASDOH Give Kids a Smile Committee, and made two mission trips to Guerrero, Mexico, with the Latin World Ministries. Her other outreach/community service activities include participating in a Dia De Los Muertos Dental Education Table, Team Smile & Arizona Cardinals, Little Fighting Hearts 5K Run/Walk for Children with Congenital Heart Defects, Tim Tebow Foundation: Night To Shine Prom, Step-Up Schools Dental Education Day, AZ Mission of Mercy (AZ MOM), A Day for Special Smiles, Special Olympics, Give Kids a Smile (GKAS) , Child Crisis Community Outreach, and Art of a Healthy Smile.

Founded in 1963, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is a publicly assisted, four-year, liberal arts college in southwestern Pennsylvania. Pitt-Greensburg offers 29 baccalaureate degree programs, including new majors in Nursing, Healthcare Management, Public Policy, and Education, as well as 24 minors and four certificate programs. With nearly 1,500 students, more than 10,000 alumni, and faculty and staff numbering 260, Pitt-Greensburg provides a vibrant, diverse community that is a dynamic model of a 21st century liberal arts education. As part of the University of Pittsburgh system, Pitt-Greensburg offers the resources of a world-renowned university combined with the individualized and immersive experiences of a small liberal arts college. Creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit permeate the campus and extend into its many collaborative projects with the Westmoreland County community. Nestled in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Laurel Highlands, the campus is surrounded by the region’s outdoor recreation venues and rich history.         

Publication Date

Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 13:15