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Spotlight on Alumni

Dr. Tejdeep Rattan,'09, Becomes First Sikh in a Generation to Graduate from Army Officer School

Within less than a year after graduating from NYUCD, Dr. Tejdeep Rattan, '09, became the first Sikh in decades to be allowed to complete US Army basic officer training while still maintaining his unshorn hair wrapped in a turban and beard, traditional representations of his faith.

In 1984 the Army abolished an exemption that had previously allowed Sikhs to wear these articles. In order for Dr. Rattan, now a captain in the US Army, to serve while displaying these religious symbols he had to obtain an individual waiver from the Army, which he accomplished with the help of The Sikh Coalition, a community-based organization in New York that works to help Sikhs freely practice their faith and foster stronger community ties.

On April 6, 2010, Captain Rattan completed his nine weeks of basic training at Fort Sam Houston. "I had no problems," he said. "At the end of a day, other soldiers and I would hug or shake hands and say things like, 'Good job, man.' We were all in it together."

"I come from a family of physicians and wanted to rebel. So I studied engineering," explained Captain Rattan. He attended Wright State College in Dayton, where he obtained both a master's degree in bioengineering and an MBA.

"I started doing biomedical work with oral surgeons on implant placements and became fascinated. These guys inspired me to switch paths and become a dentist."

Captain Rattan was thrilled when he arrived at NYUCD to find such a culturally diverse faculty and student body. He quickly formed a close bond with Dr. I. J. Singh, Adjunct Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology and also a practicing Sikh.

Captain Rattan shared with Dr. Singh how he dreamed of joining the Army. "I encouraged him," said Dr. Singh. "I think Tejdeep's strength lies in his ability to be true to himself. That's a great inspiration."

Captain Rattan had many mentors at NYUCD, including Clinical Associate Professor and Group Practice Director, Dr. Arthur M. Schackman. "TJ [Tejdeep] was one of the most respectful students I have ever met," said Dr. Schackman. "He's reliable, conscientious, and always treated patients with kindness and concern."

Now stationed at Fort Drum, New York, Captain Rattan is serving in the United States Army Dental Command (DENTAC), as one of the US military's 760 dentists on active duty.