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UTD predental students hit their stride in this year’s Miles for Smiles runathon

Miles for Smiles Miles for Smiles
Merad Sadeghpour, the UTD Pre-Dental Association president
(fourth from left) with a number of Miles for Smiles participants.
In all, nearly 200 people participated in the third annual
runathon, which also boasted approximately 80 volunteers.

Sammy Mahmoud first thought of the idea of Miles for Smiles nearly three years ago after he read about a scholarship competition recognizing outstanding community service projects.

That was in October 2008. By November that same year, Mahmoud, now a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas and a volunteer researcher for Dr. Jerry Feng in Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry’s Department of Biomedical sciences, learned the scholarship deadline had already passed. But he had already come up with a name for the runathon. He was hooked.

“I thought, what the heck; I’ll do it anyways,” Mahmoud says.

Miles for Smiles
The 2011 Miles for Smiles runathon featured
extended hours (7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to
increase participation.

Mahmoud and the Pre-Dental Association at UT Dallas, which he served as vice president, generated approximately $1,500 from 30 runners and 60 volunteers that first year.

The third annual runathon, which took place April 22, built upon the successes of years past to generate the highest total so far in Miles for Smiles history: approximately $4,200 raised from 175 runners and 80 volunteers.

All of it goes to the Baylor College of Dentistry Social Services Dental Care Fund, which offers interest-free loans to qualified patients to help them complete their treatment.

A number of factors could account for this year’s success. For starters, the organizers switched the event’s day from Saturday to Friday to account for commuter students who aren’t typically on campus during the weekend. The runathon’s hours were extended from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and advertising targeted not just the university and surrounding Richardson area but also the entire Metroplex.

Add to the mix the student association’s current president, Mehrad Sadeghpour, and his knack for advertising, mainly in the form of printed shirts and stickers, and the event’s growth is understandable.

Students, staff and faculty from both UT Dallas and TAMHSC-BCD came out in droves to show their support, as did citizens from the surrounding community. In efforts to open up the event to as many people as possible, the association didn’t specify distances to runners.

Mahmoud even admits that this year he kept a low profile and ran just one lap, as opposed to his seven the first year.

Even without distance requirements, participants ran a total of 982 laps around the UT Dallas track to equal a staggering 650 miles.

Next year, the UT Dallas Pre-Dental Association has its sights set on a new goal: 1,000 laps. Sadeghpour says the improvements don’t end there. The group plans to change its filing status to allow for tax-deductible contributions, which should provide extra incentive to donate to the fund.

Mahmoud says he has watched the runathon—and its undergraduate student organizers—gain momentum over the years.

“I think we’re doing better and better each year,” he says. “It’s always a changing process. It’s dynamic; it’s never static.”

Sadeghpour, who also was involved in the event its first year, says perhaps the group’s biggest accomplishment has been doubling its contribution every year since the runathon’s inception.

"The amount of work our group has done to reach this goal is incredible, and I couldn’t be more proud of our organization,” Sadeghpour says.