Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
I couldn’t have found a better place than Creighton. I love it here. I love to be able to share my knowledge and love of pathology with students on a daily basis. The University’s principles of service to others before self is very appealing to me.
Hardeep Chehal, DDS’15, is a little shy when talking about herself.
She loves her job (professor of diagnostic sciences in Creighton’s School of Dentistry). She loves treating patients. She loves working with students and her fellow faculty members.
But getting attention? Being in the spotlight? Not so much.
“I like to keep it simple and stay behind the scenes,” she says.
So, when she was appointed the new holder of the Dr. Oscar S. Belzer Endowed Chair in Dentistry this fall, she was reluctant to share her story — yet too honored not to.
“I am absolutely thrilled and deeply humbled by my selection to this distinguished position,” Chehal says.
Chehal is the fourth holder of the Belzer Endowed Chair and the first woman appointed to the position.
The late Richard Blankenau, DDS’66, was the inaugural holder from 1997-1999; Gary Westerman, DDS’69, served the role from 2000-2011; and Terry Wilwerding, DDS’77, MS’00, MS’08, held the position until his retirement from full-time faculty in 2019.
School of Dentistry Dean Mark Latta, DMD, says the chair recognizes “an outstanding senior faculty member who serves the traditional mission of excellence in dental education, providing comprehensive clinical expertise coupled with the ethical and moral component.”
Throughout her career, Chehal says, she’s always strived to excel in three areas: teaching, research and service. Creighton’s given her plenty of opportunities to do so.
Chehal first came to Creighton about a decade ago as an oral pathologist, almost 12 years after moving to the United States from her home country of India.
Hailing from Punjab, Chehal received her first dental degree in Calcutta. But she comes from all over India. Her father was a career military officer, and their family moved around constantly.
In Creighton, she’s found a place to stay put.
“And I couldn’t have found a better place,” she says. “I love it here. I love to be able to share my knowledge and love of pathology with students on a daily basis. I also enjoy seeing patients and helping guide treatment for the patients our students see. In addition, the University’s principles of service to others before self is very appealing to me.”
For Chehal, getting named an endowed chair was icing on the cake of an already deeply rewarding career.
In fact, she didn’t know much about endowed chairs before being named one. Since then, she’s learned about their chief purpose: supporting students by supporting faculty. She’s also been able to explore the specifics of her chair’s namesake: Oscar Belzer, DDS’28.
“It’s quite a story,” she says. And it’s a story she’s more comfortable telling than her own.
Belzer, like Chehal, immigrated to the U.S. In the 1920s, he and his family were uprooted by the pogroms in Russia and found refuge in America. Shortly after landing at Ellis Island, they moved to Omaha, where they promptly planted roots, both in their community and at a certain Jesuit, Catholic university.
After graduating from Creighton’s dental school, Belzer went into practice. He became known as “the singing dentist,” as he would often sing to his patients during cleanings, cavity fillings and other procedures.
Belzer cherished his Creighton experience. He once told his son, Jerry Belzer, to “get the best education you possibly can, for that is one thing no one can take away from you.”
Jerry took that advice. He went on to medical school to become a pathologist.
Many years later, Jerry was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Shortly before he died, he made a $1 million gift to establish the endowed chair in his father’s name. Oscar followed his son in death a few months after.
All these years later, Chehal says, it’s humbling to receive their support, to be a beneficiary of their generosity. Through their gift, she says, she can keep doing the job she loves and further support students in getting the kind of education Oscar Belzer wanted for his son.
“Creighton produces some of the finest dentists in the nation,” Chehal says. “And I feel particularly proud that I can help contribute to that.”
Now, if she could please stop talking about herself, she’d like to get back to work.