As a child, I loved every trip to the dentist. I loved getting to pick out a toy at the end of each visit and I was bursting with pride when the dentist told me that he could tell that I was brushing my teeth every night. This positive experience did not, however, translate to my younger brother. As a disabled person, he was overwhelmed with the piercing sound of the drill and the bright light that would shine directly down on his face while being treated. This made a simple trip to the dentist an overwhelmingly negative experience for him. As a child, I remember watching this typically gentle boy kicking and screaming as my mom struggled to hold him still in the dental chair. As he grew older, his fear became more paralyzing with each trip until, at the age of 13, it was no longer possible for my mother to convince him to go. His oral health has deteriorated since then and at 15, he became so embarrassed with the state of his teeth that he just stopped smiling. He has been unable to smile for a photo or outside the comfort of our home in over five years.
Watching his warm and energetic smile slowly fade from this world was devastating for me to watch and I knew deep in my heart that I could do something to change it. I became more and more interested in dentistry and wanted to explore the field more, so I spent my sophomore summer shadowing Dr. Monica Swope at her general dentistry practice. I fell in love with the ability to transform someone’s appearance with my hands. I learned how to build friendships with patients while helping them to feel healthier and more confident in their own skin. Here, I witnessed a woman reduced to tears when she saw her new smile with a bridge. This woman helped me to understand the distress someone can feel if their internal beauty is not reflected in their external appearance. I realized how important your teeth are in helping others to see you the way you wish to be seen; at that moment, I became deeply aware of the pain that my brother had been feeling. This motivated me to give everyone the smile they deserve. My mission in becoming a dentist is to bring my brother’s smile, and those of thousands of people just like him, back into the world again.
Share a fun fact about yourself with the HSDM community.
I grew up on a goat farm in a small town in Ohio. If you ever need to know an amazing recipe for goat milk fudge or goat milk soap, I am your girl!
What advice would you give to someone who is applying to dental school, or considering applying to dental school?
Be completely genuine and true to yourself. Do not feel like you are competing against applicants, as it will only take away from your own personal experience. Instead, enjoy your time at each school and understand that every one of the other students at your interview could be your future classmates. I met many of my classmates at different interviews and became friends with them before we even knew what schools we would be attending!