D1 Stories: Caroline

Hometown: Lebanon, KY Undergraduate: Western Kentucky University

Why did you choose a career in dentistry?

My journey took an atypical route, to say the least. My father and I had created a small-town radio show called Sunday Morning Harvest. It’s an encouraging Christian radio show – a fun time for us and an opportunity to be a light for the community. I started out college as a broadcasting major, but taking those courses, I realized my heart wasn’t there. It was a passion of mine, but not something I wanted to do as a career. I had a strong background in science and math, so I changed my major to biology and I started shadowing different careers. I was interested in medicine and dentistry, but I was still on the fence.

One moment that stands out to me was when I was shadowing a cardiologist. At the beginning of an appointment, he asked the patient if he could examine his teeth. After the appointment, I asked him why. He explained how oral health has so much connection to the overall health of the patient. He described it as being a "mirror to one's overall health." That was a turning point for me – an aha moment – that got me interested in dentistry more.

As I redirected my journey to pursuing dentistry, I began to fall in love with not only dentistry but the lifestyle of the career itself. I found that through dentistry I could have a connection with my community, like I had with Sunday Morning Harvest.  I knew I could lead and help people in my community, like in broadcasting, but in a different way.

At first glance, broadcasting and dentistry appear to be polar opposites. However, the fundamentals of broadcasting actually parallel that of dentistry in several ways. It was through many early mornings and countless hours of preparation in the studio that I realized my hard work and dedication to serving my community was making a difference in the lives of others. Through this realization, I discovered radio was not my passion but helping people and living a life devoted to serving others was my passion. In the studio, experiences that fueled my heart were simple moments—moments when an elderly woman called the station to talk about the weather or a teenager needed my guidance regarding a big decision. All of these experiences had one commonality: I was there to talk and guide each person.  

Through observing many dentists, I have learned this career displays just that. Dentistry is not simply eliminating dental caries; it is an investment in one’s community and most importantly, an investment in each patient’s life. Although the medium may be emphatically different – a microphone versus dental instruments – it was these moments that led me to pursue dentistry. 

Why did you choose University of Louisville School of Dentistry?

Through each interaction with the faculty and students at ULSD, my experiences during undergrad not only prompted me to apply, but to know with confidence that ULSD was everything I was looking for in a DMD program.

After attending the ULSD Introduction to Dentistry workshop, I was blown away by the passion and intentionality of every individual associated with the university.

For a small-town girl like me, I found myself looking for a school that cares not only about one’s success, but for them as an individual. I witnessed this from day one and continue to experience this individualism each time I set foot on campus.

The people and environment at ULSD, paired with the state-of-the-art facilities, exceptional reputation, and early clinic exposure, made me eager to apply and to become part of the family as a dental student.

The feeling of individualism has been confirmed as I’ve navigated my first semester at ULSD. Overall, I have no regrets in choosing ULSD and I have confidence it will continue to provide me with the people and resources to become a skilled, competent dentist.

How has your life experience prepared you to be a successful dentist after you graduate?

Many of my leadership positions during undergrad paved the way – because a dentist is someone who leads in their community. Through those leadership positions I have learned a lot about communication and how to lead people well. 

Additionally, how I’ve been raised has been an important factor. My parents have always valued being selfless and loving people. I think those are important characteristics for a dentist. No matter who someone is, you should always treat them with kindness.

During undergrad I shadowed a ULSD graduate, Dr. Scott Barbee, for around two semesters. He and his wife have a practice in Bowling Green. He took me under his wing and showed me so much more than just dentistry. There was one afternoon in particular when Dr. Barbee, his wife, and employees from the office took me out to lunch, and they allowed me to ask questions about all aspects of dentistry and how to thrive in this profession. That was a huge moment. I learned a great deal about the profession of dentistry, tips for dental school, and advice for running a practice. Looking back, the relationship I developed with Dr. Barbee and the opportunity to be mentored by such an outstanding person was such a gratifying experience. 

What were your first couple of weeks at ULSD like?

The first week was honestly wonderful, and I met incredible friends who have been my rock since day one. The faculty were also so inviting and helpful in those first few weeks, which really showed me how this university cares for me. It made me feel that how welcome I felt as an undergraduate has not changed. I feel at home here. I feel valued here. I feel important.

However, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It was definitely challenging coming from undergrad, but they helped us transition well and feel acclimated. I really appreciate all that the faculty and staff have done to help us with this big transition to professional school.

I love ULSD. This is where I wanted to go from the very beginning. I fell in love with it at a workshop and that love hasn’t stopped since I got here. Honestly, it’s continued to grow. 

What advice would you share with undergraduates considering a career in dentistry?

  • Use all of your resources. There are so many dental students who would love to help you and dentists who will mentor you throughout the process. It’s very important to use all resources to your advantage.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Stay organized.
  • Continue to work hard, but always remember you are so much more than grades. You are so much more than a DAT score. Who you are as a person and what you’re going to bring to the university is also important. Show them who you are and don’t be afraid to be yourself in interviews. To me, what makes a successful dentist is having a heart for others – and it’s so much more than what is on paper. 


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