D1 Stories: Mark

Hometown: Lexington, KY Undergraduate: University of California San Diego

Why did you choose a career in dentistry?

Originally, I wanted to do medical, however during an internship in which I did many clinical rotations around different areas of a hospital, I decided medicine was not my calling. When I started volunteering in student-run dental clinics, I gained an appreciation and passion for dentistry. I also love working with my hands and being able to create something out of nothing (or what people may perceive as nothing).

Why did you choose University of Louisville School of Dentistry?

I wanted to move closer to home. The military took me away from home for good amount of time. I missed my nieces and nephews growing up and lots of family moments. I am a family-oriented person, so that is a big factor to me. Also, I believe the ULSD is a good program. I am still a UK fan, though. C-A-T-S CATS! CATS! CATS!

How do you think your military experience has prepared you for dental school and a career in dentistry?

I enlisted back in 2009 and did 4 years active and 2 years reserve. I went because I felt like I was going nowhere in my life at the time. I barely graduated high school (had to do night classes), didn't have any structure nor help figuring out the next parts of my life. I just knew I wanted to go to college eventually or find a way to better myself. I joined the Air Force because the Army and Marine recruiters weren't at the office when I knocked. Glad it worked out that way.

[In the Air Force], I learned leadership, discipline, resiliency, self-accountability, and teamwork. I know what a good and bad leader looks like. I understand the importance of making sure the team feels appreciated and valued. I understand the importance of having a good morale. I understand that you must sacrifice at times. I understand you can't live your life making excuses. I understand that you must put the patient's quality of life as the priority, service before self. Military gave me the structure and backbone.

All those character traits and structure will allow me to value everyone around me, patients or staff, and make time for my family.

What were your first couple of weeks at ULSD like?

Hectic. Learning how to keep up and study is challenging. I feel like once I master studying, I'll find time to do the things I enjoy.

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

Shadow. Make sure this is what you want to do, because it is not easy. Understand that it is a lifelong learning experience. In undergrad, don't be afraid to take difficult courses. Learn how to study effectively. Do the best you can in the dental prerequisites. Take anatomy and learn it well. Enjoy your free time. Practice time management skills. Develop organizational skills.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Being a first-generation college student, and now the first professional student in my family, is a major honor. My goal is to continue to grow and inspire. Being a black dentist is also an honor, especially coming from my background. I truly feel like if I can make it this far, then anyone can.

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