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The Michigan Dental Association Foundation proudly presents a recipient of the 2012-13 Academic year, Michigan Dental Association Foundation Nolen Scholarship, to Kathryn Swanson from Rochester, Mich. The Foundation had the opportunity to chat with the recipient and would like to share some of her thoughts and inspirations regarding dentistry:

Where do you go to school, which schools have you attended on your journey to becoming a Dental Professional?

I currently attend the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. I attended U of M for undergrad also and have been a proud Michigan Wolverine since 2006.

Why did you want to become a dental professional?

I had not thought about a career in dentistry until after my freshman year of college. I entered undergrad wanting to be a pediatrician. After experiences I had in Ecuador with my young students suffering from dental pain that distracted them from their studies, I sought out more information regarding a career in pediatric dentistry.

Who inspired/mentored you along the way?

With a new career in dentistry in mind, I contacted my previous employer in high school Dr. Paul VanRaaphorst who encouraged me to pursue a career in dentistry. He introduced me to a local woman dentist in Rochester who gave me further encouragement. I shadowed a local pediatric dentist during undergrad named Dr. Raymond Maturo whose mentorship established my interest in continuing my pursuit of a career in pediatric dentistry.

What is the best advice you have been given while in the pursuit of your career?

I have always turned to my oldest sister Megan for life advice. During undergrad I would feel stressed about studying and a grade I was not happy with occasionally. She would tell me to continue working hard and to not worry about one grade here and there because it is the big picture that matters. By working hard in school and extracurricular activities I would be successful.

What advice can you give to students thinking about pursuing a career in dentistry?

I can tell them that it will not be easy and there will be moments when you wonder why you are putting yourself through this trouble while it seems like your other friends have more free time and are actually making money. I know it will be worth it in the end for me because I love what I’m doing everyday. Each day presents new challenges, but doing good for your patients and successfully navigating these challenges gives me a rewarding feeling daily that reminds me I’m in the right career.

What do you enjoy the most about dentistry?

I like that with every patient there is a goal to be met and this goal is attainable. I feel the most successful as a dental student when I complete a treatment plan with a patient and he is very happy with the results. In this process I have developed a wonderful personal relationship with him or her that makes it even more rewarding to see the excitement the patient shows during and after treatment.

Can you share a story or experience that made you realize that dentistry was the right profession for you?

I think you cannot really know that dentistry is the right profession for you until you start doing dentistry on patients. I realized dentistry was right for me after finishing a cleaning on a patient at the beginning of my D2 year. The patient told me she has never had a better cleaning in her life. Whether or not this is actually true, it still made me feel great because it was my first time practicing any kind of dentistry on a patient, and she could not have given me a better compliment.

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I enjoy doing restorative work on children the most. I want to be a pediatric dentist in the future and enjoy the rare opportunity I have to do this. I have the most fun doing dentistry on children, and it has extra challenges that make it that much more rewarding for me.

How has winning the Michigan Dental Association Foundation Scholarship helped you?

This scholarship is helping me by giving me extra funds to travel and participate in externships. I was accepted at Columbia’s externship program and spent a week there during our spring break. I will be traveling to UCLA this May also.

Where do you see yourself in six months after graduation?

After graduation I hope to be practicing pediatric dentistry at a residency program.

Where do you see yourself in three/10 years after graduation?

Three years after graduation I hope to be a recent graduate from a pediatric residency program and establishing my place in a private practice. Ten years post-graduation I plan on either owning a practice or practicing in a group practice. I also hope to have a young family and enjoying traveling and hobbies with them.

Do you see yourself participating in organized dentistry, serving on a committee on either a national, state or local level? If so which one interests you?

I would like to be involved in organized dentistry in the future beginning at the local level and possibly working my way to the national level. I have always been very involved member of clubs. I am currently the VP for the AAPD and AAWD UM student chapters. I hope to be involved in both of these associations as a practicing dentist also.

What do you like to do beyond dentistry (hobbies, talents, etc.)?

I am an avid runner and practice yoga regularly. I like to participate in at least one running race every year, including the Dexter-Ann Arbor half-marathon, Big House Big Heart, or the Crim. I have yet to do a full marathon, but aspire to run one at some point. I have played volleyball since seventh grade and still play on occasion. I am looking to join an adult league so I can start playing more.

Thank you for a glimpse into the life of a Michigan Dental Association Foundation Nolen Scholarship recipient. Your hard work and efforts are clearly demonstrated. You will be an asset to the dental profession.

The Michigan Dental Association Foundation awards scholarships annually to dental, dental hygiene and dental assisting students. We believe that the people of Michigan deserve exceptional oral health professionals. All scholarships are given to Michigan residents attending Michigan universities and colleges. The Michigan Dental Association Foundation is devoted to becoming the philanthropic leader of the oral health community in order to fund student scholarships, provide oral health initiatives and access to care.

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