Why do you want to be a dentist? I originally chose dentistry because, as every pre-dent would say, I wanted to “help people.” Having stable dental and orthodontic care growing up changed my life, and “helping people” is still my primary--if not oversimplified--focus. However, at this point in my dental career, I’m now focused on advocating for system-wide reforms that will improve the way we deliver care to patients.
What do you think is the most vital quality in a leader? I would argue empathy is the most essential leadership quality. My brand of leadership is collaborative and involves elevating the voices of those who have historically been left without a microphone, thus inclusive leadership requires a leader that can relate to the life experiences of even the most dissimilar group members.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in dental school so far? Being good at drilling isn’t enough; treating underlying disease isn’t even enough. A patient-centered approach is long overdue in dentistry, meaning we need to begin centering patient experiences and considering the underlying social factors that heavily influence the way patients access (or don’t) the care we hope to provide. We miss so much by failing to look outside of the mouth.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done? It may seem inconsequential to some, but I think the process of self discovery and numerous “comings-out” I’ve endured has been the bravest and most impactful thing I’ve done for myself. Choosing personal happiness while accepting the relentless social stigma and discrimination that accompanies it is not a choice queer folks take lightly, but I’d make the same choice for myself a hundred times over.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? My dad has plenty of advice to share. One of my favorites is “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” I have lots I hope to accomplish with my platform but I also need constant reminders to slow things down a bit and enjoy the ride.