Harrison Waddell

First Impression - Predental

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Chapter: BYU-Idaho

Graduation Year: 2018


Why do you want to be a dentist?
I’ve had many experiences throughout my life that have led me to pursue dentistry. One in particular experience that stood out to me was on a recent dental humanitarian trip to San Martin Jilotepeque in Guatemala. While there I had the opportunity to work and assist in a small remote pop-up clinic. I worked chairside with the doctors, while also working as a Spanish-English translator. The need for dental care is very different there. Our clinic’s primary focus was on serving the children of this and other nearby villages. Many children had never seen a dentist, and this was very evident. Many were experiencing such great pain and discomfort that it prevented them from eating.  

One child in particular made a lasting impression on me. She was 14 and both of her maxillary central incisors had undergone extreme decay; because of this, she dealt with a lot of pain and embarrassment from the appearance of her smile. Several dentists reviewed her case and were unsure if the teeth would be able to be saved. Extraction may have been the only option, leaving this girl without two front teeth for the rest of her life. Fortunately, after about an hour and a half of work, Dr. Karen Weliky was able to restore her teeth to near-perfection while I assisted chairside. I was instructed to hand the girl a mirror so that she may look at her newly reconstructed teeth for the first time. She immediately broke down and began to cry, relieved that the painful decay was gone, and amazed at the beauty of her new smile. Through tears she turned to me and said “Thank you so much, you two have changed my life forever this day. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I didn’t feel that the gratitude should’ve been aimed towards me, I did very little that day. I’m sure she turned to me simply because I also speak Spanish and could understand her. But to be a witness to Dr. Weliky’s work and to see a life changed so dramatically in the space of a few short minutes will resonate with me forever. I want to be that agent of change in someone else’s life. I want to help anyone and everyone that I can. For me, there is nothing more rewarding in this life than that, and that is why I want to be a dentist.

What are you most nervous about for dental school?
Time management. I always hear that from current dental students. Being able to balance the busy schedule of being a dental student with the requirements of normal life. School, family and self-health are all vital components of a successful life, without which we cannot help others around us. Finding that balance in dental school will be difficult but also rewarding.

Why do you think you’ll make a good dentist?
Dentistry is a perfect combination of my talents and passions. I’ve left the possibility of being a freelance artist, not because I didn’t think I could be successful and make a comfortable living, but because I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to unselfishly serve others throughout my life. I want to help people. All people, regardless of status, race or living conditions. I’m passionate about the work and I have seen dentistry change and save lives. Dentistry is so much more than teeth, it’s about personal connection and the pursuit of the relief of human suffering. Dentistry is not a career for me, it’s the pathway to a happy and fulfilling life.


Share one thing on your bucket list:
(Dental-related) – Serve over 10,000 patient in volunteer clinics throughout the world.
(Non-dental related) – Hike to Everest Base Camp