Daniel graduated from the College of Liberal Arts with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology, Society, and Environment in May 2014. He is currently a third year Doctor of Dental Surgery student at the University of Minnesota.
What led you to this profession?
Dentistry has always been a part of my life, as my father is a General Practice Dentist and my older brother is currently in an orthodontic residency. I jokingly tell people that I was brainwashed as a kid by my dad into going into dentistry, which is partially true because I was always around it. I had great role models show me all of the great aspects of being a dentist and how much you can positively impact the lives of your patients. It has been a great decision. I get to put my passion for science and my love of working with my hands into practice everyday to help my patients with their dental needs.
What experiences did you have that confirmed your choice of profession?
I had a lot of different volunteering experiences, but what really solidified my choice of dentistry was my time spent shadowing/assisting at a local dentist's office as an undergraduate. I was able to follow around the dentist in his daily routine and get a first hand experience of what it was like to work within the dental profession. Seeing the dentist help each one of his patients by removing their pain really helped confirm that dentistry was the profession for me.
What is your advice for current CLA students interested in a health care career?
The best advice I could give to current CLA students would be to go out and get involved in the things that mean the most to you. That could be volunteering at the local food shelf, helping an elderly neighbor with their lawn care, offering your time to help an organization, or even something like being a Welcome Week Leader here at the UMN in the fall. It is through these experiences that you can really find what it is that defines you as a person and which professions may align with those passions. These experiences also help you find your own personal strengths and grow as a person. Not to mention they are great for talking about in personal statements, interviews, letters of intent, etc. These types of extracurricular activities always helped to drive me towards my goal by reminding me how important it is to give back and help others.
If you are on the fence about whether or not you may want to pursue a career within the health professions, I would say the best way to find out is to get immersed in that profession through shadowing or volunteering. Find someone who is currently working in that career and ask them questions. From my experience there are tons of great resources available to you, and the experience gained will be able to help you decide one way or the other rather quickly.
Describe your involvement with extracurriculars during your undergraduate years, and how they helped prepare you for your current role.
One of my most beneficial roles was being a Welcome Week Leader (WWL) for the first year students. I not only learned how to connect and interact with many different people who came from different backgrounds than myself, but I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that I really enjoy interacting with people on a day to day basis and knew that this was important for whatever profession I headed into. Aside from being a WWL, I also was a teaching assistant, a tutor, held various roles within the Pre-dental Club on campus, and volunteered with organizations from my hometown.
What obstacles have you encountered, and how did you overcome them?
One thing that was difficult during undergrad was finding time for everything that I needed and wanted to do. This included staying on top of all of my assignments, studying for exams, finding time to volunteer and research, tutoring and staying connected with my friends as much as possible. It can feel like a real circus act, but it is possible. I personally found it helpful to set aside a certain amount of time each week for my "extra" activities (volunteering/researching/etc.), even if it was only a half hour some weeks. I enjoyed those activities and used them as a weekly reminder as to why I was working so hard to get where I wanted to be.
I had many people help encourage me to continue to pursue my goal throughout undergrad. Both my CLA advisor and my Biology, Society, and Environment advisor were key to achieving my goal and graduating on time. They had great advice on classes to take and things to think about to help me enter into grad school.