Knowing the drill

Hands-on, ahead of schedule

Unlike some people, UIndy senior MaKayla Reid does not cringe at the sound of a dentist’s drill. That may be because Makayla dreams of one day being behind the drill, not in front of it. MaKayla spent the summer of 2011 at the Dental School of New Jersey as part of the Gateway Program.

The program is available only to undergraduates who aren’t sure about dental school. The intensive program covers all of the dental specialties—and lets students experience what it’s really like to be a dentist. The students get to do things even first-year dental students don’t, like a root canal simulation. The program emphasizes the goal of giving the best service possible.

“Dentists are perfectionists,” MaKayla explains, “because if they mess up, they’ll have a mouthful of problems.”

Making the cut

More than 400 students from far and wide applied for the experience. MaKayla was one of only 30
who were accepted. The applica-tion process required a letter of recommendation, a transcript, and a personal statement of why the applicant wanted to be there and how many hours they had spent observing a dentist.

At the time she applied, MaKayla had already racked up more than 50 hours with dentists, and her UIndy transcripts boasted a 3.78 grade point average (on a 4-point scale). Along with her work in the Dental School lab, she also had classes every day from 9 to 5. MaKayla took classes on such topics as comparative anatomy, prosthodontics, and periodontics. Most lectures also included hands-on activities, such as taking impressions, trimming, and root canal simulations.

“I gained so much confidence from this summer. Just getting in was such a confidence booster for me. I never wanted to leave the clinic, and I couldn’t wait to go back in the morning!”

UIndy president Beverley Pitts is known for encouraging students to “do good with what you know.” That suits MaKayla just fine.

After freshman year, she’d pondered what she wanted to be doing in 10 years. She knew she wanted a medical career. But she also hopes to have children someday—and still have time to do volunteer work.

A reason to smile

She realized that it’s almost impossible to do volunteer work as a doctor, but that, as a dentist, she could own her own practice and have flexible hours. That’d enable her to take pro bono cases (work done for free as a public service).

“One day last summer while I was shadowing Dr. Fisher, a family came in,” MaKayla says. “They’d lost their health care and didn’t want to pay for a root canal. Dr. Fisher cut the price in half and gave them a special payment plan so the single mother wouldn’t have to choose between her family and her health.

“That experience really had an impact on me. It showed me there are still good doctors in the world.”

Following Dr. Fishers’ example, MaKayla wants to work in a rural setting because such areas often don’t have enough dentists. Her ultimate goal, she says, is to establish a practice and then, twice a year, host a free clinic for a couple days to help anyone who needs it.

“Even in kindergarten I knew I wanted to help people, no matter what I did for a career,” MaKayla says. “And I’m blessed to say that’s still true today.”

— Jason Keggereis ’13