Asian Dental School Success Story, Fishing Village in Malaysia to Dentist in America

Updated: Aug 27

I was born and raised in a fishing village in Malaysia until the age of 20 when I moved to the United States four years ago. Over the course of the last four years, I have completely immersed myself in English and American society and culture, and now feel very much a part of our very multicultural society. I feel strongly that my origins will help me to become a humble, compassionate dentist. My humble beginnings will translate into my profound passion to help the underserved, recent immigrants who occupy the sectors of our society that are most vulnerable. I clearly understand how language barriers and poverty can often hinder people from getting medical or dental assistance; thus, as a practicing dentist, I will provide free translation and insurance application service once I realize the dream of owning and operating my own clinic.

I currently also work as a hospice volunteer. Recently, one of my patients said to me: "I wish I could take you with me to heaven..." I tried to remain stoic and continued giving her massage therapy on her purplish left hand, trying to hide the fact that I was sobbing softly, deep inside. My patient’s eyes were so soothing, despite being drenched as they were by the pain of chronic cancer and loneliness. It was not until my third visit that she let me into her house to be with her. During this time she proceeded to let me into her heart by telling me the most intimate stories of her life. I am glad that I did not give up on her and had the opportunity to comfort her just before she passed away. This represents one of the crowning achievements of my life of which I am most grateful and proud. As I see it, this experience speaks to the determination that I will bring to dental school, always going that extra mile.

I have proven my strong determination to noble ideals by excelling in my studies, even winning college writing competitions. I was a motivational speaker at college events, one of which was a scholarship reception at the residency of the President of the College of Staten Island. In my speeches, I often suggest that poverty should not and does not necessarily have to hinder success. My own perseverance has been indelibly instilled in me by my father - a fisherman and my principal role model. Despite rampant piracy and destructive typhoon seasons on the Straits of Malacca, he continued to go fishing to support a family of six. Right after his night shifts, he often had to sacrifice his sleep to drive me to my sponsored orthodontics treatments at the closest dental clinic an hour away from our village. The sound of his old motorbike on the way to the clinic always admonished me to fight for a better quality of life for my family someday. Becoming a dentist is not only a personal aspiration, but also a great source of pride for a fisherman's daughter and a first generation immigrant from Malaysia.

Primarily as a result of my own orthodontics treatment, I decided to pursue my career in dentistry. I like the way that dentistry takes advantage of my greatest abilities or gifts such as empathizing with others, and my commitment to help people. Dentistry also incorporates my passion for multi-disciplinary studies and fine art in small spaces. As a multi-disciplinary student of computer programming, biology and business, I learned to present my research findings to people from many different fields. This effective communication skill can also be critical to explaining dental procedures to patients. In my professional position as a Dental Assistant I am especially fond, for example, of using the Minnesota retractor, a tool used to hold the patient's mouth open. This was the first dental instrument that was introduced to me by Dr. XXXX on my first day on the job. The retractor allowed me to look into a patient's mouth for the first time and greatly opened my horizons in dentistry. I sometimes call the X-ray room Disneyworld and tell the kids to pretend to be Anna and to stay frozen until I pressed the X-ray button in order to soothe and distract them with their best-loved story from the movie Frozen.

Although I detest pirates since they once besieged my father’s fishing boat, I found myself sewing a pirate doll with my hospice patient. Impending death did not prevent my patient from making the pirate doll with me, the pirates did not deter my dad from fishing in the ocean, and nothing will discourage me either from my dream of becoming a dentist.   

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