I stood on the stage in front of my fourth-grade class in a short white lab coat purchased especially for the occasion, with a mirror and a dental tool in my hands. “I want to be a Dentist and help people feel confident about their smile,” I told the class for our show-and-tell competition. Since I knew what a dentist was, I wanted to become one because of my admiration for the manual dexterity required for excellence. I excelled in high school arts and crafts, especially pottery, because I love using my hands and working with fine detail.
I became a certified nursing assistant in my sophomore year of high school. I was thankful for this early start in healthcare, especially working directly with patients and practicing my bedside manners. Later when I began to volunteer at a dental office, I found that many of the skills I had learned in nursing proved helpful in various areas, such as patient verification, sterilization of instruments, assisting in various procedures, poring models, and seating mouth appliances.
I was born in a renowned university hospital in Nepal, the B.P Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS) in Dharan, Nepal, where my father served as a professor of Orthodontics. I have always adored my father and considered him a role model. Thus, it feels like I have dentistry in my blood. Beginning at 6, I tagged along with him and observed as he provided treatment to patients. I had a malocclusion where my lower jaw was more anterior than my upper jaw, requiring complex treatment over several years. My father was my hero. Initially a refugee from Bhutan, he was awarded a chance to migrate to the USA with his family in 2011, and we jumped at the chance.
Rebuilding our lives in America was a dream come true, especially since my father, at 40, was admitted to and completed a program for international dentists at the University of Minnesota Dental School. Throughout the time that I was in middle school, I got to see my dad’s smile every day as he earned his DDS, and then later, as he began practicing, the sheer joy in his eyes, his triumph of service.
Upon entering college, I began a pre-dental track. Soon, I got a chance to shadow Dr. ____. Her practice was in an underprivileged area of Columbus, Ohio. In a single day, I got to observe several different procedures, including fillings, root canals, cleaning, and crown preps. I was amazed by her versatility and how she made her patients comfortable. After my first shadowing day, I began to volunteer regularly all summer and during other school breaks throughout the school year. In this way, I rapidly became familiar with many different aspects of dentistry, from patient interaction to the business side of owning a practice. Every day patients came in with a variety of problems, whether it was pain or primarily a cosmetic issue, and I thrived on the diversity of both the patients and their issues.
One of the most memorable experiences that I had at Dr. ____’s practice was when an 18-year-old girl came into the clinic with a chipped front tooth which had made her feel very self-conscious for a long time. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to fix it because she was in pain with another tooth that needed to be treated immediately. After attending the dental emergency, the doctor decided to fix her chipped front tooth for free. I was mesmerized to see this girl transformed in every way in minutes, with her joy and self-confidence. As I watched her walk out of her appointment with a big smile, I flashed back to the 4th grade and my speech for a show-and-tell about how I wanted to be a dentist someday because I wanted to make people smile.
My father currently practices dentistry and supports me every step of the way. We dream of starting a family clinic once I finish dental school, catering in particular to Asians, Indians, Nepalese, and others, making a special effort for outreach that addresses the oral health issues of Asians in our community. My father and I share the same joy and excitement about the prospect of being able to help those who cannot afford to pay for dental services, and we brainstorm with frequency about how we hope to address this situation in our community.
I thank you for considering my application to dental school.