New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry second-year dental student Mr. Edly Destine has an ironically sweet past: He once worked as a quality-control sugar chemist at the Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn, New York. He said he never seriously considered the humor in this until he completed Dr. Mark S. Wolff's cariology course recently at NYU.
"I thought about dentistry after majoring in chemistry at Bethel University in Tennessee, where I went to college on a soccer scholarship. But it was hard to think about affording dental school since my wife and I were settling down with our first child," says Mr. Destine.
It's been six years since Mr. Destine worked for Domino Sugar. Afterward he worked through the Archdiocese of New York in Harlem, teaching math and science to high school and middle school students. While he loved teaching, he still harbored dreams of becoming a dentist. The doors of opportunity opened when his parents relocated to the United States from Haiti several years ago and moved within a block of his Harlem apartment.
"Since this is a full-time program, I became a lot more comfortable knowing my parents could help out with the kids," says Mr. Destine. "It was the perfect time to jump in and finally do this." A partial scholarship from NYU helped to defray the cost of his dental education.
Mr. Destine and his wife, also of Haitian descent, have two children, ages 12 and 4. While his parents are recent immigrants, Mr. Destine, 33, came to the United States when he was 12 years old and was raised, along with his two younger siblings, by his grandparents.
"My whole goal is to support my family as a dentist and then to help others. I still have family in Haiti and you can only imagine what hell it's like there now," he says. "To be able to go down there someday as a health care professional is very important to me."
With all his family responsibilities, course work alone would be enough to fill this student's plate. However, his commitment to help other underrepresented students has led to active advocacy work on campus. Currently, Mr. Destine serves as Vice President of the NYU chapter of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA), which focuses on representing underserved populations.
"After I take my boards, I plan to go down to the Maryland shore area where a lot of Haitians have relocated since the earthquake," says Mr. Destine. "I want to help get health care screenings going down there."
Ms. Madiha Bhatti, NYU Assistant Director of Student Affairs and Diversity, said of Mr. Destine, "The fact that he has so much going on and he still wants to give back so much-really, when does he sleep?"