Over 400 potential students came to the 2010 ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition to hear what dental school is like, get admissions tips from health advisors from the mid-Atlantic region, and visit with more than 30 schools from across the country.
"I found out about this fair from a colleague of mine. She lives in the area ... so I flew up and [am] attending also," said Demetria Wilkes, a registered dental hygienist from Ottawa, Tennessee, who is thinking about going back to school to become a dentist.
The highlight for many students was the chance to hear from a panel of four speakers who spoke about obstacles they overcame to become dental students. "I found the panelist discussion very helpful and informative. It was kind of inspiring and, I am sure, very helpful to a lot of people who were listening to it - to hear the different backgrounds that were coming into the field of dentistry," reflected Ramona Ghods, a post-baccalaureate student from George Mason University.
Each of the four speakers reflected on his or her struggles and how - because they knew dentistry was their passion - they were determined to succeed. One of the gripping speeches detailed the determination that carried John McElveen from imprisonment, lack of resources, and illiteracy to holding a doctorate of pharmacy degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and currently finishing his third year at Howard University College of Dentistry. After spending time in juvenile detention and hearing from a judge who didn't believe he could make it out of the system, McElveen went on to complete high school after dropping out in ninth grade. Later, after his cousin taught him to read, he passed the ACT college entrance exam.
In his third year of pharmacy school McElveen's biggest supporter, his grandmother, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Working 40 hours a week to support her while attending school, McElveen was on the verge of dropping out. It was then that he met a pediatric dentist who ignited a passion he had never felt before. He began volunteering at a dental clinic, went on to take the DAT, and was accepted into each of the five schools he applied to. "It doesn't matter where you come from, just that you're determined in your life," said McElveen. When asked how the people who doubted him react to his success, he stated they are simply "shocked and amazed."
"It really opened my eyes about things that I can do and - coming from [a] disadvantaged background - it's good to meet other people who have been through things," said Justin Gist, a junior predental student at Old Dominion University.
Prior to the career fair, Dr. Leo E. Rouse, Dean of the Howard University College of Dentistry and 2010-11 ADEA President-elect, explained the many different opportunities available in dentistry. "I enjoyed the introduction where the Dean of Howard University dental school explained his story and gave background on the dentistry field. He spoke of the different types of dentistry, which gave me an overall understanding of all aspects of dentistry," said Briana James, a senior at Bowie High School. "After this experience, I have a clear understanding of dentistry, dental schools, and careers in this field. This valuable information will assist me as I decide on a career in dentistry."
"I enjoyed my time, and it was well worth my time. I would recommend anybody who has a serious passion about dentistry just come out and find out more about the things that are going on here," said Gist.