to be a dentist and fly a plane?”
to practice dentistry on a fighter jet?”
to fix teeth in a war zone?”
quite anticipating the myriad of questions I received from friends and family
after I told them that I joined the U.S. Air Force and accepted a three-year
dental school scholarship.
friends’ questions were hilarious, the truth is this: After dental school, I
will not be flying a plane or practicing dentistry on a fighter jet. I will be safely
on the ground, helping members of the U.S. Air Force improve their oral and
overall health—and for that opportunity, I am honored.
You see, since
I decided to pursue dentistry as a career, I’ve had a thirst for serving the
public. My parents helped steer me in this direction—after all, my mom works
for the U.S. federal government, and my dad spent part of his career working
for our hometown’s parks and recreation department.
As I searched
for a way to give back to a country that has given me so much, I heard a lot of
wonderful things about serving as a health professional in the U.S. Air Force,
and I decided to pursue their Health Professions Scholarship Program. In exchange for a three-year dental
school scholarship, which pays for all tuition, fees, required expenses and a
monthly living stipend, I will serve as a dentist in the Air Force for three
years after graduation. I even have the opportunity to pursue further education
after dental school by completing a one-year Advanced Education in General
Dentistry (AEGD) residency at a U.S. Air Force base.
In my second
year of dental school, I commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. This
year, my final year of dental school, I am focusing on my regular day-to-day
dental school routine, as I have no commitments to the Air Force while
completing my education. After I graduate next May, I will attend a five-week commissioned
officer training program in Alabama before reporting to a base in the United
States for the one-year AEGD training. Following the residency, I will move to
a different base (either within or outside the United States) to complete my
three-year scholarship payback period. Therefore, my total active duty service commitment
after dental school is four years.
makes military dentistry a good option for a career (or at the very least, a
wonderful start to a career)?
Here are just
a few of the many reasons:
have a chance to serve your country by preparing
our men and women of the military for their duties around the world. Our
oral health is absolutely vital to our overall health, so the dental team is a
critical component to ensuring every military member is healthy and prepared.
have no (or very little) debt coming out
of dental school. In my case, I have student loans from my first year of
dental school, but they are extremely small in comparison to the $247,000 that the
average U.S. dental school graduate amasses
- You can see the world. After my one-year AEGD residency at
a U.S. base, I can choose to spend three years abroad working as a dentist
while paying back my scholarship.
- You are rewarded financially and
personally. During my
one-year AEGD residency, I will be paid as a full-time dentist while also
receiving free postgraduate education. Also, during my three-year active duty
service commitment, I will be paid as a full-time dentist and receive great
federal government benefits like health insurance and paid time off.
considering joining the military to help pay for dental school, I highly
recommend it. I have had a wonderful experience so far, and I’m looking forward
to what this part of my dental career has in store for me.
I know that
the education, training and experience I will receive with the U.S. Air Force
will be second to none, and I’m proud to have this opportunity to serve the
greatest country in the world.