Hae Jin (Esther) Yi

University of Hawaii at Manoa

  • Biology (BA) 2016

Although I was born in New York, I have grown up in Hawaii since the age of 6 and proudly consider it to be my home. Looking back, I realize that my upbringing within the culture of Hawaii combined with my education at UH Manoa, has played an incredibly large role in the development of my appreciation for cultural diversity, nature, art, and the sciences. The insights and experiences gained from being immersed in these areas have played a pivotal role in my pursuit of dentistry.

There is no questioning that Hawaii is the most diverse state in the nation, and so it also makes sense that UHM is one of the most diverse universities in the country. Attending such a school has undoubtedly fostered an appreciation and tolerance for other cultures within me. I truly believe it would have been difficult anywhere else, if not impossible, for me to take such a wide variety of cultural classes (Filipino food culture, Hawaiian studies, and Korean) anywhere else in the world…all within one university! Being immersed in the norms of each culture has helped me to become more skilled in understanding and working with people from varying backgrounds, which I’ve come to greatly appreciate as I work with patients from all walks of life. I truly believe I could not have gotten the same experience anywhere else.

I graduated from UHM in 2016 and am now attending the University of Washington School of Dentistry in Seattle as a second year dental student. I’ve spent my whole life growing up in the near perfect weather and scenery of Hawaii. Only after moving away, I’ve realized that my appreciation for nature and art is deeply rooted in the natural beauty that surround Hawaii. While growing in Hawaii, I developed my love for photography and hiking. I took art classes, dance classes, and music classes during my time at UH. I didn’t know it at the time, but now I realize that all of these seemingly unrelated hobbies have helped fine tune my visual acuity and hand skills that are required in dentistry. I’d like to say that I am one of a handful of students in my class who are comfortable with spatial awareness and working with our hands. I have no problem drilling a variety of design preparations into teeth, or creating an anatomically accurate denture, or restoring a tooth to match its original structure. I attribute a large portion of my educational success thus far to my time spent immersed within the beautiful scenery of Hawaii and how it inspired me to pursue the various art classes I’ve taken at UHM.

I was terrible in science during high school and was really discouraged from majoring in Biology in undergrad, but I said what the heck and decided to major in it anyways because I knew I wanted to be a health professional. During my first semester at UH, I took quite a heavy load of science courses: physics, biology, chemistry, math, and all of their corresponding lab classes. To my surprise, I did well in all of them! If anyone had told my high school self that I would graduate from UH with a summa cum laude with a major in Biology, I would have laughed. Introductory science courses are known for being these large impersonal lecture halls with hundreds of students and indifferent professors, but I can proudly say my experience at UH Manoa was different. Yes, my classes were still large and filled with hundreds of students, but the professors are what really helped my experience be a positive one. Of course I had a few professors here and there that were less than favorable, but for the large majority of my classes, my professors were incredibly passionate about teaching, open to students, and were motivated in making my learning experience be a positive one. Acing my first biology course had me hooked. I not only obtained a job within the College of Natural Sciences, but I also began TI’ing as a supplemental instructor for some of my favorite biology classes. With all of these experiences, I was becoming more immersed in the field of biology and learning things that were not taught in the classroom setting. I performed well on the sciences portion of the DAT (Dental Admission Test, a test needed for applying to dental schools) and had a plethora of items to include on my application as an added bonus. My time spent as a student, employee, and an instructor at UH played an instrumental role in my admission to dental school. 

I am a 2nd year dental student about to head into 3rd year in a few months, which means I will begin treating my very own patients! I am involved in student government as the Vice President of my class and I am also one of the directors for Husky Health Bridge, which is a non-profit organization that treats homeless patients in a mobile dental clinic throughout various locations in Seattle. For some fun at school, I still keep up with photography by taking images and creating videos for outreach events as that occur throughout the school. With all this going on, I still haven’t forgotten about my ties back home! I still keep in contact with the pre-dental club at UH Manoa and try to attend some meetings as an alumnus whenever I come back home.

All in all, my time at UH was an incredible one. I direct much of my success as a dental student and a future dentist to the unique, warm, and diverse learning environment of UH Manoa!


Content Type: 
Alumni Blog
Last Modified: 
06/27/2019 at 2:01pm