University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine
- Dental Surgery (Doctorate) 2014
University of Hawaii at Manoa
- Biology (BA) 2010
I finished high school knowing what I wanted to do as a career. I wanted to pursue dentistry, I just wasn’t sure which route I was going to take to get there. A native Coloradoan, I had always fantasized about the ocean and everything one can think about it; the sun, the fish, surfing, scuba. It was actually my mother that suggested I look into Hawaii, supposedly as a joke. Little did she know I would take her seriously. So, when I started my undergraduate degree at University of Hawaii at Manoa I always knew it would be a stepping-stone. I just didn’t realize how much my time there would shape my outlook on life forever.
One of the greatest experiences I ever had while attending UH Manoa was the Biology 403-Field Problems in Marine Biology, taught by Dr. Cynthia Hunter and assisted by Dr. Anuschka Faucci. Eight other students and I had the opportunity to live on Moku O Loe, AKA Coconut Island for the duration of the course. The purpose of the course was to collect data points for habitat conditions for two NOAA species of concern; Montipora dilatata and Lingula reevii, both of which are endemic to Kaneohe Bay. The intent was to create spatially predictive maps using distribution and abundance information to locate other areas in the world that these isolated species may exist. This was a phenomenal learning experience, but did I mention that we lived on a private island in Hawaii for 5 weeks, just a two minute walk from the ocean and our work was to snorkel all day and eat lunch on a sand bar in the middle of Kaneohe Bay? I guarantee I will never have such opulent accommodations again. While there, we also listened to lectures from world-renowned researchers on topics ranging from sea turtles to opihi. This experience was the first truly immersive educational endeavor I had ever participated in and will never forget it.
Attending school at Hawaii was certainly not all fun and games though. I remember one class in particular that really challenged me, and in the process changed my entire approach to academics and I think helped spur me forward to accomplish what I have academically. Dr. John Stimson taught Zoology 439-Animal Ecology. What made Dr. Stimson different from most other professors is that he expected you to know (and be able to apply) all pertinent information from ANY prerequisite that was required for the course without him reciting it. I specifically remember taking a test that asked a question about the fish carrying capacity of a specific algal bed, we were only given an equation that reflected the growth rate of said algal bed and a rate at which fish consumed the algae. I had no clue how to answer the question and my scores on that particular test reflected that. I spoke with Dr. Stimson during office hours and he very patiently explained to me that the carrying capacity question was actually quite simple; at one half the maximum algae concentration, the rate of change would be the greatest, leading to the maximal fish carrying capacity. This blew my mind, because it required knowledge of mathematics, not of ecology. This was the point in my education where I realized that thorough understanding of a subject was so much deeper than regurgitating what a professor has said in class. Taking this thought with me enabled me to further my education by leaps and bounds.
Since graduating from Manoa, I was accepted to and graduated from University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine with the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery. After graduation from dental school in 2014 I pursued a job Bethel, Alaska; a remote town in Western Alaska only accessible by boat or plane. There, I work for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation a partner with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. I provide general dental services to Bethel and it’s 56 surrounding villages. It is a very exciting place to work, traveling out to villages on 6-12 passenger planes, often taking off and landing on dirt runways that are covered in ice for much of the year. We are sometimes traveling for several weeks at a time.
Educationally and culturally speaking, moving out to western Alaska has been an incredible experience. The way of life is so different from what I grew up with, and certainly different that the island lifestyle. In retrospect, making the move to Hawaii for college was really the first step forward for the adventures that I have been so fortunate to experience. It made me comfortable with trying new things, meeting new people and living of life of asking myself “Why not?” instead of “Why?”
In summation, I can say with 100% certainty that I would not be where I am today without the experiences and education that I received at University of Hawaii at Manoa. There were times that the biology department was challenging, but it helped me grow and mature as a student and a person. I would highly encourage others to consider an education in the Life Sciences field, with special emphasis on attending at the beautiful Manoa campus.