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The Michigan Dental Association Foundation proudly presents a recipient of the 2012-13 Academic year, Michigan Dental Association Foundation Mitus Scholarship, to David Coviak from Grand Rapids, Mich. The Foundation had the opportunity to chat with the recipient and would like to share some of his thoughts and inspirations regarding dentistry:

Where do you go to school, which schools have you attended on your journey to becoming a dental professional?

I am finishing my third year at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. I completed my BS at the University of Michigan in 2008 prior to the two years I spent working in information technology at Clemson University.

Why did you want to become a dental professional?

I have known I wanted to be a healthcare provider since the day long ago, perhaps while I was in middle school, when I gave up on my dream of becoming an astronaut or marine biologist. My interest in healthcare evolved to interest in dentistry while volunteering in the hospital and encountering many individuals with advanced decay. In dentistry, I discovered a profession that allows the provider to not only improve health, but also improve the social aspects that shape our patients’ lives. By restoring a beautiful, healthy smile we can not only relieve pain and disease, but also positively impact the way the world views our patients.

Who inspired/mentored you along the way?

I would never be where I am today without the love, support, and positive examples of my parents, Ken and Cindy. Professionally, I would like to thank Drs. Paul Krebsbach and Dan Edwards for their encouragement and advice throughout the past three years.

What is the best advice you have been given while in the pursuit of your career?

“Don’t just look at the #&% tooth.” – Dr. Joseph Helman. Our patients are not sets of teeth waiting to be reassembled, they are human beings with conditions and needs from head to toe. When a patient presents with unexplained tooth pain, yes, he or she may have decay that is irritating the pulp; but, when his or her neck has a noticeable firm nodule, this patient may have much more serious needs. Like Dr. Helman says, don’t just look at the teeth.

What advice can you give to students thinking about pursuing a career in dentistry?

Don’t expect your patients to love you. Don’t expect them to understand … anything. Expect to work hard and give them your best. Educate them well and hope that at the end of the day they saw the benefit you provided to them, because there is no better feeling than when they do.

What do you enjoy the most about dentistry?

I most enjoy doing what either the patient or I thought was impossible. My best moments have been saving teeth patients thought needed to be extracted and delivering attractive, well-fitting dentures in cases where I did not think great outcomes would result. Every day brings new challenges and it is incredibly rewarding to overcome them.

Is there one procedure you enjoy the most?

I am happiest in the oral surgery clinic while extracting teeth. There is a point when you are extracting a tooth when you can feel the PDL give way and you know the tooth is ready to come out and the patient’s pain will be gone forever — those are great moments.

How has winning the Michigan Dental Association Foundation Scholarship helped you?

Dental school is expensive — this is not news. I know the investment I make will yield great rewards, but I am grateful to be attending a top tier public school that represents an exceptional value. Nonetheless, the costs quickly add up and my fourth year will present numerous additional expenses, from NERB registration fees to application fees and, hopefully, travel costs for interviews at multiple oral and maxillofacial surgery residency programs.

There is a point, somewhere between $200,000 and the total cost of a dental education today, where the Department of Education will not provide additional standard Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans. The MDAF scholarship represents additional Grad PLUS loans that I will not have to bear at 7.9 percent interest. The eventual value that I will realize from not borrowing this money will greatly exceed the amount awarded, due to the effects of long-term capitalized interest and income tax on repayment. Every dollar counts and I cannot express how thankful I am for this support from the MDA Foundation.

Where do you see yourself in 6 months after graduation?

I envision myself (with tired eyes) trying to survive intern year of an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency.

Where do you see yourself in three/10 years after graduation?

In 10 years, I hope to be establishing myself as a partner in a specialty group practice, teaching as an adjunct clinical professor, being active in the community, and starting a family.

Have you attended any local, state or national dental meetings?

This will be my first experience at a state dental meeting. I have, however, taken part in multiple regional dental meetings and, through my leadership position in ASDA, was fortunate enough to attend a Washtenaw District Dental Society meeting earlier this year.

If so, what did you enjoy about attending the meeting? If no, why not?

Dentistry can be lonely, and it is nice to be reminded that others have already faced the same challenges we face daily. I most enjoyed interacting with other professionals and discussing challenges I am facing.

Do you see yourself participating in organized dentistry, serving on a committee on either a national, state or local level? If so which one interests you?

I absolutely plan on participating in organized dentistry. I have a strong interest in teaching an mentoring recent graduates and hope to become involved with the New Dentist Committee. I want to help them enact habits and policies that will prepare them for immediate success in private practice. It frustrates me that new dentists continue to make the same mistakes that dentists have for years, and I want to steer organized dentistry into a more proactive role.

What do you like to do beyond dentistry (hobbies, talents, etc.)?

Outside of dentistry, I live to play and watch sports. I play on multiple adult ice hockey teams and participate in intramural sports whenever possible. I have season tickets for U-M football, basketball, and ice hockey games, and I cannot stand to miss seeing them on television while on the road. I enjoy boating and swimming during the summer months, and snowboarding in winter.

Thank you for a glimpse into the life of a Michigan Dental Association Foundation Mitus Scholarship recipient. Your hard work and efforts are clearly demonstrated. You will be an asset to the dental profession.

The Michigan Dental Association Foundation awards scholarships annually to dental, dental hygiene and dental assisting students. We believe that the people of Michigan deserve exceptional oral health professionals. All scholarships are given to Michigan residents attending Michigan universities and colleges. The Michigan Dental Association Foundation is devoted to becoming the philanthropic leader of the oral health community in order to fund student scholarships, provide oral health initiatives and access to care.

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