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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 Whitney Yahn from Hemlock, Mich. The Foundation had the opportunity to chat with the recipient and would like to share some of her thoughts and inspirations regarding dentistry:

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

  • University of Michigan Dental School
  • Saginaw Valley State University – B.S. in Biology

Why did you want to become a dental professional?

It’s hard to say when I actually chose dentistry as a profession (probably sometime in high school), but I know that I never looked back after I chose it. As cliché as it sounds, I always wanted to have a career that allowed me to help people. Growing up and excelling in math and science, people always discuss how you should become a doctor. For me, dentistry just seemed more exciting. My mother is a pediatric dental hygienist, so dentistry was something I had a ton of exposure to. It offered science with an artistic twist, and a social aspect that came with the patient interactions that I didn’t see in medicine. Plus, it offered me the ability to help people, which was just what I was looking for.

Who inspired/mentored you along the way?

My mother, Vickie Yahn, was an obvious inspiration to me, being in the dental field herself. I saw how respected she was in her profession, as well as how her patients responded to her in such an affectionate way, which showed me how rewarding this career could truly be. My father, Daniel Yahn, although not a dental professional has also inspired me. It is moving to see someone who is so driven and excels at what they love. My father is very determined in his career and in all things that he is passionate about, and he is also a tremendous leader. I can learn so much from my parents, and they are most supportive family anyone could ask for as well. They have set me up for nothing but success and I appreciate everything they have done for me.

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

I once met a dentist who told me, “It is okay to be a dentist because that is what you want to be for yourself. If you think it is interesting, and it leaves you passionate and striving to learn more each day, then that in and of itself is a good enough reason to become a dentist.” I feel that was some excellent advice and I continue to feel that way about dentistry each day. I am privileged and blessed to have the opportunity to pursue such a rewarding career that I am so passionate about.

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

Shadow, shadow, shadow. While you will never truly know dentistry until you experience it yourself, shadowing can give you a head start into knowing what you like. It helps you to know that you are choosing the right career, but it also gives you a leg up when you begin your dental career. I know from just working a few years as an assistant in both an Oral Surgery and Endodontic office, a lot of the concepts of clinic practice came a lot easier and quicker for me than some of my classmates. It just helps to have seen some of the instruments before, heard some of the lingo, and watched other dentists work with their hands.

What do you enjoy the most about dentistry?

I really enjoy the patient interaction, both in the way that we have the privilege of helping people but also in the sense of the social aspect. Patients often really have very interesting stories to share, and sometimes they offer as much help to you as you have given to them. That’s the really fun part!

Can you share a story or experience that made you realize that dentistry was the right profession for you?

When I was in college and working as an Endodontic assistant, one day a man came into the office not realizing the procedure behind a root canal, and proceeded to ask the dentist to remove his tooth. He stated, “Just take it out Doc. What’s the point of keeping them anyway?” Listening to the dentist then explain all of his possible options as well as the reasons why keeping your natural teeth, if healthy enough, is so important, I knew that dentistry was the career for me. I didn’t really understand the implication of having your teeth extracted then, but after years of learning now, hearing that conversation means even more, and it has helped me to learn to empathize with my patients and then proceed to have informative yet understanding conversations with them.

Is there one procedure you enjoy the most?

For me, it is one of the simplest procedures that we learned first thing when we began dental school. I love to do direct restorations, or “drill and fill” as they say. Over my dental school career I have, however, learned that I like to work with children especially. I am very excited to pursue a career in pediatric dentistry where these two aspects of dentistry that I love the most come together. This is the patient population that I am most passionate about working with, but I will also get to spend a lot of time doing the procedures that I enjoy the most as well.

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

This scholarship has really helped me financially. Dental school is expensive! I hope to continue on with my education after I graduate from dental school, and I know I will continue to incur even more cost in furthering my education. This scholarship is coming at the perfect time, as specialty applications open in a couple months and this just adds to the cost of education.

Where do you see yourself in six months after graduation?

Six months after graduation, I hope to find myself happily placed in a pediatric dentistry residency program and enjoying every second of it. I am very excited to begin this potential new chapter following dental school.

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

Following graduation, I see myself in private practice treating pediatric and special needs patients. I potentially see myself practicing around my hometown; however I know that I will remain in the state of Michigan for sure.

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

I have attended the 2012 American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Annual Session in San Diego. I have also attended meetings of both the Washtenaw and Jackson District Dental Societies, as well as presented at a meeting of the Manistee-Mason District Dental Society.

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

I enjoyed attending the AAPD conference the most and meeting so many other knowledgeable people in the profession. It was interesting to network and converse with such a diverse group of people all interested in the same topic. I also enjoyed the vast array of topics that were presented at the conference. All of the topics were in an area I was interested in, so it was exciting to be able to choose the topics that interested me the most. It offered me insight into things I hadn’t learned in dental school, and in was being presented by experts in that area.

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 do see myself participating in organized dentistry. I feel that starting at the local level will be a good place to begin and get my feet wet. I grew up watching my mother participate in both local and state hygiene associations, and I definitely believe that is something that interests me. Also, when visiting the MDA building in my second year of dental school, I was exposed to the peer review system. After learning about this area, I was very interested and would love to participate in this aspect in some way someday.

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

Most of all, I especially enjoy spending time with family and friends. I love being surrounded by people, and time spent with family or friends is always fun. I can’t wait for warmer weather, as I love spending time on the water. I am very passionate about traveling as well, and love exploring the state of Michigan.

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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