After studying mechanical engineering as an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University and working for nearly five years at a commercial insurance company, Rachel took some time out to re-examine her goals for the future—and found herself leaning in a completely different direction. “I realized that I love working with my hands, being creative, and developing long-term relationships with people, and I wasn’t doing any of those things,” she says. “After a thorough evaluation of my desires for my career, and consultation with my family dentist, I made the decision to apply to dental school.”
A native Philadelphian, Rachel felt fortunate that a school with Penn Dental Medicine’s reputation was located “right in my backyard,” but the feeling she got when she toured the campus really sealed the deal. “I remember feeling an air of professionalism at Penn that was not present at other schools, and that sold me,” Rachel says.
Once enrolled, Rachel discovered another huge selling point: “One thing that impressed me is the support provided by Penn Dental Medicine to its students. I’ve seen the faculty and administration show in so many ways that they truly care about students, from being flexible about test schedules to constantly asking for feedback on classes, even to inviting students to lunch with the Dean.”
Looking for a way to do her own part in maintaining that supportive atmosphere, Rachel soon became involved with the Student National Dental Association (SDNA), an organization primarily focused on enhancing the experience of minority students. For Rachel, who is biracial, the group has provided an opportunity both to celebrate her diversity and to support other students with similar backgrounds. “It has allowed me to mentor disadvantaged and underrepresented students, including those like myself who are making a career change,” she says.
Rachel has always been interested in serving an underserved community, and coming to Penn Dental Medicine has provided many experiences that have furthered that goal. Through Bridging the Gaps, a summer community service program offered to Penn Dental Medicine students, she was placed at a local Head Start site, where she helped children learn proper oral hygiene. After earning her DMD, she hopes to complete a general dentistry residency program that will allow her to provide services and education to underserved patients. “The myriad of experiences Penn Dental Medicine has provided through daily clinical work, community service opportunities, and Community Oral Health classes and rotations have only enhanced my desire to give back,” she says.
“I’ve seen the faculty and administration show in so many ways that they truly care about students.”Rachel Callaway