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My journey through Juniata’s pre-dental program

Madison Wrightstone ’23

I tend to get one of two reactions whenever I tell people I want to be a dentist. The first being some variation of, “I could never put my hands in someone’s mouth!” or “Mouths are so gross; I have no idea why you would want to do that.” The second is some reference to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Hermey saying “I want to be a dentist.” (shout out to you, Dad). Since the 7th grade, I have had my mind set on being a dentist, and the path Juniata has taken me on is one that continues to turn this goal into a reality.

A unique component of Juniata’s pre-health professions program is specialized advising from summer orientation before your freshman year. As a pre-dental student, I was matched with an adviser who specializes in pre-dental advising, making it easier for my advising sessions to be personalized to me. As a student in health professions, you have an adviser specifically for this, as well as a general adviser outside of your designated POE to help you incorporate a holistic approach into your education and help you include your other passions into your academics. From your first day of classes, you are immediately introduced to the entry-level science courses you will need for professional school. With small class sizes, it is easy to seek out help from your professors in class and build personal relationships with them.

As a way of preparing for the not-so-distant future, both the health professions committee and the student run health professions organization (HPO) do everything possible to set up its students for success. From (now virtual) open houses, to information sessions, to resume and application building workshops, there are a variety of resources to take advantage of spanning a wide range of specialties, including occupational therapy, veterinary medicine, and PA (physician assistant).

One of the most critical pieces in my journey, yet one of the most tabooed topics in health professions, is the concept of imposter syndrome. During my freshman year, I had a major case of this, and it was not uncommon for me to feel like I was not cut out for anything I had been dreaming of for so long. This feeling is not something that necessarily ever goes away because I am sure we all feel a little bit like imposters at some point in our lives, but it is something that you can lessen by leaning on those around you. It is okay to rely on your friends, classmates, professors, coaches, teammates, and your family when things become a little too heavy to carry on your own. The people and community you have access to at Juniata make this journey one you want to share with others. Your journey is one you cannot do alone and learning to open up and accept the help others have to offer you is just as fundamental to your success as raw talent or intelligence.

As a sophomore in college, it is mind-blowing to me to look back and see how quickly my first year and a half of college has flown by. From my very first visit to Juniata as a senior in high school, I was immediately overwhelmed by not only the liberal arts atmosphere or how friendly everyone was, but also by the esteem everyone held for the science programs, and in particular the pre-health programs. Juniata not only prepares you to be a competitive applicant to whatever path you decide upon, but it teaches you more about yourself than you ever expect to learn – and most of it doesn’t happen in a classroom.