Published on Oct. 30, 2020
Name: Abigail Beckerdite
Undergraduate university and year of graduation: University of Missouri-Columbia, 2020
Major: Biological Engineering
Dental school and expected year of graduation: Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, 2024
What led to your interest in dentistry?
I’ve always loved learning, science, health, and helping people. I knew from a young age I wanted to do something in the biomedical sciences, and my experiences in high school and college helped me find the perfect field for me, dentistry.
What experiences did you have that confirmed dentistry was the right career for you?
There were a lot of people and factors that played into my decision to become a dentist. Timberland High School has a great program called Project Lead the Way which exposed me to the biomedical sciences as a teenager. I learned through my undergraduate neuroscience research with Dr. David Schulz at Mizzou that I love using small tools to perform microdissections, a valuable skill for dental procedures. The graduate students and researchers in that lab were my role models, reinforcing my desire for lifelong learning. As a biological engineering major, I was considering becoming an engineer, but my experiences volunteering with patients, tutoring, having an engineering internship, being a personal trainer, and shadowing physicians and dentists showed me that patient care fulfills me most of all. I love that as a dentist, I will have the ability to fix patients’ problems relatively quickly, get them out of pain, and often teach them ways to prevent future dental problems from occurring.
Who or what inspired you?
My parents are very supportive and inspire me to work hard and have fun in life. They have always believed in me, making it easier to believe in myself and my aspirations. Dr. Jim Fetsch, Dr. Eric Hurtte, and Dr. Bart Carney are three dentists who really inspired me. Shadowing each of them showed me the importance of a patient-dentist relationship, interactions between the dentist and other people in the office, opportunity for growth and lifelong learning, modern technology advancements, and work-life balance of dentistry. Spending time around these dentists sold me on the profession. I also had some great mentors in college who always looked out for me, including Dr. Aaron Saucier and Dr. David Schulz.
What challenges or obstacles have you faced in pursuit of a dental career?
I didn’t start out pre-med or pre-dental as a college freshman, so when I officially decided to become a dentist as a junior, some people told me I wouldn’t be able to do it because I was behind everyone else. Really, all I had to do was study diligently for the DAT and schedule in some classes over the summer. It all worked out fine.
How did you prepare for the dental school application process?
I scheduled several hours per week to complete practice problems for the DAT. I did multiple practice DAT exams. On the week leading up to the DAT, I tried to do one practice test per day. I had several different people edit my personal statement. I practiced every interview question I could find online with several people, and I did a mock interview. I also made sure to spend time exercising and spending time with family and friends so I didn’t go crazy. My aunt and mom kidnapped me and took me shopping one day to get away from the studying.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in dentistry?
Have some confidence in yourself and don’t let people stress you out or tell you you’re behind other applicants. No two people have the same journey. Almost everyone I know has changed their career or academic plans at least once, and that is normal. There is no substitute for life experience. If you learn from your experiences, good and bad, and are goal-oriented, you will end up where you need to be, so don’t give up. Don’t forget to exercise, have fun, and make time for your family and friends.