Meet McKenzie Halsey, D23

School: School of Dental Medicine

Degree: Doctor of Dental Medicine

Home: I’m from Virginia—and I’m looking forward to going back there.

What made you choose dentistry as a career?

When I was five years old, I fell and broke my front tooth. To this day, I still remember what that felt like—and I remember that I loved going to the dentist. I just thought dentists were so cool; I loved how enthusiastic they were to help me. They gave me back the confidence I lost when I broke my tooth. I grew up wanting to do that for others.

What are you most passionate about within your field?

Community health. As a pre-dental student, I volunteered for multiple projects with Mission of Mercy, an organization that supplies dental care to underserved and underinsured areas of Virginia to help bridge the gap in access to healthcare. I went into remote areas of the state and spent entire days, from 5 a.m. till 6 or 7 p.m., helping providers treat people for free. We would treat more than a thousand people in a weekend. I did the dirty work—changing water in the water lines, sterilizing, organizing instruments—but I loved it. In that small yet integral role, I was able to see firsthand how impactful dentistry can be. Those moments made me realize that I wish more people had access to high-quality dental care.

What’s your superpower?

Allowing my light to shine while helping others amplify their light. I currently work as a clinic TA in my group practice, and in that position, I help students get through clinic. It can be a stressful experience. As a TA, I wanted to be there to help people make it past tough times—and also to make their experience more enjoyable, if possible.

I just love it when I see a student come to clinic with joy and excitement that I’ve helped them find. I really like to put a smile on someone’s face (literally and figuratively). As a dentist, my commitment will be to help create confidence through the radiance that only a smile can give.

What’s next for you after graduation?

I’m so grateful to have received the National Health Service Corps Scholarship, which gave me a full ride for my third and fourth years of dental school in return for two years of obligation at a community health center in an underserved area. It’s the perfect arrangement for me.

The area I’m going to, along the eastern shore of Virginia, has a real need for providers. I spent some time there during my fourth-year externship, and I had some preconceived notions about what it would be like: essentially, grass and chicken factories. I thought I knew because I’d grown up nearby; my hometown is just two hours away.

But this is an area no one ever goes to unless, say, they’re passing through on their way to New York or somewhere else. When I got there, I found it was absolutely beautiful. The center welcomed me with open arms, and later, they reached out to recruit me for work. I’ll do that for two years, fulfilling my Health Service Corps obligation, and I can’t wait. I’m so inspired to go back and do what I can to help that patient population.

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