Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?
As an immigrant student who started high school in the USA, I had very little knowledge of higher education systems in this country. When I started my undergraduate education, I enrolled in classes and activities that exposed me to various aspects of a career in dentistry. After having a very positive and impactful undergraduate research experience, I researched institutes that emphasized oral health research along with optimum clinical training for aspiring dentists. Indiana University School of Dentistry fit right into these parameters. Unlike medicine, dental research is not an active part of the curriculum due to the limited time students have to master the rigorous didactic and clinical skillset. Hence, being accepted to an institution that provides an environment for students like myself to pursue science curiosities and get first-hand experience with translational research is truly a dream come true. Being an out-of-state student does come with responsibility of being financially conscious when deciding on a graduate program; however, IU Dentistry and by extension, IUPUI, has welcomed my current ideas and future aspirations and continues to provide all necessary guidance in my path of becoming a dentist-scientist.
What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?
My favorite academic accomplishments sort of build off each other. In 2021, I was encouraged to apply for advancing my research interests by taking a year off from dental school and joining the Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP) at the NIH. The same year, I was the only student representative on our IU Dentistry Research Day Planning committee and took on the challenge of co-hosting the event with another faculty member. Both opportunities were a first for me and the institution. To my excitement and utter disbelief, I was selected as the first dental student from IU Dentistry to join the MRSP fellowship and was the only dental student in our cohort of 50 medical/dental/veterinary medicine students. And, I was also the first student to host the annual IU Dentistry Research Day in April of 2021. Reflecting back, both of these opportunities gave me the affirmation and courage to understand that I have what it takes to be a trailblazer and establish a new normal at my institution. One of the core values of IU Dentistry’s Mission Statement is to train oral care providers who are critical thinkers and lifelong learners. My two accomplishments are the living examples of IU Dentistry’s commitment to their mission. I am the first female in my family to pursue a career in the healthcare field, and I am hopeful that I am certainly not the last. I strongly believe that academic accomplishments are more fruitful when they bring a sustainable impact for you and others around you.
What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?
Moving from Virginia to Indiana was exciting, bittersweet, and nerve-wracking all at the same time. When I first moved to the new city, I had packed more dreams and fears than my all of luggage. Dreams of becoming the first doctor in my family, doing groundbreaking research at the dental school and making someone smile brighter. Those dreams were surrounded with fears of being able to fulfill my parents’ expectations, surviving independent living and starting from square one. However, Indianapolis, with all its rain and sunshine, embraced me with all of my physical and emotional baggage. I have lived in the city for a little over two years and I have already formed a deep connection with Indy. I am not the person to thrive in a hustle and bustle of a busy city but also not the person you will find posing in the middle of a creek. I like how Indy offers a happy medium of this spectrum: liveliness of a city while being close to nature. I have not explored all parts of Indy; however, through volunteering and participating in public health measures, I have been very impressed with the hospitality and diversity of the city. Whether its walking on Massachusetts Avenue for ice cream from Kilwin’s or going to Crawfordsville to volunteer at the Student Outreach Clinic, there are so many stories along the way and so many new friends to make. Indy is truly a one-of-a-kind city, ready to welcome you; all you have to do is be ready to sing in the rain, dance in the sunshine and spread your palms to collect snowflakes!
Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.
As a DDS/PhD student, I am working on a collaborative project with two mentors, Dr. Simone Duarte at IU School of Dentistry and Dr. Jacqueline Mays at NIH/NIDCR. My research is housed in the Oral Immunobiology field where I am studying salivary gland proteomics in context of oral chronic graft vs. host disease and how the changes in site specific immunity impacts the oral microbiome. Ultimately, the goal of my project is to develop a validated biomarker panel for future clinical trials that predicts the disease status in a patient friendly way through analyzing the saliva profiles. When I am not pipetting in my labs, I love to dance and embroider. To keep up with my manual dexterity, I experiment with baking desserts from all around the world, but mostly inspired by the Great British Bake off. My core value as a student, leader and healthcare professional is service. I have served as the President and Community service chair for our student chapter of American Association of Public Health Dentistry at IU Dentistry and have helped planned oral education/screenings at local Headstart schools and Special Olympics events. In addition, I have also served as student study coach to help my peers with didactic lectures and study strategies to integrate problem-solving based learning while at dental school. I also helped lead mindful practices through our student wellness coalition at dental school by teaching some yoga workshops and partnering with IU Medicine to promote interprofessional mental health care. I am an active advocate for research and love sharing my knowledge with diverse set of audience to help bridge the gap between science and societies.