B.S., Public Health, University of Arizona
“ There is a small community of people that share the same experiences getting here as I did, and I want people to know that and feel inspired by it. ”Athens Graves
Dental Medicine Student, Class of 2025
What inspired you to pursue a healthcare career?
My initial interest in dentistry was piqued when I met my childhood dentist, Dr. Mercedes Padilla. The gentleness of her touch and soothing voice gave me the security and comfort that I needed as she conducted her evaluation. As Dr. Padilla spoke, all I could do was admire her passion, joy, and thoroughness when guiding me through the importance of caring and having healthy teeth. At that moment, I knew I wanted to contribute to the dental profession, just as she did.
Once I got into dental school, I always knew I wanted to encourage others by creating a platform to share the stories of underrepresented minorities who are going into a healthcare profession. I identify as an Afro-Indigenous woman. Currently, according to the American Dental Association, there are only 3.8% African Americans and 0.2% Native Americans who practice dentistry in the U.S.
My journey to dental school was very challenging. There is a small community of people that share the same experiences getting here as I did, and I want people to know that and feel inspired by it.
How did your background and history factor into your career choice?
Both my parents have their bachelor’s degree, and my father has his master’s. I am a first-generation healthcare doctoral student. As far as I saw it, I did not have a choice but to go to university and my parents always supported my desire to be a dentist. I did not take the “traditional route” when it came to getting into dental school. I worked once I graduated from the U of A, traveled the world, volunteered at different dental offices, participated in mission trips, and continued to go to school. I made sure I was engaging myself in this profession to prove to myself and the admissions committee that I deserved to have a seat in my class.
Why did you decide to attend Midwestern University?
I was in the two-year Master of Biomedical Sciences Program. I knew I wanted to continue my studies at Midwestern because I had grown accustomed to the environment, faculty, staff, and the curriculum. Midwestern University has made me grow into a different person academically and professionally. I am more detail-oriented and understand the “why.”
What about a Midwestern University education do you want to carry forward in your career?
Midwestern University has taught me that in order to provide quality patient care, it is important to stay up to date on the constantly changing atmosphere of healthcare. Because new research often requires innovation, it is vital to understand how to evolve your care to the standards. Because of my background in biomedical science research, I know that I am better able to read, understand, and adapt primary literature and technically innovative practices to better serve my patients. I am able to think critically about emerging data and apply it for better patient outcomes. My role as a scientist will only help my role as a dental practitioner.
Athens Graves is a Class of 2025 student from the College of Dental Medicine-Arizona in Glendale.