Lauren Vieira (’15) Finds Her Own Path to Dental School

By Hannah Werthan

When Lauren Vieira was applying to graduate schools, she decided that she wanted to either stay close to home or go somewhere where she knew someone. The West Hempstead, New York, native had a ten-minute commute to Molloy College, where she was a biology undergraduate at the time. She enjoyed being close to her family and her church. However, life doesn't always work out as planned. This past fall, Lauren began a new chapter of her life twelve hours away at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry (UKCD), where she began dental school.

Lauren's journey to graduate school came with a speed bump. Though her grades were good and she had an extensive history of service, Lauren did not perform as well as she would have liked on the Dental Admission Test (DAT). She did not receive any acceptance letters the first time she applied.

At this point, Lauren debated giving up on her dream. However, Dr. Noelle Cutter and Dr. Pam Monaco, Lauren's advisors at Molloy, encouraged her to reapply and keep her dream alive. Lauren studied harder for the DAT. She started shadowing at a dental office in the city and eventually became an assistant there. And she poured herself more into her church, assuming the role of president of the youth group. When it was time to apply to schools again, Lauren had a different approach. She expanded her search and chose ten schools, one of which was UKCD.

Lauren had only been to Kentucky once prior to enrolling at UKCD, to visit the Creation museum with her church when she was about 16 years old. However, she liked that the university had a strong commitment to service - similar to Molloy - and felt that it was a good fit. When she received her acceptance letter, she felt that God was telling her to go there. Though it wasn't where she had first envisioned going, Lauren went.

Since then, everything has fallen into place. Lauren applied for the National Health Service Corps scholarship and was the only person in her class to receive it. The scholarship allows her to attend all four years of her dental school for free, and it provides her with a stipend to live off of and a stipend for educational expenses. In return, Lauren will work for four years in an underserved area.

The school is a great fit for Lauren. She likes that her cohort is only 65 students, the small class size bringing back memories of her days at Molloy. "The staff, faculty and student body at UKCD have made me feel welcome and part of their family," she says. UKCD recently became one of only five schools to offer training in digital dentistry in addition to conventional dentistry. She is adjusting to the slower-placed, more laid-back life in Lexington.

Lauren's two-year hiatus from school allowed her to mature, focus on her faith, and begin her graduate studies more prepared. She says this experience has taught her how to keep an open mind about everything, including where she will go after graduation. Wherever she lands, Lauren plans to use her training to continue helping others above and beyond her scholarship's four-year requirement. 

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