Eight dynamic students who all spent time as undergrads in The University of Winnipeg’s science labs are studying together at the University of Manitoba, pursuing careers in dentistry; Navpreet Singh, Evan Loeb, Fabeha Paracha, Kira Goldstone-Joubert, Hardeep Buttar, Anna Nguyen, Ocean Hingley-Hurl, and Nathan Peters.
When Loeb was in his third year of his Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, he had an opportunity to work with Indigenous Services Canada, traveling to more than 16 isolated and fly-in communities in Manitoba. This experience was instrumental in leading him to dentistry.
The University of Winnipeg has an exceptional Faculty of Science with smaller class sizes, which is comparable to dentistry.
“The defining moment was while I was volunteering at St. Theresa Point and Garden Hill First Nation,” he said. “I saw hundreds of community members of all ages but the biggest commonality I saw, and even talked with Elders and parents about, was dental decay and the adverse effects of dental issues on daily life. It was prevalent in every community I travelled to.”
Like Loeb, Peters was inspired to work in dentistry after traveling to a remote community. When he was 15, he went on a humanitarian aid trip to Nicaragua where the chance to assist a dentist on a mobile dental clinic inspired him to become first a dental assistant, and then to work toward his dream of becoming a dentist.
Their classmates have similar stories, and these experiences bond the students as they work together toward their goal of becoming dentists.
From classmates to lifelong friends
Hingley-Hurl says that meeting students with similar goals helped keep her motivated.
“We all had very similar experiences and were able to relate to one another which allowed us to bond fairly quickly,” she said.
Paracha says that the friends she made at UWinnipeg have been some of her biggest supporters. “They encouraged me whenever I felt discouraged and were always there for me, and I for them,” she said.
Nguyen agrees, saying that friendship with other students pursuing similar goals made it easier to succeed.
“The journey is challenging so finding these individuals allowed me to stay focused and never give up,” she said.
Hingley-Hurl is also thankful for the support she received from UWinnipeg faculty.
“One of the people at UWinnipeg who helped me succeed was Dr. Sherry Hebert. She took her time as a lab instructor to help me improve my lab skills, grow my interest in research, and was always available to help me succeed in my program,” she said.
Goldstone-Joubert says, “Kathy Muc, my lab instructor and Dr. Jens Franck, my cell and molecular biology professor provided me with such a positive educational experience, giving me encouragement and support. It was a pleasure to be taught by them and I always enjoyed our conversations and their kindness. ”
While studying chemistry at UWinnipeg, Singh had the opportunity to take part in a research project under Dr. Athar Ata’s supervision.
“Dr. Ata’s advice and guidance on how to successfully manage course load and work and plan for my dental application helped me tremendously,” he said.
Nguyen says the chemistry department set her up for success.
“The lab sessions are stimulating, and there are incredible professors such as Dr. Adam Mccubbin who go above and beyond to ensure students understand challenging concepts.”
Loeb also had opportunities to take part in research while at UWinnipeg, co-authoring a paper with Dr. Charles Wong, and beginning a directed study project with Dr. Judith Huebner.
“During my time at UWinnipeg I received tons of help and encouragement,” said Loeb. “One of the biggest sources was from the UWinnipeg Indigenous student centre staff, students, and especially the Elder’s. I also learned so much from Dr. Judith Huebner. I’m very grateful for the opportunities she gave me.”
Finding direction, and connection
While some in the group have long known dentistry was the path fort them, Goldstone-Joubert began her studies at UWinnipeg unsure which direction she wanted to go.
“I volunteered and shadowed many career choices within the last few years to see what I enjoyed most,” she said. “I was inspired by the problem-solving, creative, and hands-on aspects of dentistry as well as the chance to work with innovative technologies.”
Buttar encourages anyone with the chance to job shadow and network with professionals to do it.
“Take every opportunity you can to shadow dentists and talk to dental students,” she said. “Learn about the profession and what the current educational experience for dentistry is. For myself, talking to people in the dental community reinforced my decision.”
Buttar says that being a part of a close-knit academic community at UWinnipeg gave her “unparalleled guidance and support” and played a pivotal role in helping her succeed.
“The University of Winnipeg has an exceptional Faculty of Science with smaller class sizes, which is comparable to dentistry,” said Loeb. “At UWinnipeg, there are so many opportunities so don’t be afraid to get to know your professors, get involved, and try new things outside your comfort zone.”