Dear Sista Friend,
In a world where Black females don’t dominate the profession of dentistry, this past summer, I was selected to serve the underserved communities in Catadupa, Saint James, Jamaica. As first timer traveling out of the country, I was privileged to travel with Zion Care International under Bishop Craig Brown. I provided dental care to children and adults in small towns where access to dental care is almost nonexistent. This mission trip was beyond phenomenal under the care of this organization where I was able to work with the supervision of dentists from Harvard, University of Buffalo and Case Western. I can definitely say that this experience is one of my best life experiences. The mission of Zion Care International is to promote and preserve the health, welfare, and physical well-being of the economically challenged and needy, throughout Jamaica and the world, by engaging in charitable work projects, aimed at assisting and empowering individuals in the community.
Over the course of my five-day trip in Jamaica, I was able to treat and care for a plethora of people. The procedures I was able to complete included a surplus of extractions, pedodontics prophylaxis, fluoride treatments and oral hygiene education.
For many of the services I performed, headlights were used to light the field of work within the mouths. The conditions were less than ideal and the buildings that were used did not have the luxury of modern technology. Under all of these conditions, I was beyond thrilled to see the excitement of the patients as they left from their treatment. I was in disbelief at how incredibly thankful they were for the service that was received. Seeing their thankfulness brought tears to my eyes everyday because it reminded me of the many blessings that we have in America that we take for granted. The feeling that I had after knowing that my work put a smile on their face was increased heavily everyday. I had a patient that stood up and gave me a hug with tears in her eyes saying, “Thank you so much for your service, student Doc. We have never had anyone come to our community to give us service. Thank you! I will never forget this moment.” Thereafter, my world changed for the better and revealed to me that what I am doing within my career is exactly what God has aligned for my life.
Throughout this experience, I learned that the success of a dental mission is not measured only by the dental care provided. Being able to interact with people from another culture provided me with an incredible opportunity to help the underserved. It was an honor to be able to donate my time, skills and passion and if I could do it all over again, I would not hesitate. I know this experience will strengthen me as I continue along my journey as a Dentist.
How do you feel as a Black woman in the dental field?
My experience being a Black woman in the dental field has been phenomenal. I attend Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry and I am surrounded by a plethora of supportive Black dentists. I am inspired and encouraged everyday by colleagues and professors to be incredibly successful. Hence, I definitely feel a respectable emotion seeing as though I have faced the odds of this professional field. This feeling escalates to knowing how much of a blessing it is to be a Black woman in this world using my power and strength to always go after what I desire.
How did it feel to be one of the Black female students working with a community that looks like you? Why is that important to you?
Working with a community that looked like me was beyond sentimental. This experience opened my eyes to the many families that are in poverty and that lack the ability to have access to health care. Being able to do service in a disadvantaged population such as this has affected me positively and is important to me. I seek opportunities and experiences that develop me to improve the quality of life of others. As a result, I was disturbed to know that the families that I treated have never seen a dentist. After working with this underserved population, I have been even more inspired to give back to communities that look like me in the future. In addition, being able to experience this has pushed me even more to continue improving the health of the underserved.
Advice you would give Black women/girls wanting to pursue a career in dentistry.
Never give up and if you have a passion for dentistry—go for it! I, first, want to say that I believe Black women are the strongest individuals God has created. Once you live your life knowing and understanding that statement, not comparing yourself to others, and being confident there is nothing that will be able to stop you! To live a life committed to affecting positive change within the dental field is one of my life’s most important goals. More specifically, I want to focus on encouraging Black women throughout the world to keep fighting despite the hardships that you may encounter. Three essential qualities to see not only within a career in dentistry but, also, within you are perseverance, passion, and altruism. I did not make it to where I am, today, alone. I took advantage of opportunities provided to me that included internships, shadowing opportunities, and focusing on being the best me I could be. I took advantage of programs such as the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program as I was accepted into the University of Washington at Seattle, Yale University, and Louisville. I decided that the University of Washington was the best fit for me. When given an opportunity make sure you take advantage of it. Forming lifelong relationships can definitely aid in the future within your career in dentistry. I also accepted an opportunity at The University of Michigan Profile for Success as this lead me into focusing more on the Dental Admissions Test. You want to score well so definitely use resources such as Chad’s videos, Kaplan and complete as many practice questions as possible. I can’t reiterate enough that when you want something—go for it! Despite what route God has aligned for your path, make sure you are doing all of what you can and God will do the rest. In terms of shadowing, it is important to shadow as much as possible in order to be confident in the passion and road set aside for you. Be self-assured in where you are and what you have learned to get what you want.
Remember, passion translates to service on behalf of individuals who need it most.
Even through there are struggles in regard to the lack of Black women within the health profession; we must not conform to the beliefs and thoughts of others. I stand behind Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Although it has not been an easy road while working to reach my goals, I am a person that does not give up despite the circumstances thrown in my path. In a world filled with many challenges, my advice is to use difficulties as a stepping stool that motivates you to keep striving for success. In life we will all face battles but it is up to us to persevere and continue on.
My name is Ra’trice Rochelle Jackson and I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. My parents are Ray and Beatrice Jackson and I am the oldest of three. I received my Bachelors of Sciences in Biology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. I then journeyed to Nashville, Tennessee where I received my Masters of Health Sciences. I have always had an aspiration to pursue a career in dentistry. Hence, that desire led me to applying to Dental School. I am, currently, at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville, Tennessee where I will receive my Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree May of 2018 to further my education to specialize in Pediatric Dentistry.