Diary of… a future dentist

My name is Luis Felipe Perez and I was born in Bogota, Colombia.  If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be “lucky”.

I was lucky enough to have courageous parents who wished to give their children a better future.  I was lucky to have attended a high school which fostered my academic, artistic and performance skills. I was lucky enough to have parents who chose to overcome all struggles, disregard everyone’s nays and become dentists in America.  I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to attend Nova Southeastern University, and I am lucky enough to be fulfilling my dream of becoming a dentist at NSU.

I have been studying biology and I was encouraged to pursue minors in chemistry and business to round out my education.  There was actually a point in my NSU career when I second-guessed my plans to become a dentist. I even contemplated dropping out of college all-together and spent many nights questioning myself, wondering what it was that I wanted to do with my life. I finally figured out that it does include schooling and dentistry.

Achieving this was largely due to Brad Williams’ invaluable mentorship.  I first met Williams, vice president of Student Affairs, when I was invited to be a part of the Razor 3000 course in the fall semester of my sophomore year.  This course is a leadership-based course, which Williams teaches.  We met once a week to do academic and fun activities that expanded our knowledge and practice of leading.

As to the question of “why dentistry?”,  my interest in the profession really began with my curiosity with life.  I have been fascinated with life and the beauty, awe and mystery of it.  I have come close to death a couple of times. It has been during those moments in my life when I have felt an incredible sense that there is something more than just a job, family or hobbies to life; that there is a profound beauty unacknowledged by most people.  Perhaps this is the same reason why people choose to become poets over bankers.  Maybe it is also the reason why pieces of art, including drawings, paintings and music, stir something within us that last throughout time.

Dentistry is the medium through which I believe I can leave my mark in the world, thus finding my personal self-realization. I watched my parents practice dentistry since I was a child. I was incredibly fascinated with the way my father ran the dental clinic, and as I grew older, my ambition became clearer and more defined.

My involvement in the Pre-Dental Society at NSU has given me the incredible opportunity to interact with students who have similar aspirations. I have met some of the best people on the executive board.  These students are not only my peers, but they are some of the most special people I have ever met.  Through the Pre-Dental Society, I have also been able to partake in many community outreach events, such as A Day for Children — an NSU-hosted event that provides free health services to community children. Give Kids a Smile is another big community outreach event in which the College of Dental Medicine provides free dental health services to the children of Broward at no cost.  These experiences, year after year, have given me an opportunity to give back to the community, learn some invaluable services and help shape the name of NSU.

The faculty at NSU are some of the coolest adults I have met in my life.  These incredible people have given me countless opportunities and amazing advice.

I have been lucky to be mentored by Mark Jaffe, associate professor.  He has given me such wonderful opportunities throughout my career at NSU.  I was able to do an independent study with him where I learned the way insurance coding works for doctors and how the new system called ICDM-10 is going to affect healthcare.  I was also able to do an internship through him at Memorial Hospital Pembroke where I learned what emergency room doctors have to deal with on a daily basis and what it’s like to work in a hospital setting.  I was also able to work closely with other students under the leadership of Jaffe as Undergraduate Community Outreach Coordinators.  We were able to coordinate various volunteer events, including the Day for Children event for the fall semester.

I also owe much to assistant professor Maria Ballester, who has worked with me and helped me do a research project of my own interest.  The research I am working on involves the cultivation of dental bacteria and then testing the effects of Perilla seed extract, a Japanese herb, on the microbial activity of the dental caries. Ballester was a great mentor to me during that time and a great person to talk to about anything.  That’s the great thing about NSU.  The faculty are more than just teachers in the students’ lives; they mentor and build valuable relationships that will last a lifetime.

I wish I could have included everyone that has helped me out through my career at NSU.  I feel truly lucky to have them all in my life.

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