Former Public Health Tech Finds World of Options in Dentistry

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Marie Alston’s goal is to help her patients smile with confidence. (Photo by Allen Gillespie/(UTHSC)

After she graduated from high school, Marie Alston went on to serve her country as a public health technician in the United States Air Force. She educated the community on communicable diseases and food safety.

“I enjoyed working in the health care profession when I was in the Air Force,” Alston said. “Interacting and sharing my knowledge with the community was great. However, I wanted a career where I could work more closely with patients. A career where I could really help people and make a difference in their life, bringing their self-confidence back. The field of dentistry does all that.”

Alston is now a fourth-year dental student at UTHSC. She moved to Memphis from Bentonville, Arkansas, but was raised in Columbus, Georgia. After completing her service in the Air Force, she received an associate’s degree in computer science and a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

Alston said she chose to attend the College of Dentistry because of its strong clinical focus and its investment in technology. “UTHSC provides more hands-on clinical experience than most dental schools,” she said. “I remember my first day, I got my instruments and we were off to prepping teeth in the dental simulation lab. This was great because the sooner you get your hands on a hand piece, the faster you will develop your hand skills and perfect your technique. The college also has all of its dental specialties in one building. This allowed me to get a better understanding of what each specialty does, so I can make an informed decision on whether or not I want to specialize in that field. The college definitely exposes us to many different aspects of dentistry.”

Alston has been heavily involved in the college’s community outreach efforts. “Outreach is important because it exposes an underserved population to information and expertise about how to better take care of themselves,” she said. “By exposing them to this information, it allows them to become aware of what to do so they can change their habits. “

Alston has also been involved in the Hispanic Student Dental Association, the American Student Dental Association, the American Association of Women Dentists, and the Esthetics Dental Club. She has participated in Give Kids a Smile Day, Pre-Dental Day, the Arkansas Mission of Mercy, TAR WARS, and several health fairs.

Alston’s goal is to have her patients smile with confidence. After graduation, she will start a one-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency at UT Health San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.

Note: This story is from the most recent issue of Dentistry magazine.