The mouth is a window into the health of the body. According to the American Dental Association, it can foreshadow diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and immune disorders. When a dentist peers into the mouth, he or she can see signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection, often the first symptoms of serious medical conditions.
Being a dentist is part science and part art. It combines a strong scientific background with creativity. At its core is the study, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the mouth, jaw and facial area.
But there is more. Dentists can improve a patient’s appearance, promote healthy living and serve their communities in important ways.
Dentistry is a calling for Taylor Mullaney (’17), and he believes his strong science education at SOU gave him the background he needs to be successful.
“The science program is not very big, but it is a really strong department, and it does a great job preparing students for whatever field they plan to go into,” said Mullaney, who is on track to graduate with a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) from Oregon Health & Science University in 2021.
Mullaney credits SOU with helping to guide his career path and nurture his sense of community.
“When I started at SOU, I didn’t understand what I was getting into,” he said. “From helping me select classes to the invaluable hands-on instruction and one-on-one time, the science department staff and faculty guided me from a confused freshman to a focused scientific mind. They influenced how I learn and how I will provide care throughout my career.”
Initially, Mullaney chose SOU for convenience.
“I grew up in Southern Oregon, and it was the best option financially,” he said. “But when I actually started at SOU, I realized it was the best choice for me and my interests.”
Mullaney was inspired to pursue a career in dentistry by experiences with his hometown dentist.
“When I was in high school, I built a relationship with my dentist, and later he became my mentor,” he said. “I fell in love with the work he did and the difference that he made in people’s lives. I decided I wanted to do the same work.”
While at SOU, Mullaney received the Rogue Valley Physician Service Scholarship and is now an OHSU scholarship recipient for the Healthy Oregon Initiative. Mullaney plans to focus on rural health, ensuring that all Oregonians have access to high quality dental care.
Although Mullaney thought he knew what to expect when he set foot on campus, SOU was full of surprises. “I didn’t realize how close-knit and small it was before I started, and it turned out to be one of my favorite things about the school,” he said.
At SOU, Mullaney found a strong culture of mentorship that helped him thrive.
“All my professors were pretty pivotal, but my biggest mentor was Greg Miller, who taught biochemistry,” he said. “From day one at my orientation, he sat me down and helped me figure out what classes I needed. We sparked a relationship that I would say will last my whole life.”
As he pursues his DMD degree and looks toward his future, Mullaney continues to draw upon the life lessons he gained at SOU.
“In my second year, I was really struggling and I failed an organic chemistry class, but I decided that I owed it to myself and my teachers to try it again,” he said. “The next year, I took it again and by the end of the class I was asked to be an organic chemistry mentor for the incoming students. It was a huge honor, and I was so proud to have gone from failing the class to doing well enough to teach it to incoming students.”
Reposted from the Spring 2018 issue of The Raider, the magazine of the SOU Alumni Association