This week’s School of Dentistry orientation sessions, complete with masks and a review of extensive pandemic safety precautions, certainly looked different from years past. But that didn’t keep the new dental and dental hygiene students from bringing the same focus, enthusiasm and desire for learning that each fall propel students toward successful careers.
Cole Daniel, one of the 109 members of the Dentistry Class of 2024, is from Little Rock and earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas. But he said he came to UMKC because “it felt like home.”
“From the interview to communicating with the admissions office I knew that UMKC would take care of me as a student,” Daniel said. “The emphasis on being a great clinical school was also really important to me.”
Daniel is one of 11 dental students from Arkansas in the class, which also has 59 students from Missouri, 24 from Kansas, three from New Mexico and one each from Hawaii, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, North Caroline, Tennessee and Texas. Four students from Kuwait round out the class of 57 men and 52 women, who bring an average DAT score of 20.25 and a science GPA of 3.72.
“I loved how integrity is a core value at UMKC,” he said, “and I knew I would be surrounded by students and faculty who wanted to do the right thing as well as practice exceptional dentistry.”
Daniel, who has several family members in dentistry, added, “I truly think it is a career that has everything you could ask for. Every day you get to see a tangible difference you made in someone’s life, work with your hands, and make a good living. Once I realized the NBA or NFL was not going to happen for me, dentistry became my dream.”
The 31 women in the Dental Hygiene Class of 2022, who come from Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Nebraska, also bring impressive credentials. Several of them have worked as dental assistants, and the class science GPA is 3.5 and cumulative GPA is 3.54.
At UMKC they also have the one dental hygiene program in the Kansas City area that offers a full bachelor’s degree. That was one factor in Shannon Finneran’s choice of UMKC, along with the school’s “tremendous reputation and challenging academics.”
Finneran moved to Kansas City from Illinois four years ago and completed her preliminary classes at UMKC, in addition to working as a dental assistant for three years.
“The hands-on experiences that I gained have renewed my passion for dental hygiene and solidified that I am meant to be a dental hygienist,” Finneran said. “I thoroughly enjoy direct patient care. I want to be able to educate future patients on the importance of oral health for whole body wellness.”
Starting their School of Dentistry education during a pandemic wasn’t what the new classes originally had in mind. But with the school’s extensive preparation and precautions making a good impression, students said they were both excited and reassured.
“It is definitely a weird time to be starting dental school … a unique experience,” Daniel said. “But all you can control is your attitude and respond to the situation you are given. I think UMKC is doing everything that can be done to prepare us and make this unusual time be as seamless as possible.”
Finneran added: “I am extremely excited to begin this next phase of my academic career. This is an unusual time for us all, but I think the UMKC SOD has done an excellent job in implementing proper training and guidelines to follow, so that all students are able to start their programs safely. This will be quite the experience, but we are all in this together.”