One of the most surprising results of our last alumni survey is that 5% of our graduates work in health care. Education, business, law, government, sure… but health care? How does one convert a History B.A. into, say, a DDS? We asked Dr. Heidi (Hultstrand) Pound ’04, who worked at a low-income public health clinic and now a private dental practice after completing her studies at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.
How did you make the decisions to pursue both history and dentistry?
Coming in to Bethel, I knew I wanted to pursue some kind of career in health care. I knew I would need to take many science classes to meet the prerequisite requirements for most graduate programs in health care. I have always loved biology, chemistry and math, but was aware that I would have ample exposure to these disciplines in both my undergraduate and graduate studies. I realized that my time at Bethel would be a great opportunity to learn more about a diverse range of subjects before limiting my focus to science exclusively in the near future. It was after taking Dr. Kevin Cragg’s course on ancient Rome during my first year at Bethel that history first caught my attention.
Although I wasn’t certain when beginning my studies at Bethel, I was leaning towards attending medical school after college. It wasn’t until the summer after my first year that my plans began to change. My dad is a dentist, but I didn’t have much exposure to what he actually did when at the office. I was more interested in what my mom was doing as a registered nurse. However, my dad took me along on a dental mission trip to Arequipa, Peru during my time at Bethel. He had recently started going to South America a couple times every year to extract teeth in free emergency dental clinics set up by local Christian missionaries. On this trip, I was able to help get people out of pain, and my interest in dentistry was piqued. The more research I did, I found it to be a good fit with my interests and abilities. I also found that I would be able to complete each course on the list of prerequisites and recommended classes for admission to dental school while simultaneously following the track for a B.A. in History.
Tell me a bit more about your studies at Bethel. Did you have to take many prerequisite courses outside of the department?
The majority of classes I took while at Bethel were in the biology, chemistry, biochemistry and physics departments. I also worked as a T.A. for several biology professors. I was fortunate in that I had done two full years of PSEO before coming to Bethel. Because I had a head start with credits and general requirements, I was able to take some extra science courses and graduate from Bethel within two and a half years.
I found my history classes to be a welcome counter-balance to all the labs and science studies. It was a nice change (most of the time) to be assigned reading or a paper, amidst the routine scientific equations of, say, organic chemistry. I found having a non-science major to be a great help in achieving a well-rounded and balanced education. And it helped me keep my sanity too!
How did your History major assist you in preparing for and getting accepted to dental school? Was having a non-science major somewhat rare among dental school students?
Having a non-science major definitely put me in the minority when applying to dental school. I feel that it did likely set me apart during the application and intervew process and worked to my advantage. DAT (the admission test required by dental schools, similar to the MCAT in medicine) scores and grades are the first and non-negotiable factors of admittance. However, when there is an abundance of applicants with great grades and DAT scores, other factors, including one’s major, start to differentiate applicants from one another.
Several of my classmates in dental school had taken more specialized science classes and more additional, recommended science electives during their undergraduate education than I had. This was especially true of the science majors. However, I never felt that I was at a disadvantage. The prerequisite classes are designed to provide a sufficient foundation for the entire curriculum. I felt that my knowledge in history made me a well-rounded person with a broad understanding of the world around me. I also went into dental school with a fairly solid foundation in Latin, which was a tremendous help in learning medical and anatomical vocabulary!
How did you end up in your current position at Krengel Dental?
Immediately following dental school, I began working in a low-income public health clinic in North Minneapolis, and I remained there for six years. This past summer I joined a private practice owned by a dental school classmate of mine. I have had a wonderful experience at both clinics.