New Students Begin their College of Dentistry Journey
Every new student brings their own story, and each story becomes part of the fabric of the College of Dentistry. This year, the college will welcome more than 100 new first-year DDS students, each with their own motivations, reasons for choosing dentistry, and hopes for their College of Dentistry experience. Four of those 100-plus new students are profiled here, and will be revisited throughout their tenure at the college. One student came to the college by way of Nigeria and Cleveland Heights. One is a third-generation College of Dentistry student. Another grew up on a dairy farm; the fourth was sure he would be a pilot. They bring those experiences, along with their own expectations and even fears, to their first semester at the College of Dentistry.
Focus and Service: Nicole Goettemoeller
Nicole Goettemoeller knew exactly what her career would look like, at the tender age of five. And her focus did not waver. “I had my first trip to the dentist when I was in kindergarten,” she said. “My dentists always made me feel so welcome. I thought the dentist’s office was the neatest place.” Nicole’s childhood role models, her family, showed her the importance of hard work, consistent effort, and commitment. They own and operate a working dairy farm in Ohio that has been in the family for five generations. Dairy farming is demanding, rigorous work with very little time off year-round. And though Goettemoeller learned invaluable life lessons from the experience, she knew it was not the path she wanted to pursue.
“To this day, my father and brother are full-time dairy farmers,” she said. “However, I developed a different set of interests for my future.”
Her interest in dentistry was bolstered during her high school career, when a passion for science emerged. “Not only did I love science, but I also loved working with my hands and helping people,” she said. “When I pieced it together, it seemed my skills were a perfect fit for dentistry.”
As she pursued a degree in biology, Goettemoeller further explored a career in dentistry, to ensure that it was the path she truly wanted to follow.
“I shadowed several dentists in small towns in rural Ohio,” she said. “I shadowed men and women, younger doctors and seasoned practitioners. I wanted to get a broad understanding of the profession and about the options in the field.”
That experience confirmed what Goettemoeller had known since early childhood: a career in dentistry was her future. “I like what I’ve seen in the field of general dentistry,” she said. “I like the idea of spending time with patients and following their progress over time. And I love being of service.”
Even though she is certain of her path, Goettemoeller said she is entering the dental field with some anxiety. “I’ve heard there will be at least two years of intensive class work and exams,” she said. “I love that there are 110 other people in my class that will be going through the same thing. I’m eager to get started, meet people, build relationships, and get to know the faculty and staff.”
While the dairy farming lifestyle did not turn out to be Goettemoeller’s dream, her rural experience is a major part of it. “I can see the need to serve underserved populations in those rural areas,” she said. Goettemoeller is looking to her College of Dentistry education to help her explore options, especially toward building a practice that will serve those rural populations. “My main reasons for choosing this career are that I love people and I love making a difference.”
And – it must be said – Goettemoeller’s name is pronounced “get a molar.” Another sign, perhaps, that she was destined for a career in dentistry.
Taking Flight: Chris Rhees
Flying is in Chris Rhees’ blood, and he always saw himself “up there,” in his childhood dreams of flying. While being a pilot may be a dream of many young men, Rhees had good reason for his dream: his grandfather was a pilot and his father worked on a United States Air Force base.
“I always wanted to be a pilot,” he said. “In high school, I joined the Civil Air Patrol, which is a pre-ROTC organization.”
The dream of flying eventually dimmed, as Rhees became involved in many other activities that exposed him to other possibilities. He played football, became a rock climber, developed an interested in welding, and earned a scholarship in metallurgical engineering to explore that interest.
He declined the scholarship, but worked as a welder after high school for a time. “It was great money for a young man my age,” he said. “I taught myself enough about welding to earn my certification.”
While successful in this pursuit, Rhees was still searching for the right occupation. Nothing felt quite right. His interest shifted from being a pilot to a welder to a missionary.
“I eventually elected to do a two-year mission for my church,” he said. It was that decision that helped Rhees hone in on the career path that was right for him. While on his mission in Cleveland, Rhees said he met several dental students. “These students talked so highly of the dental profession that I became interested in dentistry,” he said. Once the possibility entered his thinking, other pieces of the puzzle began to fall together.
“My twin brother had had a cleft palate as a kid, and my father had been in a motorcycle accident that necessitated much reconstructive surgery.” As he recalled the lifechanging impact that dental specialists had made in his own family and considered the enthusiasm his new friends had for dentistry, his career path became clearer.
While in Cleveland, Rhees met his future wife, Katie, and they moved together to Rexburg, Idaho, where Rhees began his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University-Idaho. He graduated summa cum laude with a major in biology. Rhees credits his wife as a major motivation for his success and the singular consideration for his future plans. The two, now married four years, have an infant son, Carson, and have recently returned to Ohio from Idaho so that Rhees can begin his studies at the College of Dentistry.
While he wonders what the next four years will be like, he said he does not worry, in part because his brother-in-law recently graduated from Creighton Dental School in Nebraska. “He has helped us both to know what the experience is like and what to expect.”
Among the couple’s expectations for the coming four years is that Rhees’ studies will be demanding—perhaps as demanding as his role as a young father—but rewarding. As with many stories, though, Rhees’ comes full circle. “We are talking to recruiters about the idea of joining the Air Force Dental Corps,” he said. “We like the idea of raising our son abroad. After that, I’d like to buy into a small dental practice.”
With his goals almost within reach, Rhees has the added bonus of a family he could not envision when he was a child dreaming of flying. “I have the coolest wife ever and a handsome son,” he said. “Life is pretty good.”
Vision and Drive: Hamza Dodo
Like Goettemoeller, Hamza Dodo knew from a very early age that dentistry was going to be his career.
“I knew I wanted to be a dentist when I was 10 years old,” he said. “At that age, I thought drilling in people’s mouths was cool!”
Of course, time and experience taught Dodo that there was more to dentistry that “drilling in people’s mouths,” but who can fault a young boy for that perspective?
“Eventually, I recognized the drilling is surgery to help people get out of pain or look better,” he said. “All these years later, I’m still excited about being able to help people look and feel better.”
A native of Nigeria, Dodo and his family moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio when he was just two years old. Dodo was deliberate about preparing himself for dental school, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in chemistry from Ohio State.
In addition to achieving academic success, Dodo developed his leadership skills. He viewed participation in extracurricular activities as an investment in his future. He became vice president of both the Chemistry Club and the Ultimate Frisbee team – two diverse groups that each taught him the value of leadership.
“I learned that if you want to lead, you have to be involved in things that you like to do,” he said. Dodo supplemented his extracurricular activities and coursework with volunteer activities and shadowing dentists. Looking forward to the next four years, Dodo is confident that his preparation will help him achieve all that he dreams for himself, although he admitted that the Dental Admission Test (DAT) was daunting.
“The DAT was the worst part about getting into dental school,” he said. Characteristically dogged in his pursuit of excellence, however, “I studied for months to get the scores I earned.” Having prepared since he was a young boy, Dodo is poised for success.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people about dental school,” he said. “And now I’m working to be the best student I’ve ever been in my life.” After graduation, he plans to establish a presence in a community. “I envision working in a community that I love and being there for a very long time,” he said. “And I want to volunteer in areas of need. That’s very important to me.”
Based on Dodo’s track record, there’s little doubt he will achieve those goals.
Legacy: Jordan Mayberry
Unlike Rhees, Goettemoeller, and Dodo, Jordan Mayberry grew up surrounded by dental practitioners–and experience with the College of Dentistry.
Mayberry’s father and grandfather, Drs. Donald ‘54 and David ‘80 Mayberry, DDS, own and operate a private dental practice and are graduates of the Ohio State College of Dentistry.
That family legacy did not guarantee Mayberry a spot in the college’s class of 2017, though. “Because my father and grandfather are graduates of the College of Dentistry,” Mayberry said, “some people assume that I didn’t have to work hard to get in. Nothing is further from the truth.”
Like Dodo, Mayberry said the DAT was intimidating. “I had to really apply myself. I had to study hard to earn the high scores necessary to secure my position at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry,” he said with obvious pride.
Mayberry said that although his family experience with dentistry has prepared him for dental school to a degree, he is not taking anything for granted. “I know it’s going to be demanding and is going to require the best of me,” he said. “I’ve learned that making the commitment is a huge step in achieving success.”
Mayberry grew up in Southeastern Ohio, in Barnesville, a small town with a population of just over 4,000. He plans to return home after graduation, and join his family in the dental practice his grandfather established in 1957.
He believes his education will enable the practice to serve the people of his community in an even stronger way. “I would like to bring new technologies and techniques to the business,” he said. “For me, seeing patients and helping people be healthier and happier will be most rewarding.”