For Eric Navok, the nerves are building as his UConn School of Dental Medicine commencement address nears. “I haven’t given a speech this big since my Bar Mitzvah,” says Navok.
The Stamford native graduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After graduating, while working as a chemist for Duracell in Danbury, he decided he wanted to go to school for dentistry. He says he shadowed a few different fields to decide which career path would be most satisfying to him.
“You’re self motivated as a dentist; you can watch yourself and your practice grow,” says Navok. “I’m a people person and being a dentist will allow me to be more involved with the community.”
His decision to go to UConn was based on the wide spectrum the School of Dental Medicine offers its students.
“UConn made the strongest case for why it was the best school. It has respect for all areas of dentistry. You can find your interest here and expand on it by working with different faculty,” says Navok.
Navok got involved with faculty at UConn not only in his classes, but also as co-chair of the General Dentistry Interest Group and co-chair of the American Student Dental Association.
He was also one of 12 dental students from UConn to travel to Honduras to provide dental care.
“I was humbled by the genuine need and appreciation in the country,” he says. “You got a sense that you were doing a great act of service. There were lines out the door with people who had been in pain for months. When we went out in public we were greeted with hugs and patients showing off their treated teeth.”
Navok says he was very appreciative of the time and resources the faculty contributed to the trip.
“By the time you graduate, the faculty is more like colleagues. They’re not just teaching you dentistry, but life lessons,” he says. “This is one of those fields that takes a lifetime to master. I have a lot of respect for them.”
Navok says by teaching with specialists, UConn exposes its dental students to all the different aspects of dentistry. The people who impacted him most, he says, were the private practitioners.
“Those are the ones I want to emulate.”
Navok will be doing a one-year general practice residency at Stony Brook University on Long Island. He says he is looking forward to learning new materials and techniques in a hands-on atmosphere and being exposed to a new set of faculty.
“It will hopefully give me the confidence and knowledge of an experienced dentist,” says Navok.