When Xiaoxiao Hong wants to de-stress, she paints – but her paintings are no ordinary watercolors. The incoming dental student has perfected the art of painting in ink on rice paper, a Chinese tradition that is one of the oldest in the world, using the same techniques as calligraphy. The delicate movements it requires will no doubt help her when it comes to the intricate moves needed for her future career in dentistry.
“I think I’m really good with my hand skills, and would like to specialize in oral surgery,” says Hong, who grew up in China, where her father was a dentist.
Hong is one of 46 dental students in the Class of 2018.
The associate dean for admissions in the dental school, Dr. Edward Thibodeau, says the dental class of 2018 represents “a unique blend of students who, as applicants, demonstrated academic excellence, a love of the profession, and a commitment of service to others.”
Hong is already well acquainted with the Farmington campus, after spending the past six years at UConn Health earning her Ph.D. in biomedical science, as a student of Gordon Carmichael, professor of genetics and developmental biology.
“It will be a new chapter for me. It won’t be boring but I think it will be a little bit intimidating.” says Hong.
Like Hong, many of the incoming dental and medical students already have connections to the University: around a quarter of the students in each class received their undergraduate degrees at UConn.
Incoming medical student Olajide (‘Junior’) Abiola ’13 (CLAS), says he feels very well prepared for what’s ahead. “Now I’m excited,” he says, “but I’m sure I will be a lot more nervous when I hit the classroom.”
Assistant dean of medical school admissions Richard Zeff says, “While the entering class of 98 students is largely from the state of Connecticut, it is a highly diverse group. This diversity will add greatly to the richness of the learning environment and opportunities for personal growth that all of our students will experience.”
Abiola, who is from Bridgeport, took advantage of the Health Career Opportunity Programs offered at UConn Health last summer. He completed the six-week medical and dental school preparatory course.
“It was an integral part of helping me pursue my dreams,” says Abiola. “After completing the course, I received the MCAT score I was hoping for.”
Abiola has been dreaming of becoming a doctor since he was in middle school, when his mother made the library a mandatory destination as part of his learning. Whether it was a book on the solar system or human anatomy, science books were his favorite.
“Every time I would learn a new fact I would go to mom and say ‘Guess what,’” explains Abiola. “She loved it and would always play along. She really helped nurture that interest in me.”
What does mom think now that he’s entering medical school? “Oh my, she can’t believe it’s happening – she couldn’t be prouder!”