AHEC Scholar Graduates

Dentistry - Chalkboard Sign

Grace Heise, DMD - Oregon Health & Science University Graduate - 2020

I didn’t grow up in a rural or underserved community, but my grandfather served as a physician in a small town in rural Ohio. When I visit him, even now at 99 years old, he is simply known as ‘doc’ to a surprising amount of people, as he has literally delivered generations of babies in the area.  Seeing the difference he made in his community has been inspiring and fostered my interest in beginning dental school in the first place, but also an interest in underserved communities.

 I’ll admit, originally a lot of my interest in AHEC also came from the financial benefits I might receive in the future due to possible scholarship opportunities. Dental school debt is real and I can feel that weight on my shoulders.  However, attending monthly journal clubs was fun, interesting, and opened my eyes to some issues in underserved health that I did not really think about before.  I enjoyed discussions with students from other fields.  I think a lot of times dental is considered separate from other fields in healthcare, or maybe not considered at all, so it was nice to hear other perspectives and voice the perspectives we have in the dental field. 

 When I attended my external rotation in Eastern Oregon (Ontario), I really enjoyed my experience.  My favorite part about it was that it didn’t feel like I had to ‘sell’ dentistry to anyone.  The focus was on the whole body health and wellbeing of the patient.  For example, sometimes that means extracting a tooth rather than doing a root canal and crown, so that the patient can use that money for insulin.  I also loved the focus on prevention and patient education.

 While I was there, one of my preceptors encouraged me to apply for the NHSC Students 2 Service Loan Repayment Program.  I was accepted into the program and now I am starting as a general dentist with CHAS – Community Health Association of Spokane, at their dental clinic in Clarkston, WA.  This is an FQHC and it has a dental HPSA score of 24.  The clinic shares a lot of my own personal values, and values we discussed frequently in our journal club. I’m excited to join the team there and to make this community my home for at least the next 3 years, and maybe even longer.