Mahelet Negash

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Hometown: Irmo, South Carolina

Name of Undergraduate Institution:  The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Major(s)/Minor(s) in College: Major – Psychology; Minor – Chemistry

Name of Dental School: Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

Favorite Quote:  “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contact Info: mnegash@llu.edu


Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?

I am currently a 3rd year dental student. I have been interested in health care since I was a young age. My father is an internal medicine physician and although I respected his job, I knew the hours weren’t for me. I also was not the biggest fan of the hospital setting. Dentistry allows you to change someone’s confidence within hours. You can really make a difference in someone’s life through this field. It is also a great field for women who hope to also have families. The hours are very flexible and as a female you will be able to be active both in your career and in your household.

If you could go back and have a chat with your 1st year postgraduate self, what would you tell her?

If I could go back and talk to my 1st year postgraduate self, I would tell myself to really absorb what I learn in the next few years. Although the information is large in volume, you are beginning essentially what you will be doing the rest of your life. In order to be an excellent health care provider, it is important to really understand the information taught during dental school. There is nothing more important than being competent enough to answer your patient’s questions while in practice.

What advice would you give someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?

I would advise others interested in dentistry to not be afraid of failure. Do not let one setback stop you from your dreams. However, at the same time be realistic to yourself and know whether you’re giving it your all. If you are not going to be fully dedicated, you have to be honest with yourself and step back and say maybe this career is not for you.

What is a major challenge you have had to overcome and how did you do so?

A major challenge for me was studying everyday and knowing you are going to have to sacrifice a lot of your social life. In my second year, I would have to wake up at 4:30am everyday to study before class and then study till I went to bed after class. Everyday you are studying as if you have an exam the next day. It is very easy to fall behind. It’s not that the material is very challenging, but that the volume is large, so it is crucial to stick with the material daily.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing about this job is being able to restore someone’s confidence. Being able to give someone a denture so that they don’t have missing teeth anymore and can smile confidently is so rewarding. I love being able to relieve someone from their pain so they can sleep at night or eat solid foods again.

Can you please walk us through a typical workday?

A typical full clinic day begins at 7:40am. I go to clinic, set up my cubicle and get all the instruments and materials I need for my first patient. At 8:00am I huddle with my attending and fellow classmates and present our morning cases to our attending. From there we are dismissed to get our patients and begin working. Each major step has to be checked by the attending assigned to you. Once the procedure is complete I schedule the patient’s next appointment, take them to pay and then dismiss the patient. This is the same protocol for the afternoon session. A clinical day ends by 5pm usually.

What do you feel is the most challenging part of your job? The easiest part?

The most challenging part of my job is the financial aspect of it. Dental treatment is expensive and many individuals without good insurance have to pay out of pocket for most procedures. It is difficult to see patients who need treatment have to refuse due to financial restraints.

The easiest part of the job is being able to relieve someone of his or her pain.

What has been your favorite memory so far in your career path towards becoming a practicing dentist?

I will never forget one of my patients who came in and I did a full mouth extraction and gave her a maxillary and mandibular complete denture. The day I delivered her dentures she cried and said that that night would be the first time in 17 years that she would be able to each solid food and not be in pain. She was so excited to be able to enjoy her food. She was smiling all the way out of the office. She said that she didn’t smile much anymore because she was so ashamed of her teeth.

What do you feel makes your specialty stand out from other health professions?

Dentistry is unique in that you are able to do a lot of missionary work in remote areas with a simple mobile unit. Being able to provide such a service to underserved individuals is such a blessing.

What gives you the greatest motivation to get up every day to go to work?

There are so many rewarding aspects to dentistry. I am excited to be able to wake up everyday and make a difference in someone’s life.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

You will never have great success without failures; so don’t be afraid to fail. Instead turn your failures into learning experiences.

How do you manage to balance your work/school life and your romantic relationship?

Balancing work/school and my personal life was very challenging the first two years of school. I always took Friday night- Saturday night off. So I would hang out with my family, friends or significant other during that time. Also just including your significant other in your daily work life and letting them know how your day was and little details that happened that day makes them feel included and shows you care.

Do you have any passions outside of treating patients? If so, what are they and how do you find time to pursue these passions?

I enjoy traveling and am also a foodie. So at least twice a month I try to go to a new city and eat at new restaurants with friends or family. Gives you something to look forward to during the week.

What do you like to do for fun?

Fun for me has turned into resting on my free time and catching up on television shows. But I also enjoy traveling as stated above.

In an alternate universe, what career do you think you would be in right now if healthcare wasn’t an option for you?

I would possibly be an interior designer. I love watching HGTV and renovating spaces.

Who are some of your favorite musicians? Favorite books? Shows? Movies?

  • Musicians: Miguel, Drake, Boys II Men
  • Books: I’m kind of all over the place (Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, and several others)
  • Shows: Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy (pretty much anything Shonda Rhimes)
  • Movies: Sound of Music, 10 Things I Hate About You, Lion King

This is fantastic Mahelet! Thank you so much for being so willing to share some of yourself with us and for giving us insight as to what studying & working in the field of dentistry is like! It’s wonderful that you wake up excited to be able to make tangible differences in the lives of others!

Health Career Spotlights Home Page

Posted on March 9th, 2017

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