Hometown: Miami, Florida
Name of Undergraduate Institution: Birmingham – Southern College
Major(s)/Minor(s) in College: Biology Major/Chemistry Minor
Name of Dental School: Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry
Favorite Quote: “I never lose, I either win or I learn.” – Nelson Mandela
Contact Info/Additional Links:
Instagram – @vivala_nia
Where are you currently at in your career path and why did you decide to pursue this career path?
I am currently a third-year dental student at Meharry Medical College. To be honest I knew I wanted to become a doctor when I was very young, but I considered dentistry much later,–when I got to college. What I love most about dentistry is that you get to use your hands and you get to create. You also have to do some problem solving which presents a challenge. I’ve always been artistic and had a love for the sciences so becoming a dentist is the best of both worlds. You get to make an impact on people and help in so many ways. Whether that be by improving their self-confidence with a cosmetic procedure or treating the dental pain that keeps them up at night with a root canal, there are so many possibilities!
If you could go back and have a chat with your naïve college freshman self, what would you tell her?
Younger Niariah wasn’t very self-assured and in this career path you definitely have to be, especially as a young black woman! You will have bad days, you will mess up, you will fail sometimes. If you aren’t confident it can mentally break you. When I was younger, I was also always used to being really good at most things naturally, but in dentistry you have to put work in constantly to become better. You also have to take failures as learning experiences. I know that sounds cliché, but it becomes literal in this career path. You really do learn more from failures than success. If you execute something perfectly the first time, you don’t learn anything from it.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a similar path as yours?
If you want to pursue a career in dentistry you should connect with a dentist and shadow them to see what the day to day is like. That will help you to get a feel for the workflow, the lifestyle, and the work environment. Try to pick their brain and learn about the positives and the negatives of the field because dentistry does not suit everyone. Getting into dental school is competitive but there’s no reason you can’t do it. No matter what stage you are at it’s important to work hard and always put your greatest effort. Be the best version of yourself and keep your end goal in mind.
What is your favorite thing about your dental school?
Meharry is one of two Historically Black dental schools in this country and has such a rich history. We are one of the leading producers of Black health professionals and it’s amazing to be a part of this legacy. My favorite thing about Meharry is the support and sense of community. Our professors really push us but ultimately, they want to help us become better. At Meharry, your classmates and peers really become your greatest resource and we are always willing to help each other. It really is like a family.
What advice would you give to someone getting ready to start their application process to dental schools?
Try to start early so that you have enough time to be thorough in your process. Break it up into sections so that you don’t overwhelm yourself and also try as best as you can to pace yourself and plan ahead. It can be stressful but whatever you do don’t get discouraged because it all becomes worth it in the end. Try to make yourself stand out and highlight your strong points because it is sort of a weed-out process.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love being outside so outdoor activities are my go-to. I like to hike, skate, ride bikes, have picnics and things like that. I’m definitely that friend that hates being bored and loves to find new fun things to do.
What do you feel is the most challenging part of dental school? The easiest part?
The most challenging part to me is definitely the workload. During our first and second years we were taking sooo many classes! We were constantly studying and had multiple exams and quizzes every week. It’s overwhelming at first but you adjust quickly and learn to roll with the punches so to speak. The easiest part? I love being able to help people! I love the fact that all the hard work and sleepless nights of studying are actually being put to use. In undergrad we studied to get that piece of paper at the end, but in professional school all the studying is worthwhile. It’s very motivating when you can see your vision and purpose so clearly. As a third-year student, I can especially relate because we are finally starting to treat our own patients. After years of schooling, this is the first time I am getting to put to use what I have learned and studied to help someone and improve their quality of life. It’s truly the best motivation. It’s also cool to have a little bit of expertise and a skill that not many people can say they have. Our experiences are very unique!
What do you do to get through the stressful nature of dental school?
For me, it’s important to make sure that I enjoy myself and have fun outside of my academic obligations to keep my sanity. Give yourself grace and make sure you treat yourself regularly, with whatever that looks like for you. I also make sure to talk to my family and loved ones regularly because they cheer me up and help me forget about whatever’s stressing me out at school.
Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful answers Niariah! We greatly appreciate you and all of the experiences and words of wisdom you shared with us! This feature will be read by many people and will definitely be helpful to those who are navigating a career path similar to yours. Best of luck to you as you continue to grind out your remaining time in dental school and transition into the next step of your career as a dentist!
Posted on May 3rd, 2021