A day in their scrubs

Meet D3 Twain Henry
March 8th, 2018

Twain HenryEvery experience can hold a lesson. It’s something third-year dental student Twain Henry learned in his formative years, almost by accident.

His fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Bennett, noticing how he powered through his Accelerated Reader books, issued him a challenge.

“She asked me, ‘Why are you reading these books?’ I was like, ‘to get the prizes,’” Henry recalls. “She gave me this book, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ and told me, ‘There’s an underlying secret in there, and you have to find it.’” So Henry read the book. He studied it, scouring the chapters for clues.

“I started catching up on lessons and details, and I kept coming up to her asking, ‘Is this the secret you are talking about?’ I came up with all these little things from the book that I learned. She never told me the secret at all. In seventh grade, I went up to her and said, ‘I think I know what you’re talking about. I think that the whole concept of the Narnia book revolves around Christianity.’ She said, ‘Twain, there never was a secret. In everything and anything there is a lesson, and as long as you can take that with you in life, that will take you somewhere.’”

Life lessons also come through martial arts, which he began studying at age 5: first taekwondo, then kendo and, later, jujitsu.

“I was basically raised with my taekwondo master,” Henry says. “Now I look out for his kids when I go back. My mom, an OB-GYN, delivered their babies.”

Twain Henry

“Everything was wiped out,” Twain Henry recalls of the property Light members canvassed at the request of its owners after the East Texas tornadoes last spring. “The foundation was there. Half the car was in a tree. Their tub was way out far. The only thing that was actually standing was the American flag. It got picked up and thrown. And that’s how it landed. I looked behind the tractor, and it was just there, sticking up out of the ground.”

Nowadays, this third-year dental student may just practice jujitsu at home in his room, but he has a new passion: rounding up classmates to volunteer through an organization they refer to as Light. Membership is not limited to dental students or even dental causes. Friends, family members, even friends of friends are welcome to pitch in. Sometimes it takes the form of assisting with local nonprofits, such as a mother’s day out program for single moms. Other times, when disaster strikes, they spring into action, like last April, after the tornado outbreak in East Texas. At the request of one woman whose husband lay critically injured in the hospital, they searched for vital documents surrounding the couple’s home, ripped completely from its foundation.

“We found a passport, a wallet,” Henry recalls. “We found a lot of important things; we found some old artwork that their kids had made. We even raised money to give to the people.

“We need to get to know others. Let them know that we are neighbors. I think that the best way to do that is getting together with people and volunteering.”

Hometown: Lubbock, Texas

Undergrad institution: Prairie View A&M University

Dental school survival strategy: There’s a purpose to everything, and you can learn anything from everything. Back in seventh grade, probably the biggest story that I watched that really changed my perspective on life and how I live it was “Naruto.” Naruto was about this boy, he was actually one of the worst students out there. Just through hard work and diligence, he made it to his dream. His dream was to become the main leader of the whole ninja village. Everybody would tell him, “You can’t do that, you don’t have those skills.” Through his hard work and relationships with people, he made it through to the end. Every day you come in, and you do the best you can.

There’s this saying: Always hold your head up, because you won’t find hope on the ground. If I’m having a bad day, or if my classmates are having a bad day, I’m just going to smile at them and say, “You’ve got another day tomorrow; let’s make the next one worthwhile.”

Also, studying with Husnain Shahid helps. He has played a big role here for me. We look after each other like brothers!

Favorite energy food: General Tso’s chicken with steamed rice or roasted duck, and barbecue pork soup from First Chinese BBQ in Richardson

Best way to unwind after a long day in lecture, lab or clinic: Giving back to the community and bringing people together with my friends. I don’t want to drop everything for pure academics all the time. I thought, “What if we started a multicultural volunteering thing here?” You find out what you are passionate about, and you bring people together — neighbors, friends, family. We have a lot of people in Light; Avanika Khanna and Steven Clark help lead the organization, but it’s not just dental students.

Light members gather for a holiday gift exchange.

Light members gather for a holiday gift exchange.

Dental school aha moment: A lot of the stuff you learn here, in first and second year all ties into something later down the road. There are times where you have to figure out what’s going to be important, and make sure you learn that stuff well, because that is going to tie into your treatment planning.

Best patient care experience: It was the first day of Operation East Texas, and this guy came in; he was like 21 or 22. Instead of his teeth being along his arch, there were two laterals on his palate. He had told us, “I’m a waiter, and ever since I’ve been a certain age, I’ve always been very conscious about it. Whenever I’m taking people’s orders, they just stare at my mouth.”

I took out the first tooth. Karl Veasey took out the second tooth. We were sitting there, like, “Whoa, we actually did this.” When Karl said he could close his mouth, the patient smiled, and a little tear came out. It went through my head, What did this guy have to endure? That sparked a little flame. It’s gotten bigger and bigger and bigger seeing how you can affect people’s lives.

Goal after graduation: I want to go back and work with my dentist or her sister, or it might be with a dental group. I’m going back to Lubbock for sure. I have always wanted to go back to Lubbock. I could be in Germany, looking at a sunset, but in the back of my head, thinking about how I need to see the ones in Lubbock. I could be in Hawaii, walking on the beach, and I would be thinking about Lubbock. It’s the community. It’s the people.

Twain HenryWhat people may not know about you: I am trained in taekwondo, Brazilian jujitsu and kendo. I did taekwondo up until high school. After that, Master Kim and my grandmother wanted me to get into something different, so I did kendo for two years. That’s where I learned a lot of my sword fighting.

Brazilian jujitsu taught me what it’s like to lose. All the time. In Brazilian jujitsu, for those first two years, I lost about 99 percent of my matches. I was getting thrown around like a rag doll three times a week. I also had braces then, and I didn’t know to put wax on them. I would come back with blood on my cheeks. It’s like, alright, you got your butt kicked. Now what are you going to do about it? I’m not going to say, “Woe is me.” You get your butt kicked, you get back up.

— Jennifer Fuentes