A day in their scrubs
Ever since Keso Oradiegwu decided he wanted to be a dentist, Texas A&M College of Dentistry has been the goal. That dream stretches back to his elementary school days.
“I knew I wanted to be a dentist around 8 or 9 years old,” says Oradiegwu. “My trips to the dentist were both fun and mysterious. They were fun because I got to miss school, and they were mysterious because I had two people poking around in my mouth, and I never had any idea what they were doing in there.”
What he didn’t know back then was how he might combine feeling like a kid at heart with his chosen career path. Then came his “gap” year. The biomedical engineering grad took on an afternoon tutoring gig in 2016 to help students struggling in math. The experience made him consider a possible career as a pediatric dentist before even stepping foot on campus as a D1.
Oradiegwu’s penchant for math and science doesn’t rule out a creative side. Musical leanings include singing and playing the trombone. The holidays call for an annual tradition: A reunion of trombone players from Oradiegwu’s high school and surrounding schools to spread holiday cheer with Christmas carol instrumentals.
Hometown: Pearland, Houston
Undergrad institution: University of Houston
Why Texas A&M College of Dentistry: This was always my dream school, but I never thought I would get in. The funny thing is, this is the only school that offered me an invitation for an interview. Thankfully I did well. I always heard about how the school is the best in Texas because of its research and for how well faculty train their graduates.
Dental school survival strategy: Everyone says the same thing: You need sleep, you need exercise, you need fun. Even with all that, the first year was really difficult. What helped was crossing off days on the calendar, knowing you are one day closer to being done.
Favorite energy food: Every morning I have my mom’s breakfast burritos. She’s a great cook, she puts all these great veggies in, like kale, tomato, bell peppers. She will put them together for me, and I’ll take them from Houston to Dallas and freeze them. It’s a great, nutritious meal, and it’s a nice reminder of my mom.
Best way to unwind after a long day in lecture, lab or clinic: I play basketball and work out with my roommates, Jim Pichon and Mark Mehany. That’s always so fun. We escape from class and literally run to the gym. Now I look forward to working out every day. Honestly, those two-hour naps after class feel good, too.
Best dental school moment so far: Volunteering at Texas Mission of Mercy, where basically volunteer dental professionals give their time and provide free dental care for those who are uninsured and can’t afford it. Everyone who was volunteering had a smile on their face. I just remember feeling like this is where I wanted to be.
Best patient care experience: It was my very first shadowing experience with the dentist in my hometown. Everything up until then was just checkups and cleanings, nothing too serious. Then an elderly man walked in, and he had hardly any teeth. The teeth he did have were black and broken. Whenever I saw the guy step into the chair, I thought, “Uh-oh. I really don’t want to stick around.” Then the dentist talked with the patient, got his medical history and designed a treatment plan that the patient agreed to have done the same day. To see the encounter go from words to action was pretty magical. I realized then that the worse the condition, the more I can learn from it.
Goal after graduation: I’m considering pediatric dentistry. They say the best pediatric dentists are kids at heart, and I’ve always been able to relate well with kids. On top of that, I just genuinely care about their well-being. I want them to be happy and grow up happy, and they bring a lot of joy to my life as well.
I taught math to students grades K-12 during my gap year. While I was there, I used it as an opportunity to practice how I would interact with kids in my own office. It gave me insight into how kids react when they are forced to do things they don’t want to do. If you’re interested to know which one they think is worse between math and dentistry, it’s definitely math.
What people may not know about you: I played trombone for six years and was in the marching band in high school. I still play when I get the chance. Every year, my old private lesson teacher gathers his past and present students and colleagues, and we play Christmas carols at cancer hospitals. We also play at parks and outdoor malls, and one year we played in the lobby of Jones Hall, where the Houston Symphony plays, right before they were about to perform. It’s the one opportunity a year I get to see my old friends — and my old competitors from other schools — and make some great music. It is probably the highlight of my year, every year.
I played for the Pearland Community Band, too; I joined it with a friend from high school. It was a bunch of retirees and veterans, and we played a lot of ragtime tunes. Those older guys were really fun. We’d travel and play at retirement homes.