A day in their scrubs

Meet D2 Zach Sherburn
September 21st, 2023

D2 Zach Sherburn

Hometown: I grew up in Little Elm, Texas, which is kind of north up by Frisco. I’ve been in Dallas pretty much my whole life.

Undergraduate degree: My first year of college was in Rochester, New York. I went to the Eastman School of Music for a year, then transferred back to Southern Methodist University here, and majored in music education.

What did you do before dental school? I was a high school band director. While in college, I taught at Highland Park High School, which is right by SMU, and then from 2016 to 2017, I taught at Flower Mound High School. It was kind of the dream job. I always followed that passion for music, but through that passion, I discovered there were a lot more things I wanted to do.

How did you become interested in music? I guess it would have been fifth grade; I just started band. I’ve always found a place in music to express my creativity.

Favorite instrument: My favorite instrument is the marimba. It’s kind of like a giant xylophone.

Why did you switch to dentistry? Everyone asks that question, “Why the switch?” I think I was following my passion my whole life, and I almost had blinders on. The thought was: “I love music so much. I want to teach; I want to do all these things.” And I still do today. I still do music on the side, but there were some things that were lacking in that career: different types of creativity, scientific knowledge, wanting to help people in a different way.

The biggest draw for me was the artistic component of dentistry. Being able to do that and help people was a perfect match for me. Being able to express artistic creativity in a different way, in a way that helps people, is definitely why I chose that.

Were there any unique challenges getting into dental school with a music degree? Going through a music undergraduate program, my science classes were limited. I think I took a class called “Chemistry for Liberal Arts.” Everything was very basic. I had to live the life of a full-time employee and a full-time student to prepare for dental school. I would take night classes, weekend classes, a lot of online learning, just so I could get those science credits. Of course, that all also happened right at the beginning of COVID. I went back to school full time right when COVID hit, so that was also kind of difficult.

How has music helped you in dental school? A big thing about music that people don’t realize is that music is like learning a new language. Coming to dental school here as a D1, even with a scientific undergrad degree, is like learning a new language. It’s very difficult. I think being able to pick up things like that quickly helped a lot.

Also, in Texas specifically, high school and college music can be intense. There’s a lot of long hours, 9 to 5 doesn’t really exist in music. Being used to working hard, to long hours, really transferred over well.

The dexterity portion of playing music has helped a lot, too!

Do you have advice for people interested in dentistry who might not have the typical scientific background? I went through a lot of challenges and failures along the way to get here that I didn’t expect. I expected this picture-perfect scenario, “Well I have these achievements, and they’re going to see my music background and they’re going to love that.” My advice would be to keep pushing, more than you think you need to. Don’t let the failures get to you. Don’t look into what you can’t control. Use your unique skillset to better yourself as you become a dentist.

— Caleb Vierkant

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