Flying higher

Lt. Grace Plain joins dental school on Air Force scholarship
August 24th, 2023

Grace Plain, U.S. Air Force lieutenant and first-year dental student

It takes more than pilots to keep the U.S. Air Force flying. Almost any job in civilian life can also be found in the military: mechanics, media specialists, even dentists, just to name a few.

Grace Plain, commissioned in April as a second lieutenant in the Air Force, is attending Texas A&M School of Dentistry this fall to pursue her dental degree thanks to an Air Force scholarship.

“I didn’t know about the program until I started applying for dental schools,” Plain said. “I listened to an Army podcast about this scholarship opportunity. I would get taken care of through dental school and have opportunities for travel and advancement. It just seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

The Health Professional Scholarship Program is meant to help students focus on getting through dental school without having to worry about student debt. Technical Sgt. Denarius Mitchell, Plain’s recruiter, explained that the scholarship covers Plain’s tuition and provides a monthly stipend for additional expenses. Plain was one of only eight students selected for this four-year scholarship this year, he said. He also added that a dentistry career with the Air Force offers several advantages to civilian dentistry.

“When you become an Air Force dentist, you enter an established dental practice with the best healthcare team in the world,” Mitchell said. “There’s no need to worry about overhead expenses, malpractice insurance and other red tape that’s common in a civilian practice. You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you can give your patients the dental care they need without worrying about their ability to pay. You’ll also share a common bond with them: service to country.”

Plain graduated from Texas A&M University in May 2023 with a degree in nutrition and minors in psychology and communications. She also ran on the school’s cross country and track teams. Plain started college planning a career as a dietitian or in sports nutrition but found it wasn’t the right path for her. As she began to look at other opportunities, she learned more about dentistry and grew deeply interested in the field.

“I think A&M has a culture of military experience, so being around that has helped prepare me for what’s coming,” she said. “My course load and my professors have done an amazing job preparing me for the future, and being an athlete has helped shape who I am and how I feel going into dental school and the Air Force.”

Joining the Air Force, she said, was a great opportunity because it not only helped pay for her school, but it also allowed her to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. He also served in the Air Force.

“My family is very excited for me,” Plain said. “The military is intimidating at first, but they’re happy about the security and experiences I’ll have. The minimum commitment to the Air Force is four years after dental school, but I think I want to do more than that. The idea of an assignment abroad excites me, and there’s so many opportunities in the Air Force. So, I’m open to staying longer before going into something like private practice.”

— Caleb Vierkant

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