The Way I See It: Dr. Jennifer Perry Wade ’14
Just five years post-dental school, Dr. Jennifer Perry Wade ’14 has found the perfect blend of work/life and faith/career balance.
Wade got her first taste of mixing dentistry with community outreach while attending Texas A&M College of Dentistry. Two mission trips to Belize and Guatemala were one such step. Her four-year involvement with the college’s student chapter of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations was another.
As dental school graduation approached back in 2014, Wade contemplated her next move.
“I knew I wanted to be in underserved areas. I figured I’d find a community clinic to work for,” she says.
An unexpected email to all CMDA student leadership changed her trajectory in a way she could only have dreamed of. The email described a new, one-of-a-kind, three-year program combining dentistry and Christian fellowship. She applied to (and was accepted into) CMDA’s Dental Residency Plus program in Memphis, Tennessee.
Wade spent her first year in their Advanced Education in General Dentistry program, then became a staff dentist for Christ Community Health Services. Both the Plus program and Christ Community Health Services work together under one roof. Wade still practices general dentistry there and also has joined the residency program faculty.
“The purpose is to train Christians to use dentistry and ministry to help people for the love of Jesus,” she says. “I found other Christians with that same goal, and then I merged both my career and my faith.”
While Wade’s professional life fell nicely into place, the Fort Worth, Texas, native’s personal life was on equally solid footing. She tied the knot with her newfound Memphis love, Isaac. Wade now splits her week between dentistry and taking care of her daughter, Mariella, 2, and son, Jonathan, 3 months. When she has time, she volunteers, too.
“I’m working part time, which is nice. I don’t think there are a lot of other medical professions where you can be that flexible,” she says.
What was especially distinctive about your time in dental school?
What I remember the most was my friendships and the positive role models the instructors were. My friends were my lifeline, and the instructors helped shape me into the dentist and woman I am today. I appreciated that the instructors didn’t coddle us and pushed us to do our best, but they also didn’t belittle us and make us feel like fools.
What is the most important way dental school prepared you for practice?
The amount of actual treatment we were able to do during dental school definitely prepared me to start working. After meeting several people from other states, I realized that I had a unique opportunity to go to a school that strived to make sure we had plenty of hands-on experience with treatment before we entered the real world.
Did your early practice years teach you a thing or two?
During my very early years of practice, because I’ve only been out 5 years, I learned not to promise anything and that a lot of dentistry isn’t as straightforward as we want it to be. So many factors go into planning and carrying out treatment for patients. You have to be OK with some of those variables being out of your hands. Being a dentist definitely takes patience and flexibility with others and with yourself.
What’s the best part of your workday?
Being able to pray with my patients. Doing dentistry is a really neat thing because we get to be a part of healing and restoring the body. This isn’t enough to keep me going, though, because it doesn’t last forever. Part of the reason I wanted to be a dentist was to help better people’s lives and, as a believer in Christ, I know that unless I show and tell people God’s love, the work I do will just fall flat. I’m so thankful I work somewhere that allows me to love my patients, soul and body.
Do you learn from your patients?
I learn from my patients all the time. Being able to meet and get to know a wide variety of people changes your perspective of the world. It can be challenging to work with so many personalities and backgrounds, but I have learned you can either become more empathetic and caring or more jaded and judgmental. I strive for the former and seek for my patients to teach me how to be a more understanding and kind provider.
What’s the best thing about the dental profession?
The best thing about the dental profession is to use a set of skills and knowledge to better people’s lives. As a mother, I’m also thankful for the flexibility with my working schedule. That wouldn’t be possible with other professions.
What about your own experiences in the dental chair?
I have always enjoyed being a dental patient. That was part of the reason dentistry was appealing to me. I haven’t had much dental treatment completed other than cleanings and a few fillings, but those experiences definitely stick with me as I treat my patients and try to understand what they are feeling and experiencing as I work on them.
What’s the best part of your life these days?
What’s most enjoyable for me right now is first my family, including a baby boy and two-year-old girl, and working with the CMDA Dental Residency Plus program. I completed the program in 2017 and grew significantly as a person and dentist. I have stayed on as faculty for the program and really enjoy working with the residents and encouraging them to grow and develop into the people God created them to be personally and within the field of dentistry.
What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
Jesus. I’ll spare you the sermon, but I seriously couldn’t go through this life without my relationship with Jesus Christ.
Do you keep in touch with your classmates?
I do keep up with some of my classmates. I recently spent some time in Texas during my maternity leave and made sure I got to see some of the best people I’ve known who made dental school so much better.