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story.lead_photo.caption SUBMITTED PHOTO Hillary Craig, who is graduating from dental school on May 19, works on a patient during one of her dental school rotations. Craig is a 2010 graduate of McDonald County High School.

Hillary Craig, a 2010 McDonald County High School graduate, is about to graduate from dental school.

After graduating from high school, she went to Southeast Missouri State University at Cape Girardeau, where she earned a biomedical sciences degree. Then she started dental school in 2014 in Kirksville, Mo., at A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health. First, she learned the academic side of dentistry, she said. Then, in her second year, she did a lot of work on mannequins and fake teeth. Her university is the only one in the nation that has partnered with the community health center in St. Louis. Craig and other students moved to St. Louis to start working on patients within the community health setting.

Craig explained how she became interested in dentistry.

"I went to college (and) I didn't really like the path I was taking. I took time the first semester to shadow. I toured the pharmacy school, toured the dental school, shadowed my own dentist. Learned I like the art side of dentistry. I like doing good for people and having a unique skill," she said.

She took a lot of time to observe and had an excellent mentor, Jon Reagan, D.D.S., she said. He took her on a medical mission trip in central Belize where they extracted a lot of teeth and did a lot of emergency fillings in the summer of 2012. She is going back to Belize this July to be able to do that as a dentist, she said.

"I'm excited about that," she added.

Craig will be working in public health at a community health center in St. Charles, Mo.

"During our last year of dental school, we go on external rotations," she said. "I had gone on rotation there for five weeks. I really liked it, liked the people."

She said public health involves serving the uninsured and the less educated in dental need. Patients usually have a lack of access to dental care and travel a distance. A lot of patients are in pain and have not seen a dentist in a long time, she added.

"McDonald County is a very similar area. There's a lot of need," she said. "I didn't realize that until I started shadowing before dental school and observing doctors."

"One of the requirements before applying to dental school was observing doctors for so many hours," she said, "and so I observed at community health centers, and I realized there was a shortage for dentists in Missouri in general."

Regarding her success as a student, she said, "I'm excited. I've had a lot of support from my parents and my church family when I was younger. They helped me do a lot of community service. My parents and teachers really pushed me academically. I hope that other kids from the county will be able to do something similar to me. It's a long battle, but it is satisfying."

Craig graduates May 19 and starts her practice July 16, the day after she returns from Belize.

"I think it's a good way to start a career out," she said.

General News on 05/17/2018

Print Headline: MCHS Alum Graduating Dental School

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