Faculty Advice Leads to Career Shadowing
Taylor Smithson ’18 shares how asking her Chem professor for advice on entering dental school led to an amazing internship.
In the fall semester of her junior year at Southwestern, Taylor Smithson ’18 reached out to Professor of Chemistry Kerry Bruns to ask his advice on dental school and preparing for the Dental Admission Test. Dr. Bruns suggested that Taylor attend the Healthcare Professional Breakfast during Homecoming 2017 at which Nicholas Cox ’11, DDS would be speaking.
Following the breakfast, Taylor spoke with Dr. Cox about dentistry in general and how undergraduate students could earn shadowing hours in the dental field. Having shadowed an ER doctor while he was in high school, and recognizing the value of the experience, it’s not surprising that Dr. Cox became interested in developing a shadowing internship opportunity in his own practice.
The opening gambit was a conversation he and his wife (also a dentist) had with a gift officer in Southwestern’s University Relations Office about the rich set of skills and opportunities they had been blessed with. As the Coxes considered how to most effectively help others develop similarly, Nick describes their reasoning:
“We came up with the idea of not just giving financially, but giving some experience that can be worth more in that it may help someone discover their own passion.”
Working with Southwestern’s Center for Career & Professional Development, the Coxes created their new internship from scratch. The following spring, Taylor applied for it and was overjoyed to be accepted—she knew how much harder it could be for pre-dental students to land an internship than for pre-medical students. “So,” she says, “I was beyond excited and couldn’t wait to start!”
Taylor spent six weeks during the summer of 2018 working full time at Cox Family Dentistry, Dr. Nick Cox’s practice in Plano, TX. It was, she said, “by far the coolest and most valuable thing I have ever gotten to do.” She shadowed every position she could, from reception to hygiene to office manager, and gained practical experience as often as possible. Taylor describes how “most internships are part-time, mostly hands-off experiences that just brush the surface of what you’ll see in that profession,” but that her experience “went completely above and beyond” as she took advantage of everything that Dr. Cox and his office had to offer.
Taylor especially appreciated that even in the midst of tasks that required deep skill and focus—like a difficult tooth extraction—Dr. Cox would still look for new concepts to teach her while keeping her aware of all the intricacies of the procedure being performed.
This ability to juggle multiple priorities and still attend to the overarching goal was a skill Dr. Cox says he first developed at Southwestern. He describes how his ability to be heavily involved in academics while pursuing numerous extracurricular activities taught him to prioritize, a necessity for maintaining balance within the demands of his professional life.
In addition to sharing the importance of time management and balancing a frequently demanding work-life dynamic, Dr. Cox also gave Taylor recommendations on dental schools, advice on acing interviews, and tips for conquering the Dental Admission Test. She says that the whole experience solidified and confirmed her dream of becoming a dentist.
Taylor says,“I loved every second working there and don’t think I could ever thank Dr. Cox, his office and staff, and his wife, more!”