Erin, Herky, David Haderlie –another LDS Mormon Dental student-- at a Hawkeye Football game my first year of dental school
When I first moved to Iowa I felt like I was “famous.”
I met people and they would automatically say things like, “Oh, you are the girl Mormon dental student. We knew you were coming.” This happened surprisingly often.
Need a little background as to why?
At BYU there was a very large pre-dental club. Over 200 people from my graduating class went to dental school when I started (that’s a lot of Mormons going into dentistry in one year, just from BYU, not including the other colleges in Utah or other places). I was part of the pre-dental club and I was the president of the “Women in Dentistry” club. I looked all over for other girls like me on campus but I found only a small handful (less than 5, and only one or two others who were actually applying with me).
Being a girl going into dentistry at BYU was weird. And not always accepted.
- A religion professor told me that Satan encouraged me to go to dental school.
- Boys I dated asked me how I was going to “possibly do dentistry and be a mom.”
- Another dentist asked me if I was applying to dental school “just to see if I could get in.” Yup, I spent thousands of dollars on application fees just to satisfy my pride and tell everyone about how I “could have gone to dental school but decided not to.”
- Men in my classes would tell me if they were me, they wouldn’t even study because “no matter what, you are going to get in, anyway.” They didn’t have to tell me the rest of their statement which they kept to themselves, “And you will probably take the spot of a deserving man like me who is trying to provide for his family.” (They also didn’t understand that outside of BYU, there is a huge percentage of women going into dentistry.)
To be honest, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the whole thing by the time graduation rolled around. Can you blame me?
I was doing what our church leaders told us to do, to seek all of the education I could, but because I was pursuing a demanding education it was assumed by many that I automatically was choosing not to have a family and this was frowned upon. Maybe at this point if I had a family I could have chosen them, but at this point they weren’t making themselves known to me (ironically I met my husband as a dental student in Iowa).
There was another female LDS student at the dental school when I started. In fact, I credit her with getting me interested in Iowa and applying in the first place. But she was from Iowa and often flew under the radar as another Mormon. I was the Mormon girl from Utah. People noticed the large number of LDS guys in dental school but I got a lot of questions about why I was the only girl. I was kind of special. And often a surprise.
This past Sunday I met a girl at church about to start dental school. There are two girls ahead of her already that go to my church. And there may be another girl from our church starting this year as well. That is 3-4 LDS girls at the school at the same time, plus me as a resident.
I don’t feel so special anymore.
But I’m glad to forfeit that part of my uniqueness. Times are changing maybe…
As a side note, now my identity is more based on being the only girl (the Mormon part is less interesting now that more than half of our residents are LDS) in my program currently, and the fourth female ever. This will probably be harder to change.