Chanthavisouk turns opportunity into career

Phonsuda Chanthavisouk, MDT ’21 (right)

Phonsuda Chanthavisouk, MDT ’21, graduated this spring, and she’s ready to make an impact in the world as a dental therapist. She got there with help from a Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation scholarship.

“The scholarship allowed me to be more focused and put intention and energy into my studies,” she reflected. “The work I produce as a clinician and a student is better because my financial burden of student loans was reduced.”

Ever since she moved with her family from Laos to Minnesota at age six, Chanthavisouk has had the University of Minnesota on her radar. She started her undergraduate degree, and a dental school preparation course inspired her to attend the School of Dentistry.

“It was such a great learning experience that was unforgettable,” she said. But it wasn’t until she applied to the dental hygiene program that she even learned that dental therapy exists. “I am so grateful that the U of M offers the dual degree program,” she said.

As soon as Chanthavisouk learned about the mission behind dental therapy, she was hooked. “I was raised in a developing country, in which I experienced economic, systemic health, oral health, environmental, and many more disparities,” she reflected. “Based on my experiences from home, I wanted to be part of exponential change in the world. That’s what I believe dental therapy will do for our nation’s oral health.”

Phonsuda Chanthavisouk, MDT ’21Chanthavisouk says she’s grateful for her scholarship from the Delta Dental of Minnesota Foundation, because it’s allowed her to fully immerse herself in her studies and experiences in and outside the classroom. “Not only has it affected my financial stability,” she explained, “I am now able to focus my energy in the didactic and clinical aspects of my education.”

She’s immersed herself in research opportunities, working with Mike John, PhD, DMD, MPH, professor of diagnostic and biological sciences, which ultimately inspired her to consider an academic career. She joined the Academic Career Fellowship Program to foster that curiosity.

“Thanks to the scholarship, I am able to experience these amazing opportunities, experience more patient encounters, and develop my skills overall.”

As a dental therapy student, Chanthavisouk has embraced that mission and found inspiration to make real, lasting change. “One thing that will always stick with me from my time at the School of Dentistry is the knowledge that I’ll always be where I am if I don’t take any action to make things happen,” she explained. “In the end, I could not have done this with the many people who supported me, but it’s in my power to make my own change.”

Driven CampaignAs a professional, she’ll work every day to make that change a reality. This month, she began work as a faculty intern in the School of Dentistry’s Division of Dental Therapy. “I participate in research, education, and services in this position,” Chanthavisouk explained. Once her credentialing is finalized, Chanthavisouk will begin practicing clinically at Children’s Dental Services, splitting her time between academic dentistry and clinical practice.

Chanthavisouk knows that she is where she is today, fulfilling a dual academic and clinical career dream, in part because of her scholarship funds. “To be able to attend the School of Dentistry has been a huge achievement already,” she said. “This scholarship has made a huge impact on my life. I know my parents are very proud of me and grateful that I’ve had the experiences and opportunities I did while at the School of Dentistry.”