For DDS learner, coaching and studies go hand in hand

Kinsley Kehlenbeck with fellow coaches holding a trophy on a branded background

Minnesota, hockey and dentistry were always a part of life for Kinsley Kehlenbeck, DDS ’23—so it’s no wonder they all play a role in her life today.

Growing up in Minnesota, Kehlenbeck played hockey from a young age until she graduated high school. She also spent a lot of time at the dentist. “I spent so much time in the dental chair getting fillings as a child, and I loved my hometown dentist,” she recalled.

In fact, she loved her dentist so much that, when it came to thinking about career paths in high school, dentistry came to mind easily. She began shadowing at her childhood dental practice, and the rest was history.

Kehlenbeck pursued her undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota, and decided to stay for her dental degree as well. “The people that come into dental school come from such diverse backgrounds, and it’s been very fun to get to know each other and make connections,” she reflected. Kehlenbeck also loves working with faculty at the school. “Dental school is hard, but there are certain faculty that help you keep things in perspective, and you realize it will all be worth it.”

When she left for college, Kehlenbeck’s hockey community missed her—so much that they asked her to return and coach youth teams after her graduation from undergrad. She waited a few years while she got used to the intensity of dental school, but decided that her fourth year was the perfect time to give it a shot.

“It has been such an amazing experience,” she reflected. “I have always loved working with kids, so when they asked me to coach the ten year olds, I was really excited. It feels good to be back at the rink, even if I’m not the one playing.”

Being a coach has taught Kehlenbeck quite a bit about leadership and mentorship. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is the importance of having female role models for young girls,” she said. “Hockey is predominately a male sport, and even when I was younger I only had male coaches. The girls look up to me, and they were excited to have someone to relate to.”

Coaching is good for Kehlenbeck, too—the girls “keep me feeling young” and remembering what it was like to be a ten-year-old herself.

Though they both keep her busy, both passions have informed one another. Coaching makes Kehlenbeck a better dental student, and vice versa.

“Being a student has given me a lot of different strategies to use when working with kids,” she explained. “I look back at some of the ways I treated pediatric patients during my rotation, and I still use those mechanisms when I’m coaching.”

On the other hand, coaching “has given me a new perspective on a lot of things in life,” she said. “My kids force me to think about things through the lens of a ten year old, and it makes hard decisions and stressful days seem a lot less serious.”

Though it’s a lot to balance, Kehlenbeck is handling it all with grace, hard work and determination. And she’s thrilled to bring three of her favorite things together to complete a busy, yet fulfilling final year of dental school.