Hunting the good stuff in military service and dental school

Stanislas Ogokeh at military training

Service is at the core of everything Stanislas Ogokeh, DDS ’26, does. It has informed the way he lives his life, from military service to dental school.

Ogokeh is the first to admit that his path to dental school is “a bit unorthodox.” Growing up in a country where dental care was not common, Ogokeh did not attend his first dental appointment until he needed a cavity filled at age 18. 

“Because I was a bit older, I had a better appreciation for the way my dentist took care of me,” he explained. “That motivated me to pursue a career in that field.” 

Stanislas Ogokeh in tactical gear

However, Ogokeh did not immediately pursue that path. He achieved two bachelor's degrees from North Dakota State University—one in zoology and one in biochemistry, plus minors in french, chemistry and vaccinology—and a Master of Science in Pharmacology from the University of Minnesota before deciding to enlist in the United States Army as a dental specialist (68E). “My parents were avid advocates for education and selfless service,” he said. “Considering that they never received a college education, I wanted to make them proud and live a life of service.” 

Ogokeh also felt duty-bound to serve his country. “As a first-generation immigrant, I joined because I wanted to give back to my new country,” he said. And he knew serving as a dental specialist would allow him to “obtain some hands-on experience in the dental field” along the way. 

Serving in the armed forces was challenging, but Ogokeh calls it “by far the most rewarding challenge of my life.” 

“The Army taught me how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations to achieve a goal,” he said. “It has also taught me to value and appreciate people who may not share the same cultures or background as me. Through the Army, I found a new sense of family.” 

Stanislas Ogokeh at military training

The lessons Ogokeh learned in his six years of military service have stuck with him and shaped the man he is today. “The biggest lesson I learned is to treat everyone with respect, and realize that everyone is a valuable member of your team,” he said. “As a student, I follow that same mentality. I try to treat everyone equally, because everyone has something to contribute to our program.” 

Ogokeh also brings with him what the Army called “hunting the good stuff.” 

“‘Hunting the good stuff’ is a resiliency technique,” he explained. “When you are faced with adversity and nothing seems to be going your way, you take a step back and ‘hunt’ for the positives. Once you hone in on a pleasant memory, you hold onto it and remember how it made you feel. It helps you put things into perspective, makes you realize that the adversity you are going through is transient and that you have the skillset to adapt and overcome your current situation.” 

“Hunting the good stuff” has certainly come in handy during Ogokeh’s first semester of dental school, through the challenging curriculum and the points of transition. “Whenever I have a challenging day, I always remember to hunt the good stuff and realize that things will get better,” he said. 

Stanislas Ogokeh and other first-year DDS students at the White Coat Ceremony
Ogokeh (right) with other student summer research students at their White Coat Ceremony

So far, that “good stuff” has included the summer research program with Kim Mansky, PhD, who helped him transition from service to civilian status and introduced him to biochemics in dentistry. He will continue finding good stuff after graduation as he serves as an active duty military dentist and works in an underserved community. 

And every step of the way, Ogokeh will do what he does best, committing to excellent service and bettering his community in every way he can. He’ll do so by “developing the skills necessary to serve my community and advocate for better dental care.” 

On this Veteran’s Day, we thank Ogokeh and all veterans and active-duty service members for their contributions to our country.