Outreach service propelled years of work on Fond du Lac reservation for alumna

Headshot of Jamie Wade on a branded UMN background

Service and care for Native populations has been a priority in dentistry for Jamie Wade, DDS ’10, since nearly the beginning—and it’s what kept her working with one outreach site for nearly 14 years.

Wade grew up in Fergus Falls, MN, “surrounded by teachers.” Her grandfather, father, mother and spouse all worked as teachers in varied capacities. Though she chose dentistry rather than teaching herself, her work at an Outreach location would bring the family’s love of education to life—just in a different capacity.

Wade saw dentistry as a great way to combine work in healthcare with work life balance, as well as a way to explore the intersection of art and science. She was first introduced to opportunities to work with Native populations when she participated in the Indian Health Services externship program in her fourth year in dental school.

“I spent three weeks at the Red Lake Clinic in northern Minnesota and learned so much,” she recalled. “Every day felt fast-paced and different from the last: making treatment plans, managing emergency care, providing treatment and more. It was the perfect culmination of everything I had been practicing as a D3 student.”

This experience opened Wade’s eyes to the field of public health dentistry, and as luck would have it, another IHS clinic was hiring just as she graduated. She joined the Min No Aya Win clinic on the Fond du Lac reservation in Cloquet in 2010, and began working as an adjunct faculty member in the Division of Outreach in 2015.

Working with Anishinaabe patients “has been an incredible experience” for Wade. “From day one, my patients have been so grateful for the care we provide them,” she said. “Fond du Lac has always prioritized healthcare for their community members. Because of the support the clinic receives from the reservation, we are educated on a variety of subjects, like cultural traditions, language, music and history. This education helps me become a better provider by building trust with the community.”

In addition to what she learns from her patients, Wade passes on her own lessons to DDS learners who come to the clinic on their own Outreach experiences. It’s a bit of a full-circle moment, teaching the next generation in the way she was once taught.

“We love it when the students come to the clinic,” she said. “It energizes the clinic, and we continue to be impressed with the caliber of the students who rotate through. While we hope to provide them with a great learning experience and exposure to general dentistry, we also enjoy getting to know them and learning what they love and find challenging about dentistry. I love being able to give them a glimpse into what public health dentistry can look like, share a little bit about my own experience and encourage them on their own career journey.”

After nearly 14 years working at Min No Aya Win since graduation, Wade is moving on to a pediatric practice. She hopes to one day complete a pediatric dentistry residency program and bring those skills back to the Northland “and continue serving this remarkable community.” In them meantime, she’ll take with her the memories of 14 wonderful years in public health that made her the best provider she can be—and she’ll continue singing the praises of the profession.

“To those considering a career in public health, I enthusiastically encourage you to go for it!,” she said. “Using your skills to improve the lives of those who have been marginalized and underserved is so rewarding. To help someone know that you care about them and that they matter—there is nothing better.”