Service to country and community
Inspired by the call to duty and honoring previous generations and fellow community members, four School of Dentistry learners have dedicated themselves to serving their country while improving oral health care.
Shannon Beaulieu, DDS ’24, Keisha Kappel, DDS ’25, and Michael Staikos, DDS ’24, are members of the Health Professional Scholarship Program, or HPSP. The program funds learners in a healthcare profession who commit to serving with the Armed Forces after graduation. Beaulieu and Staikos commissioned with the Navy, while Kappel is a second lieutenant in the Army.
The learners’ reasons for joining the program varied, but each felt a calling to serve. For Kappel, that call first came from witnessing her grandfathers, who served in Korea and Vietnam.
“Hearing their stories, I began to understand the sacrifices service members make, and I wanted to give back,” she explained. “The HPSP was the perfect way for me to serve and give back to the military and veterans while still following my path into health care.”
Though other members of her family are not part of the military, Beaulieu “wanted to step out of my comfort zone and grow from an opportunity such as this.” Similarly, Staikos found that the program “provided me with a unique career path that would allow me to fulfill my dreams and positively impact the lives of those who serve our country.” He looks forward to “having the opportunity to take care of a large group of individuals who continually keep our nation safe.”
While in dental school, the learners’ obligations to their service are minimal. “The program really promotes students focusing on their DDS degree,” explained Beaulieu. However, knowing that their post-graduation plans are set, and that they won’t have the burden of loans, has a significant impact on the learning experience.
“It has been a weight off my shoulders to not worry about student loan debt after graduation,” said Beaulieu. Kappel agreed, reflecting on the stresses she has witnessed from classmates over debt and post-graduation plans. “I don’t know where I will be going, exactly, but I’ll get experience working right away in different areas in the United States,” she said. “It’s a huge stress relief, and it also makes me really excited.”
Coming from out of state, that relief is even more significant for Staikos. “The program has allowed me to receive my education without the financial burden of student loans,” he said. “It has also provided me with a career path after dental school where I can continue to expand my knowledge and skills as a provider and offer essential care to a dedicated group of individuals.”
While their experience with the military thus far has just begun—Beaulieu recently had the experience of attending Officer Development School and learning about her responsibilities as an officer next year—third-year periodontics resident Andrew Glover, DDS ’21, brings his own experience from serving in the Air Force into his oral health career.
“I decided to join the Air Force after high school to be part of a mission much bigger than myself to serve the country I love,” he explained, sharing that the phrase “Duty, Honor, Country” by General Douglas MacArthur acted as an inspiration for him. “It was a desire to push myself and serve a mission bigger than myself.”
Glover’s time in the military inspired him to pursue a career as a periodontist because he “found joy in helping Airmen in their personal lives.” Though the two careers are separate, Glover puts what he learned in the military about leadership, taking ownership and stress management into action with patients.
“One of the most important lessons I learned was that a well-formed team can accomplish almost anything,” he said. “In dentistry, and especially at dental school, I found this to be true as I consider dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists and dental assistants working together to optimize the health of our patients. One person is not more important than anyone else—it’s all about the team helping one another deliver the best care and patient experience.”
Whether they are undertaking dental education in order to serve their fellow servicepeople, or coming to dentistry after a career in the military, these learners are grateful to give back to their country while making an impact in oral health.
“I’m proud of the Navy’s history of unwavering commitment to excellence,” said Staikos. “I aspire to have the same level of commitment as I refine my skills and provide dental care to our active military members.”
Beaulieu is “very grateful to be in the position I am today. The School of Dentistry has been a wonderful experience, and I’ll carry many memories with me on my next adventure. Although I will be a dentist, my biggest obligation is to serve as an officer. It is an honor to be able to provide dental care for our sailors, and it makes me proud to be part of something much bigger than myself.”
Kappel is proud to carry on her family’s legacy through “a great way to integrate healthcare with another piece of giving back.”
And Glover carries his memories and the lessons he learned with him in the Air Force with him every day.
“I am passionate about optimizing the health of my patients, and my time in the Air Force has made me a better clinician,” he said. “I have had the privilege of large leadership opportunities very early in my career, and those lessons apply directly to dentistry and leading the dental care team.”
As we approach Veterans Day, we offer our gratitude to the veterans in our School of Dentistry community and our best wishes for our active and soon-to-be active servicemembers.