August 15, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 33

Out of the chair and into the scrubs

Kayleigh Short graduates dental school

It’s not often a person chooses one’s profession during a dental appointment but it’s exactly where Petersburg’s Kayleigh Short made her decision to go to dental school.

Kayleigh Short

Short graduated from Mesa’s Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health last spring. Her educational experiences have taken her from classroom laboratories to Arizona Indian reservations and into sprawling Alaskan tundra.

“Dentistry had never been something that had come to mind after growing up in a fishing family,” Short said. “I just knew I had to do something with my hands.”

It was when she was discussing her high school jewelry making class with local dentist, Dr. Phillip Beardslee, when he made the connection between the precision work associated with crafting jewelry and dentistry.

After more discussion with Beardslee about the life of a dentist, she left high school knowing what she wanted to do.

When Short looked into ASDOH, one of several schools she applied to, she was impressed by the school’s mission statement—which reached out to work with underserved populations.

“Having grown up in a very small and isolated location, that was the part that made me realize the school had similar passions to what I was hoping for,” Short said.

When the school informed Short of her acceptance, she agreed right away.

From there, Short hit the ground running, or rather crutching. She broke her leg on the third day of dental school after stepping off a curb at an awkward angle.

When she wasn’t studying into the wee hours or soaking her fellow students with air water sprays from operatory units, she was working long hours on homeless or low income patients and rural Alaskans who didn’t have regular access to dental care.

“I spent a week in Wainwright and did dental work from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on that first Sunday night and then we worked 10 hour days until we left Friday afternoon,” Short said. “Three days after I left the sun set for good for the winter.”

And now with the sun setting on her past four years of dental school Short is on track to obtain an advanced degree in general dentistry.

Short plans on moving back to Petersburg but said that’s at least five years down the road. She still owes Indian Health Services a four-year work commitment that will likely take her to more remote locations in Alaska or an Indian reservation down south.

Short said it’s been different every day and that’s the exciting part and as long as her work keeps her asking questions she’ll be satisfied.

“Every tooth is different,” Short said. “Every challenge is different.”

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