MOC Alumna Sinks Her Teeth Into Dental School
MOUNT OLIVE- Devinn Geeson felt that the timing was right to return to school and earn her degree. If she wasn’t working as a dental hygienist or at one of her other two part-time jobs, her head was glued to her organic chemistry notes during the breaks at her teenage daughters’ cheerleading competitions. Her children, Tyler J. Brown – 21, and Trista J. Brown – 20, didn’t mind because they were just as dedicated to her success as she was. “It was not easy, but I wouldn’t change one bit of the experience; it made me who I am today.”
Forty-two year old Geeson, who currently lives in Chapel Hill, heeded the advice from one of her mentors which was: never quit. The dedication is paying off. After graduating from University of Mount Olive in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, she went on to become the first University of Mount Olive graduate to be accepted into the School of Dentistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. Geeson, who is Native-American, is proud to have paved the way for other students from University of Mount Olive in the field of dentistry as well as other minorities.
Geeson’s “never quit” attitude extends into the community. While working as a dental hygienist before and during college, she worked with non-profit organization such as Communities and Schools of Wayne County to offer dental education as well as health, fitness, and nutritional information to teens throughout the county. She has also volunteered for the Mission of Mercy, a component of the North Carolina Dental Society, that offers free mobile dental care to North Carolina residents in need. Her significant contributions to her community led to her being awarded the Community Service in Dentistry Award.
Even at Chapel Hill, Geeson’s tenacity has allowed her to assist Dr. Sylvia Frazier Bowers, an assistant professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry’s Department of Orthodontics, with research on Ectodermal Dysplasia and the genetic anomaly of missing teeth. “I had dental knowledge and experience including HIPAA training. This was a great opportunity for me since many of the researchers who worked with her were chemistry or biology majors. I was able to read x-rays, work with the database, and act as a liaison for patients who were participating in the research studies.”
During the summer of 2010, Geeson attended the UNC Medical Education Development Program and was awarded the Larry Keith Spirit Award. This was significant to Geeson because Keith, being the founder of the MED program, worked to increase minority matriculation into medical and dental schools in North Carolina and nationwide. “He was a champion for underrepresented and disadvantaged minorities. Through the MED program, participants are able to prove to themselves and others that they can achieve success in medical or dental school regardless of their backgrounds or economic statuses. Larry Keith is who advised Geeson to never quit.
Currently, Geeson is working with organizations to increase the number of minorities in dental school. “I am working with The Medical Education Development Office which facilitates the MED Program each summer. The program is designed to immerse students in academics rigorously – much like the first year of dental or medical school. The program offers support and opportunities that allow students to improve upon any and all facets of enrollment into dental or medical school.” In addition, she works with the Student National Dental Association (SDNA) that strives to improve minority numbers in dental school, the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) that works to keep dentistry politically organized, and Global Health Student Association (GHSA) which is an international outreach and mission trip program. She was one of many first-year students who were selected to go on a mission trip to Mexico during the summer of 2012 to provide dental care to an orphanage, Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos, which houses approximately 1000 children.
Geeson credits University of Mount Olive and the biology faculty as being an important component of her educational journey. “I thank University of Mount Olive’s Biology Department for my education, guidance, and support during my time there. I feel strongly about paying the many opportunities that I’ve been blessed with forward. This spring, I will receive my white coat from UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry and in 2015 I will graduate as a dentist.”
Geeson believes that life is about the experience of the journey rather than the arriving at the destination. “I hope that my journey can blaze a trail for those who wish to travel a similar path. I am so excited to have the opportunity to help someone else see their dreams to fruition.”
University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The College, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Research Triangle Park, Washington and Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.moc.edu.