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Meet Health Science Scholar Milan Stokes

Meet Health Science Scholar Milan Stokes

Dean's Scholars, Health Science Scholars and Polymathic Scholars represent some of the most well-rounded and plain interesting students at the University of Texas. We asked three of them – seniors Mia Ramirez of Polymathic, Wyatt Reeves of Dean's, and Milan Stokes of HSS – to look back on their undergraduate years and tell us how they have changed during their time here.

Milan Stokes

Where are you from?

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I attended elementary school in Cincinnati, then I went to middle school in Erie, Pennsylvania. I graduated from Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois in 2016. Currently, my family resides in Marietta, Georgia.

Why did you apply to UT-Austin? What other schools did you consider?

I applied to UT-Austin after a family friend living in Texas suggested I look into it. I only considered schools that were well-rounded – excellent academics, big athletic program, good social environment, and diversity. I also wanted to be part of an Honors program at my school, and I fell in love with HSS. UT Austin was the perfect mix of all the things I prioritized in a school. I was also considering Ohio State, University of Georgia, Stanford, and UCLA. All of those schools provided great opportunities for me to have a great college education and experience but the city of Austin and the opportunities I could have with HSS were what made me decide to attend.

How did you hear about Health Science Scholars, and why did you apply?

I had an amazing guidance counselor at my high school, and he introduced me to the idea of honors programs in college. When I took my list to him, he suggested that I look into specific honors programs at each school and I found HSS during that search. As soon as I read the program description, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. As long as I can remember, I've wanted to be in the healthcare field. Originally I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician, then in high school I thought I wanted to be a neurologist or a dentist. I was also drawn to the emphasis on community service. I had also served on community boards and did weekly mentorship of elementary schoolers, so that was an equally important factor for me. HSS was the perfect setting in which I could combine the two.

What did you decide to major in? How have your original academic plans developed?

Originally I planned to major in biology, but I changed my major to Neuroscience before I arrived at school. Around the end of high school I got really into psychology and neurology, and I was really interested in how our brain works. When I first came to school, I thought I wanted to become a neurologist, but then I switched to Dentistry when I realized just how much I loved working with my hands all the time while getting to have a great work-life balance. Academically, there is not much of a difference in the classes I take as a pre-dental student, so the switch did not change my academic plans much. I also originally came in thinking I wanted to minor in Spanish, but I ended up getting a certificate in the Business of Healthcare. I think that has been one of my best choices because everything I have learned in those classes has helped me think about how to be the best healthcare professional in all aspects. If it weren't for the Bachelor of Science and Arts degree that we fulfill for HSS, I probably wouldn't have pushed myself to take those classes.

What are you researching for your Honors thesis? Describe your project.

I am researching the effect of implementing mid-level dental providers into the dental workforce in Texas. In medicine we have Nurse Practitioners and Physician's Assistants that have carved out their place in the healthcare model and seem to be very effective. Until recently, dentistry did not have a comparable position, but now they have added Community Dental Health Coordinators, Dental Therapists, and Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioners in an effort to address the oral health crisis in underserved communities. There is an argument that adding mid-level providers will allow for a more efficient workforce which will more adequately address the oral health crisis. For my Capstone experience, I volunteered with Manos de Cristo Dental Clinic and St. David's Mobile Dental Program. Manos de Cristo is a clinic that provides low-priced dental care to adults. I work with them both on the clinical side with sterilization and other tasks, and on the administrative side by transcribing patient satisfaction surveys. St. David's Mobile Dental Program consists of fleets of dental vans that travel around to different elementary schools in the Austin area and provide free dental care to any students whose parents would like them to receive it. My experiences in both places have been vastly different in terms of setting, client base, and even problems that arise. I have been able to compare and contrast what I've seen in both to build my own opinions on how best to address oral health in Texas.

What do you plan to do after UT? Describe your professional goals. Have you begun interviewing, and if so, where?

After UT, I want to become a Pediatric Dentist in the public health sector. I love working with children, healthcare, and community service. This allows me to do all three. My ultimate professional goal is to build my own fleet of mobile dental vans that I can take around to schools in my area to provide dental care to children in my community. Before I attend dental school, I plan to take a gap year. During that year, I will move home to Atlanta and will volunteer with another reduced-price dental clinic. I also plan to travel and do a dental mission trip in Latin America.

What have you most appreciated about HSS?

I've loved how the community within HSS has allowed me to find my voice and my passions. While UT is a large school, my membership in HSS made everything feel smaller. I've also been able to use my voice to advocate for future classes of HSS by serving on the Diversity committee. We have been able to have productive conversations and make improvements in the culture of our program. HSS has felt like an environment where my voice is valued and heard, which is what I appreciate most.

How have you changed since your first year at UT?

When I first got to school, I was terrified of failure and bumps in the road. I hadn't had many in high school, and I thought that it could be the same way here. In reality, UT is a difficult school, but life, in general, is different in college. Around my sophomore year, I had a conversation with my mentors and they made me realize that you never get anything worthwhile by playing everything safe. After that, I started applying for different volunteering and internship opportunities, and in the beginning, I was told "no" many times. Eventually, I found Manos de Cristo and St. David's which were both the perfect experiences for me. Those initial responses turned me towards the best opportunities for me, but I wouldn't have found them if I didn't keep pushing.

What were you most surprised by in your time here?

I've been most surprised by how much I've learned outside of the classroom. Moving 800 miles away from my family required me to grow up quickly. I learned a lot about being independent and dealing with failures and bumps in the road. Through my volunteering experiences I learned how to contribute to my community. Through my lab research, I learned the importance of receiving mentorship and mentoring those after me. College is about so much more than what you learn through lectures and exams.

Meet Dean’s Scholar Wyatt Reeves
Coming Soon: A New Podcast Miniseries (Audio)

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Thursday, 29 October 2020

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