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Alumna Takes Bite out of Dental School

I am Anastasia Zagordo, a 22-year-old Algoma University alumna and I’ve just been accepted to dental school.

From a young age I knew exactly what I wanted to do in life; I knew I wanted to become an orthodontist. My interest was the result of regular visits to the dentist’s office throughout my childhood. I was fascinated with the way orthodontists could transform people’s smiles and the confidence that their work could instill in people. Knowing what I wanted to do in life allowed me focus my energy on achieving my goals.

One of the first big decisions I had to make was deciding which university I should attend. I relied heavily on a variety of support systems, including my parents and friends. My dad was particularly influential. In his words, he advised me to “stay home while you can, you’ll have to go away eventually, Algoma has a great program.” I don’t always follow my father’s advice, but in this instance I was happy I did!

In September 2013 I enrolled in the Biology program at Algoma University. I immediately felt at ease; I was living with my family, had a network of friends and was focussed on succeeding academically. My high school had prepared me well for the curriculum and my work ethic allowed me to manage the workload.

The Biology program definitely lived up to my expectations. The faculty were easy to connect with. In my very first chemistry class my instructor, Meghan Rains, was extremely supportive, she understood what first-year students go through and made herself available to help. Acting as a mentor throughout my degree, she encouraged me to volunteer in Dr. Molina’s lab which led to us working collaboratively on my fourth-year thesis project. We are still friends to this day and meet regularly for coffee. That’s an experience I wouldn’t have received at most universities!

In my third year some classmates and I had the opportunity to take part in an education, construction and conservation project in Africa. Leah Hodgson, Brendan Fera, Emily Vaillancourt and I decided to work with underdeveloped communities. We participated in a volunteer program in South Africa, Swaziland, St. Lucia and Mozambique. It was challenging to juggle school while preparing for this trip, but we found it fun! Faculty were extremely supportive and helped us raise the funding needed to visit Africa. It was an amazing experience, we realized how lucky we are to be Canadians and to have the access to education that we take for granted. I would definitely recommend a trip like this; I will be looking for opportunities to volunteer abroad again during dental school.

The summer of my third year, I was given an opportunity from Dr. Molina, to work as a research assistant in San Diego, California. I worked on a collaborative project between the University of California at San Diego and Algoma University on drought resistant strains of corn. From this experience I was able to make professional and personal connections that have positively influenced my journey to becoming a dentist.

When I entered my fourth year it was time to start applying to dental schools—a daunting experience. The application requirements include subject-specific reference letters, a Dental Admission Test (DAT) and interview, and a high GPA. My four years at Algoma prepared me well for this process. The DAT was the most nerve wracking part, a four and a half hour multiple choice exam that covers everything I have ever studied. Man was I glad when that was over, thank goodness all of the hard work paid off and I did well. After waiting on pins and needles for months, on December 1st I found out that I had been accepted to the Indiana University School of Dentistry, I was all teeth!

As I get set for the next chapter in my life I want to thank my family, friends, faculty and staff for their support along the way. I couldn’t have done it without them. I’ll always be thankful for my time growing up in Sault Ste. Marie and attending Algoma U.

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