I grew up in South Florida as the daughter of two teachers, one of whom was a marine biologist. We lived exclusively on a sailboat for almost two years and still felt most at home on the water, even after we moved to solid ground. By the age of six, though, I had developed the type of passion for horses that would gladly keep me doing chores at the barn all day in exchange for an unofficial riding lesson (after all, what’s better than the smell of manure and hay???). Funny thing is, horses and boats don’t typically go together, except in the imaginative mind of Lyle Lovett.
So as a compromise, I decided that if I had to be on the boat instead of at the barn, I would carry a sketch pad with me and draw horses (and any marine life that caught my attention). For a long time I thought art was going to be my thing, but as I got older I couldn’t deny that science seemed to come naturally — possibly an inevitability when you grow up learning fish names by genus and species and your dad has a laboratory devoted to polychaetes (marine worms) in your garage.
The real turning point came in the 8th grade when I got my braces on. I was one of those orthodontic patients who followed all the instructions and wanted to do everything just right, but I also went home after each appointment trying to figure out what was adjusted and why. I spent the next few years (all of them in braces) wanting to be an orthodontist, but in a temporary fit of rebellion I went to a liberal arts college in the Boston area and majored in theoretical economics.
By the summer before my senior year, I came to my senses and started taking pre-dental science classes (although being an economist would be pretty interesting in this day and age). After graduating, and a brief stint interning on a thoroughbred breeding farm south of Seattle, I finished my dental prerequisites in Boston while working at Boston University’s dental school and was accepted to UNC School of Dentistry in 1993 (NCAA Championship year — Go Heels!). As far as I was concerned, it couldn’t get any better than that!
I had the great fortune of transitioning straight from dental school into the UNC Department of Orthodontics, where I trained under the internationally renowned orthodontic professor Dr. Bill Proffitt. As a very green resident I was given the chance to lecture in Finland and Sweden, and when audiences heard I was “from Chapel Hill,” they all wanted to listen (no pressure, right?). After finishing the residency, I got invaluable on-the-job training as an associate in five different orthodontic practices, including one in the Seattle area that had belonged to the editor of The American Journal of Orthodontics. I also enjoyed a research fellowship year, and a year of teaching, both at UNC.