Hometown: Oak Brook, Chicago, Illinois
Career Plans: To continue working in the Bay Area.
When I found out that I was accepted into the Dugoni School’s dental hygiene program, I was very excited since it was my first choice. The state-of-the-art building houses a top-notch faculty and wonderful patients; I couldn’t be happier about my choice. I feel like I’ve found my true calling.
Some individuals follow a clear-cut path into the dental profession; Allison Yochim, DH Class of 2018, is not one of those people. Public relations professional, ice cream entrepreneur, youth mentor - these are just some of Allison's pursuits before finding her true calling in dental hygiene.
After earning her bachelor's degrees in psychology and communications from Boston University, Allison worked at a PR agency that focused on technology. However, when the economy crashed she found herself out of a job and looking for a fresh start. She decided to pick up and move to San Francisco. "I had no job lined up, no place to live, and I had never even stepped foot in San Francisco before," recalls Allison, "But it was my chance to explore and experience something new."
Allison worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet, such as working with at-risk youth. However, she was missing the creative outlet she had during her days working in PR, so she decided to start her own ice cream business. Allison created customized, organic homemade frozen treats by the quart. "I created whatever flavor people wanted. If they dreamt it, I'd make it. My biggest seller was the natural mint flavor with Ghirardelli brownie chunks." Success also came with a price - something Allison learned the hard way when she ran out of money. "It was definitely fun while it lasted, but I had a lot of lessons to learn about business. I also learned some fundamental aspects of human nature," says Allison.
Allison took some time to contemplate life: what really made her happy, what she wanted out of life and what she hoped for in her career. She realized that her first instincts on things are generally right and anytime she's disobeyed her gut reactions, it's come back to bite her later. One first instinct was from first grade - she recalled that at that age, she had wanted to be a dentist! She decided to go back to school to pursue dentistry. While going to school part time, Allison also spent her time volunteering.
Allison's first foray into dentistry was volunteering for the Native American Health Center, which is a non-profit organization that serves underserved populations in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loved working in the dental clinics, especially when working directly with patients. She also explored other aspects of dentistry, such as volunteering with the efforts to pass the soda tax in San Francisco. She would canvas businesses and residences to talk to people about the implications of this tax for everyone's health.
Through these volunteer opportunities, Allison realized what she loved the most - caring for patients. As a hygienist, you spend 45 minutes of the hour-long appointment with your patient while the dentist sees them for just 15 minutes.
"The role of a hygienist aligned more with what I was looking for out of a career," says Allison. "I also liked the preventative healthcare aspect of it, where you're not just fixing a problem that already exists. Instead you're educating people and taking time with them."
After switching from pursuing dentistry to dental hygiene, everything seemed to fall into place. She reached out to Ms. Deborah Horlak, director of the dental hygiene at the Dugoni School, whom she met during Dugoni Discovery Day, the dental school's annual admissions open house. She applied to and was accepted into the school's dental hygiene program.
"When I found out that I was accepted into the Dugoni School's dental hygiene program, I was very excited since it was my first choice. The state-of-the-art building houses a top-notch faculty and wonderful patients; I couldn't be happier about my choice. I feel like I've found my true calling."
The most exciting part of her education has been her interactions with patients. Having the opportunity to apply what she's learned so far in a real live setting has been very rewarding for her. "I took something from lecture that is important to someone's health - sleep apnea - recognized it in my patient's mouth and explained to them what it meant to their overall health," says Allison. "I already feel like I'm making a difference."
Allison's work with the soda tax bill made her want to be involved in public health issues, which is why she volunteered to be her class' representative for the California Dental Hygienists' Association (CDHA). The organization, which advocates for hygienists, the future of the profession, and provides opportunities for hygienists, has been a great resource for Allison, especially since one faculty member is the president of the CDHA and another in charge of student relations.
Allison hopes to continue working with organized dentistry after she graduates. She sees the importance and value of fostering these personal connections. As for her career change, she couldn't be happier about her decision to pursue dental hygiene. All the trials and tribulations of her past ventures have created valuable lessons for Allison.
"It took a while to get to this point, but all of these experiences help me connect with patients and make me a more well-rounded clinician," says Allison. "I'm loving every minute of being at the Dugoni School with the faculty, students, and patients, but I can't wait to start what I'm meant to do."