Hometown: San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago
Career Plans: Prosthodontics, eventually moving back home to Trinidad and Tobago and perhaps joining his dad's practice. Hopes to help improve the dental profession in his country.
"The Helix Curriculum and a true humanistic approach to dentistry at the Dugoni School really sealed the deal for me. It's in line with what I see myself as a future dental practitioner."
The typical line of progression towards dentistry for someone from the Caribbean was to either stay at home or move to Europe to pursue their dental education. However, Kristoff Samm, who grew up on the tropical island of Trinidad and Tobago, looked in a different direction.
"I wanted to study in the United States because it would give me the greatest opportunity to specialize and I would be getting the best dental education possible," recalls Kristoff. "It's rare for someone from my country to come to America for dental school."
Although Kristoff grew up in his dad's dental office, he never felt pressure to follow the same path. But in the end he choose dentistry because it incorporated all the qualities that he enjoys - science, art and interacting with people. He wanted to make a difference in people's lives. Kristoff recalls what a huge impact dental treatments would have on patients in his dad's dental practice. "To see the smiles on their faces after treatments, it was like a key to their soul," says Kristoff.
When it came time to applying to dental schools in the U.S., Kristoff's dad was a huge help. Having taken continuing education courses in the U.S., his dad knew which were the top dental schools in America. Kristoff's dad emphasized to him that the American approach to dentistry was more modern and humanistic than the more tradition-bound European model. After narrowing down the choices, the Dugoni School of Dentistry was where Kristoff wanted to be.
"The Helix Curriculum and a true humanistic approach to dentistry at the Dugoni School really sealed the deal for me," says Kristoff. "It's in line with what I see myself as a future dental practitioner."
Now that he's here, Kristoff couldn't be happier. He loves the collaborative environment and the small group settings. Although it has been challenging, he appreciates the fact that the faculty expect perfection because it forces him to do his best. "The program is so accelerated and because of that, you're forced into dentistry really quickly and you feel really involved." But Kristoff wouldn't have it any other way.
"I really like how the school tries hard to tie in the humanistic approach to dentistry and how the program forces you do your best from day one," says Kristoff. "Yes it's important to have clinically excellent technical skills but it's also important to have really good patient care. At the end of the day, patients care about how their dentist interacts with them."
Kristoff feels lucky to live and learn in San Francisco. He loves its diversity, with every neighborhood having a distinct feel. It's a multicultural city, which reminds him of home. The Dugoni School's emphasis on the importance of giving back has led to volunteer work out in the Bay Area community, which is something that Kristoff really enjoys.
So what are his plans after graduation? If you're asking him right now, then the answer is pursuing a career in esthetic dentistry. But as Kristoff notes, that could change in the future. One thing he is sure of is eventually moving back home to Trinidad and Tobago and perhaps joining his dad's practice. He also wants to improve the dental profession in his country.
"I hope to be able to positively contribute to dentistry back home by becoming actively involved in public dental education and perhaps teaching at the local dental school, the University of the West Indies," says Kristoff. He will surely bring the Dugoni School spirit with him.