Dentistry grad looks ahead to serving as US Navy dentist

Carmen Boren entered dental school knowing more than most about what to expect. Having worked as a dental hygienist for 11 years, she had seen first-hand the expanded role dentists can play in their patients’ lives.

“One day, the dentist I worked for said to me, ‘Carmen, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but you really should go to dental school,'” she said. “That is when the seed was planted. I was 25 years old, married to a deployed soldier, and we had a baby when I set out to tackle the pre-requisites."

It was five years, three states and two more children later before Boren completed the pre-requisites and was accepted into dental school.

This month, the fourth-year dental student will graduate and move with her family to Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base in southern California, where she will complete an advanced education specialty in general dentistry while serving as a US Navy dentist. She says it was all worth it.

Boren said her classmates often asked her how she was able to meet the demands of the rigorous Doctor of Dental Surgery program while parenting three kids with her husband working full time and attending graduate school as well. She told them it helped to be a person who absolutely loves school, is hyper-organized and who is willing to give up sleep to meet the demands of the day.

“My classmates will tell you that I love to ask questions,” said Boren. “I also have relied on my classmate, Shayla, for the last four years as a study partner. We regularly met at school at 5 a.m. to get our work done. We have encouraged each other and held each other accountable through the last four years.”

Carmen BorenBoren said family life changed dramatically this spring in response to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders when her children, ages 11, 9 and 7, all began learning from home online. She says she relies on her kids to shoulder their own responsibilities as much as possible. But the new routines and online learning challenges were significant.

“Suddenly, all five of us are home and I am essentially home schooling my kids,” said Boren. “They are having to check email, Google Classrooms, Seesaw and join Zoom meetings. My husband and I are pretty technologically savvy, but this was a major adjustment. Now we have all gotten into the groove, it has improved significantly.”

Because Boren secured a Navy scholarship before choosing a dental school, she says finances did not play a role in choosing a school and that Minnesota felt right from her first visit to the school.

“I really liked the U of M vibe,” she said. “I liked the environment and had a really good feeling that this was the place I was supposed to be. Everyone I met was super friendly, very open and willing to answer any questions. I thought the transparency said a lot about the school. The students felt like they were getting a good education and they didn’t have anything to hide.”

The unflappable Boren is confident and excited about the future. “Our family has lived in five states over the last seven years,” she said. “We are excited for sunshine and 75 degrees!”

Carmen Boren and family
Carmen Boren and family