NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Destined for dentistry

NECC Alumna always knew where she wanted to end up

Northern Essex alumna Lauren Branscomb has gone from dental assistant to dental student in just a few short years. A preteen interest, piqued by a set of braces, first led her to the world of dentistry. A dual enrollment student her senior year of high school, Branscomb was thinking about enrolling in dental hygiene school, but wasn’t ready to commit to a specific program. Instead, she continued her studies at Northern Essex and earned her associate degree in general studies.

“I still liked the idea of working with my hands and working on people in a fast paced environment though,” she said. When Branscomb graduated, her mom, an NECC English professor, recommended she enroll in the 10-month dental assistant certificate program to familiarize herself with the dental office environment. Branscomb did and loved it.

“It was really the best advice I ever received,” the 26-year-old shared. Branscomb worked as a dental assistant in a large group practice for several years while simultaneously earning a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. Along the way, she discovered a few things. Her instincts were correct – she belonged in a dental office, but wrong about the position. “Once I became comfortable I knew I wanted to do more…have more responsibility and further my education. I wanted to become a dentist,” she said.

She continued working while completing the arduous task of studying for and sitting for the five-hour DAT entry exam followed by applying to dental schools. The odds were long she knew. Only 50 percent of applicants are accepted. Odds or no odds, Branscomb just completed her first semester at the University of New England’s dental school in Portland Maine.

“I was warned that the first year of dental school is like trying to drink from a firehose and not spill a drop,” she said. “But honestly it’s the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done.” Her dental assistant experience has been invaluable, she said. In addition to knowing dental products and instruments, she said she has a solid foundation in patient care.

“I feel confident in patient care because I worked in the field for four years,” she said. “When you interact so closely with patients, having confidence is important.” Admittedly, Branscomb has taken a circuitous path to dental school. “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from the detours I’ve taken.” Information sessions for the dental assisting program will be held February 6, March 6, and April 3 from 3 to 4 p.m. in the El-Hefni Allied Health & Technology Building in Lawrence, 414 Common St.