BHM Women in Healthcare Spotlight: Candice St. Etienne, DDS

Name: Dr. Candice St. Etienne
IG handle: @CandiceDonielle

Tell me about yourself?
I am a 26 year old New Orleans native and oldest of 4. I received my BS in Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish from Tulane University in 2013, where I had a full athletic scholarship in track and field and pledged Delta Sigma Theta. Then, I went straight to dental school at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center from which I graduated 4 years to the date with a Doctor of Dental Surgery in May 2017. I felt it was time for me to take a break from New Orleans and from school, so I am currently working for Aspen Dental in Columbia, SC.

Why did you choose your field?
I’ve known since middle school I wanted to go into the medical field especially loving math and science. My mom is a pediatrician, but after following her on hospital rounds and spending hours at her private practice that pediatrics was not the direction I wanted to go in. After doing some research and job shadowing, I realized how much more there is to oral health and dentistry than people think. Oral disease is so widespread and relevant to overall health, however it is so preventable. Dentistry is also one of the few careers that is regulated by the professionals within it. From how we practice, where, and when. Dentistry has provided me the ability to learn, educate others, help people improve their overall health and still leaves room for me to develop my career on my own terms.

What motivates you?
Helping others is a very big passion of mine and I am constantly trying to figure out how to put myself in a position to do more for others. Recently, gaining knowledge has been a huge motivator. I didn’t realize how much I actually loved learning until I got out of school and started practicing. Every day I face different challenges that I am constantly learning from and requires constantly evolving ingenuity to fix.  I am also motivated by wanting to be as great as I can be and be a great example, for my siblings, for my friends, for my community.

What adversity have you faced as a woman of color in your field?
Although the male: female ratio has come a long way (my class being about 50:50), dentistry at the higher levels is predominately white males. I was one of 2 black women in my class of 67 at the only dental school in the entire state! Talk about lack of representation! I will never forget the American Dental Political Action Committee came to speak to us my 4th yr. and showed a video that had not 1 minority in it. By the end of the video, I wondered if they were even really interested in advocating for those that looked like me as health care providers, or only expected us to be patients. This mindset has been very hard to ignore while trying to plan how to make my mark in dentistry and in my community. The physical dentistry, I have been trained to excel in and am confident in my ability to be a great and competent provider to my patients; but the political dentistry has been a whole different ball game. Learning the dynamics of the politics has been eye opening and somewhat scary.

How difficult was it to find mentorship in your field? What tips do you have for others in regards to mentorship?
Mentorship, especially in the age of social media, has been considerably easy to access. Especially in the small minority market, once you are connected to one, you are easily connected to all. From little advice tid bits to shadowing or job opportunities, every minority dentist I’ve met has offered help. From Facebook groups of black doctors and black female doctors, to even ADA website provides an opportunity to find a mentor or become one. People are constantly sharing ideas and stories which help connect and relate those who feel somewhat socially awkward like me :-).
What advice do you have for young black women interested in your field?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Constantly aim to be knowing and growing. No matter where you go and what happens or what obstacles you face, NO ONE can ever take away what you know. That will always be a tool at your disposal so use it to your advantage. Also, it is ok to be the only one like you. There may be times where you are the only one that looks like you, comes from where you do, has experienced life as you do, but that is OK. Show up and show OUT!


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