Four types of mentors and the importance of each

You can find people at different stages of life to serve as mentors, both professionally and personally; some you seek and others that take you by surprise. Some may be obvious, such as parents, coaches, or teachers, and others may come up in unexpected ways. For Malik Jackson, DDS ’25, it was a few key people who played a role in the journey that led him to the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU SDM) and a future in dentistry.

The one that helps you discover what you don’t like

During his junior and senior years at Colorado State University, Jackson worked as a medical scribe and quality control manager at Poudre Valley Hospital and Rocky Mountain Medical Center in Fort Collins, CO. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and Spanish in a pre-medical track; he wanted to be a doctor.

His supervisor, Kelly Mistry, MD, became an important support system for Jackson as he navigated his first professional job at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She had previously followed Mistry through high school in her hometown of Grand Junction, CO. When she started a new job in Fort Collins, he connected with her again.

Over time, Jackson realized that he did not enjoy the endless and stressful hospital environment. He talked at length about this dilemma with Mistry, and she helped him through it, encouraging him to explore more paths and find what excites him.

Jackson was grateful to have someone with experience in the medical field to talk to. “It was nice to be able to talk openly about what I liked and didn’t like about a career as a doctor. Dr. Mistry had the managerial and medical experience to guide me without pushing me in any one direction. At the time, he knew he didn’t want to work in a hospital, but he didn’t know what was next.”

The one who ignites a passion

After searching for a new dentist in the Fort Collins area, Jackson connected with Allison Lesko, DDS, of The Fort Collins Dentist. It was during her junior year of college that she asked him to follow her to explore a new avenue in health care.

“When I began observing Dr. Lesko, I was amazed at the variety of dentistry she could do herself, rather than referring patients to a specialist. She was doing root canals, cosmetic cases, orthodontic aligners, some surgical procedures and more. She also impressed me with her innovative approach to dentistry. The office kept up with the latest technology and advancements, which was fascinating to watch.”

Over the course of his senior year, Jackson went to Lesko’s office every week. With more confidence and experience, he began teaching her how to help on the couch. He would pass instruments and prepare materials during procedures, pour impression casts in the lab, sterilize equipment, help set up and clean dental units, and meet patients.

“I particularly remember one patient who was the first to show me how rewarding a career in dentistry could be. He received a full mouth rehab and couldn’t have been happier with the result. Seeing her light up with enthusiasm and a newfound confidence from something I helped make was incredibly empowering. I knew then that I wanted to keep helping people for the rest of my life.”

Jackson began applying for dental schools and dental assistant jobs after graduating. (Check out her commencement speech at Youtube.)

Malik Crown Council

The Fort Collins dental team at the annual Crown Council event, January 2020

The one that shows you how your future could be

From 2020 to 2021, Jackson worked as a dental assistant at Greenwood Dental Arts, a family practice in Greenwood Village managed by CU alumni father-daughter couple Charles Fischer, DDS ’79, and Lissa Alconcel, DDS ’16. She learned how a practice works, worked directly with patients, and expanded her dental knowledge. Ultimately, the experience reaffirmed her decision to become a dentist.

Jackson especially enjoyed witnessing the dynamic between Fischer and Alconcel. He was moved by the idea of ​​sharing a passion with the family and building something that would be passed on.

“Leaving a legacy is important to me. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone has the power of impact, and I strive to use it to its full potential, every day, in the best way possible.”

Malik Greenwood

The Greenwood Dental Arts Team, December 2020

The one who is there for you through school

At CU SDM, Jackson enjoyed collaborating with two professors in particular who quickly became his mentors in dental school: James DeLapp, DDS ’82, MS, and Amisha Singh, DDS ’15.

“Dr. DeLapp has been in school for a long time and most of his classes are lined up to prepare us to see our first patient at the CU dental clinics. I appreciate the real world perspective that Dr. DeLapp offers and how incorporates that into his teaching strategy. He is someone who has worn many hats: coach, private practice owner, longtime educator, and more. He has researched the most effective ways to teach and learn, and weaves them into all of his classes. , which I find very effective. It also brings a ‘no excuses, just do it’ attitude that reminds me of some of my coaches growing up, which I need and appreciate.”

“Dr. Singh has been an incredible mentor in helping me hone my professional development skills and outreach ideas. She is one of the most creative thinkers I have met when it comes to programming, presenting, and various dental facility opportunities. I met I first met Dr. Singh when she showed up at ASDA dentistry one day before I was accepted, and I remember thinking that if I got into CU, she was someone I wanted to look up to.”

Having not one, but two mentors so early in his professional school career gives Jackson an educational arm of a much-needed support system, and the fact that they are both CU SDM alumni adds an unparalleled element of trust and connection.

The apprentice becomes the mentor

Now in his second year at CU SDM, Jackson continues to work diligently toward his goal of becoming a dentist, while constantly finding ways to get involved and help others both on and off campus.

As an officer of the Colorado chapter of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA), Jackson helps coordinate events, programs, and resources focused on professional development for minority and underrepresented students. She recently attended the SNDA 50th Anniversary Celebration and Reunion in Orlando, FL with classmates and teachers. CU’s SNDA chapter won 3rd place for best large chapter nationally!

Malik SNDA Table

CU School of Dental Medicine faculty, staff and students at the SNDA National Convention, June 2022

Jackson is also a member of the DDS Class of 2025 Executive Board and volunteers whenever he has the opportunity to meet people and represent the school. Only in this first year, he spoke with the students of the Undergraduate Health Career (UPP) during their visits to the dental school; he participated in a high school educational outreach program with fellow students and program co-founders Milan Stokes, DDS ’25 and Austin Adams, DDS ’25; and assisted at the DDS Class of 2022 banquet and award ceremony. Most recently, he spoke with incoming dental students at orientation on managing the transition to dental school.

Malik Banquet Volunteers

Volunteer dental students at the DDS Class of 2022 Graduation Banquet and Awards Ceremony, May 2022

Jackson says he hopes to “make the world more beautiful, one smile at a time,” and he’s on the right track.

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