During her time at NC State, where she completed an undergraduate degree in biological sciences in 2008, Anna Shope’s roles as a Park Scholar, member of Phi Beta Kappa, and philanthropy chair of Delta Zeta sorority cultivated her commitment to service. Reflecting on this period, she remarks, “My Park Scholarships experience has shown me how to be an independent, free-thinking, effective leader.”
These skills have served her well throughout her education and career, which have taken her around the world and afforded her opportunities to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
Shope went on to study at the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, where she was the fundraising and philanthropy chair for the local chapter of the American Student Dental Association. Through this involvement, she and her peers conducted dental screenings at Boys & Girls Clubs in the Research Triangle area. Additionally, for two weeks during the summer of 2010, Shope participated in a dental service trip to Nepal. There she hiked the Himalayas, providing oral hygiene instruction and hosting dental clinics for the underserved.
After earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2012, Shope relocated to Winslow, Ariz. to complete a one-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) certificate program. She now serves as a staff dentist at the Winslow Indian Health Care Center, where she’d participated in a UNC School of Dentistry-sponsored externship in 2011. She advises current AEGD residents and fourth-year dental students in a satellite clinic of the Winslow system in Dilkon, Ariz., a small town located entirely on the Navajo reservation.
“This area is very remote,” Shope explains, “and in the case of emergency requires a one-hour helicopter ride to the nearest medical center located in Flagstaff, Ariz. I have been forced, in a good way, to exercise my independence and leadership skills as I am the ‘last hope’ dentally for many of these patients. If the level of difficulty of the procedure is beyond the scope of practice for one of the residents or dental students, I must step in and finish the work. I act as general dentist, pediatric dentist, endodontist, and oral surgeon for my patients.”
Shope sees dentistry as an ideal career path for those who are interested in medicine and also have a passion for art and design.
“My career gives me the opportunity to develop long term relationships with patients, study and understand medical topics, and use creativity when I have to completely redesign the appearance of a patient’s teeth,” says Shope. “As dentists, we are entrusted with a very special power to not only heal but to completely change the way a person looks and feels about him or herself. I often relate my dental work to small scale art projects. I get to redesign the mouth, sometimes from scratch, using tiny little power tools (haha), just like an engineer or architect might.”
Shope is currently applying to specialty school for pediatric dentistry. She is excited to take this next step on a path that will put her “at the forefront of preventive dental education.”
“I will be able to educate parents and children about oral and health and possible stop problems before they start,” she says.