Fiercely Focused

A DCG alumna’s to-do list just keeps growing, along with her degrees. Photo by Phil Jones.
Photo by Phil Jones.

A DCG alumna’s to-do list just keeps growing, along with her degrees

It’s mid-afternoon on a Wednesday two weeks into the new year when Dr. Becky Paquin cheerfully takes time out of her day to sit down for a conversation.

The normal rhythms have just begun creeping back into the schedules of Augusta University faculty and students after the winter holidays, so the timing isn’t ideal, particularly considering that Paquin is both a faculty member and a student. She has patients to treat, students to mentor, forms to complete, papers to finish – she’s earning her MBA at Augusta University while serving on The Dental College of Georgia faculty – but you’d think she had all the time in the world.

Paquin, soft-spoken and genial, is preternaturally focused on whatever task is at hand – and even though this task, an interview for her college’s magazine, is voluntary and inconvenient, she is wholeheartedly present and engaged.

“I’ve kept a day planner since I was 5,” Paquin says with a laugh, and no one even glancingly familiar with her schedule – or her personality and work ethic, for that matter – would suspect her of exaggerating.

In addition to teaching and earning her MBA, Paquin also managed to squeeze in several other accomplishments and accolades recently, including being named co-recipient of the 2016 Connie L. Drisko Resident Professionalism Award, completing the 2017 Authentic Women Leaders Pipeline Program and being named one of Augusta University’s 2017 Jag20, a group of alumni who have distinguished themselves early in their careers (see page 27 ).

The latter is a particularly fitting honor, considering that Paquin’s already accomplishment-packed career has barely even begun.

BROADENING HER HORIZONS

 After earning an undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Georgia, Paquin, a native of rural Calhoun, Georgia, was eager to pursue her love of dentistry. “I’ve planned a career in health care since high school,” she says. “I had a great interest in anatomy, and I wanted to help people. My classmate’s father was a dentist, and I thought it was a great mix of technical skills and medicine. I minored in Spanish in college anticipating being able to treat and understand a greater number of patients.”

But almost as soon as dental school began, she knew she wanted to broaden her expertise even more. “I was drawn to surgery,” she says. “I was looking for the greatest impact and the ability to do the most complex procedures. The medical aspect was very exciting to me.”

So while completing her degree, she arranged to enroll in the Medical College of Georgia as a third-year student immediately after graduation, planning to optimize a career in oral surgery with both dental and medical degrees.

But as her graduation date approached last spring, she decided to delay medical school just a tad.

 

Photo by Phil Jones.
Photo by Phil Jones.
CONSTANTLY CHALLENGED 

“I was asked if I would serve on the dental faculty for a year, and I was happy to,” she says. “I feel like I’m helping out a faculty that has been very good to me. Plus, I love being in an environment where I’m constantly challenged to learn and always seeing new cases.”

It didn’t hurt that the slight delay also enabled her to extend a particularly fulfilling part of her life. “This is a very tight-knit community,” she says of DCG. “The people who taught me are now my colleagues, and they’re a great group of people to work with.”

They wholeheartedly return the sentiment. Says Dr. Mark Stevens, chairman of the DCG Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, “Becky exemplifies the definition of a true health care professional. She’s tremendously compassionate and demonstrates outstanding maturity and surgical skills for someone so early in their career. She has unlimited potential.”

Paquin has made quite an impression on her students as well. Says Kari Candela, a rising senior, “The first time I met her, here was this bubbly blonde who had somehow found out I was a vegan. She’s vegan too, and she’s invited me over several times for potluck. It was so awesome to bond with her. Anytime I’m nervous about a procedure, she’ll say, ‘Kari, you’ve got this.’ She has so much confidence in people, it’s amazing.”

Once Paquin completes her medical degree, projected for 2019, she will begin in earnest a career treating the most anatomically complex part of the body: the head and neck. “Oral surgeons manage such a wide variety of things,” says Paquin. “The field deals with medicine, surgery, anesthesia – lots of things that straddle the fence between medicine and dentistry. In fact, I think the segmentation between dentistry and medicine is a holdover from long ago. It would be great if it could be done away with at some point.”

She hopes her newly acquired MBA will further bolster her effectiveness, particularly considering that she plans to stay in academic medicine. “When you’re in a health care field, you don’t necessarily get a lot of training in teamwork and management,” she says. “Since I’d like to remain in academia, I ideally see myself heading a program or department someday.”

GIVING 100 PERCENT 

Paquin, who worked her way through undergraduate and dental school, also continues to incorporate her loves of yoga, running, reading and travel into her schedule.

“Some nights, I get only two hours of sleep, but that’s not very common, so I manage just fine,” she insists.

Says her boyfriend, Jonathon Marks, “She is one of the most, if not the most, indefatigable people I’ve ever met. She is laser-focused on getting things done. I dare anyone to compare their schedule to hers.”

Her secret? “I keep a really tight schedule and focus on what I’m doing very specifically,” Paquin says. “But it never feels like a grind. I’m a very curious person. There are very few things I don’t find interesting.”

And although she’s the first member of her family to pursue higher education, she attributes much of her success to her loved ones’ examples. “While neither my parents nor my brothers went to college, I believe there are impacts beyond educational interests that I have gleaned from my family,” she says. “I cannot ignore the importance of working hard. I was raised by a single mom with three children. She worked double shifts as a waitress six to seven days a week. I think that she demonstrated to me the importance of showing up, giving 100 percent and not feeling sorry for yourself.”

 

Photo by Phil Jones.
Photo by Phil Jones.
STEP BY STEP 

Her mother, Debbie Causey, glimpsed Paquin’s extreme drive and intelligence early on, characteristics she says were honed by the struggles of their working-class family. For instance, Causey remembers tinkering under the sink with her children one day in an attempt to fix a plumbing problem that was sorely testing their do-it-yourself expertise. Yet the expense of a professional plumber was not an option.

Says Causey, “Becky told me, ‘When I grow up, I am not going to live this way, Mom, and neither are you.’ There was a determination to change her future.”

But even more motivating, Causey says, was Paquin’s desire to change the future of others – particularly those who struggled even more than her own family. “When Becky got braces, it was a real struggle financially,” Causey says. “But we found a way to make it happen. The day she got her braces off, she started crying and said, ‘This means so much, because there are so many kids who need braces and can’t afford them. I want to help them.’ All her life, she’s gone step by step trying to make the world a better place.”

GENUINE TO THE CORE  

Paquin says empathy is only one of the values she learned based on her family’s struggles. For instance, she appreciates the responsibility and self-reliance her mother cultivated in Paquin and her siblings, if only because of necessity.

“My brothers and I spent a fair amount of time taking care of ourselves growing up, which I believe taught us to be independent in thought and in action,” she says.

Says her father, Michael Paquin, “Early on, Rebecca recognized that great success is not handed to you and has to be pursued. She’s always shown an intense commitment to her goals.”

Her resilience came in particularly handy during her undergraduate years at the University of Georgia. Says Paquin’s mother, “She’d spend every weekend studying while her friends were partying and having a good time. But I told her it would pay off, and even then, she knew that herself. She’s put so much effort into what she’s achieved.”

Paquin’s friends and colleagues couldn’t agree more. For instance, Dr. Mike Dugan, one of her MBA professors, says, “In my 37 years of college teaching, she’s one of the best students I’ve ever had. She’s genuine to the core. A student of her quality is what makes teaching at Augusta University special.”

Paquin laughs that her day planner comes in handier than ever these days. But even as she checks off one box after another on her to-do list, she’s exhilarated by the prospect that the list will continue growing. Says Paquin, “There’s so much more to know.”

MORE TO KNOW: Becky Paquin

• Dr. Becky Paquin is one of seven members of The Dental College of Georgia community who recently completed the 2017 Authentic Women Leaders Pipeline Program. The Augusta University course provides two months of lectures, presentations, workshops and other activities aimed at cultivating women’s leadership skills. The goals are to inspire participants to advance their careers while creating a community of academic women at the university. The other DCG participants in the inaugural class, and those who completed the pilot program, were Amara Abreu, Martha Brackett, Allison Buchanan, Regina Messer, Stephanie Perry, Tara Schafer, Orris Knight-Sims, Lisiane Ferreira Susin, Rhoda Sword and Nancy Young.

• Dr. Becky Paquin was one of the three members of The Dental College of Georgia community to be named a 2017 Jag20 honoree. Jag20 members are Augusta University alumni under age 40 who exemplify their alma mater’s core values of collegiality, compassion, excellence, inclusivity, integrity and leadership. The other DCG honorees were Dr. Ryan Fulchi (’10), a general dentist in Savannah, Georgia, and Dr. Emily Hahn (’16), a periodontist in Watertown, New York.

To nominate someone to be a Jag20 honoree, contact Callie Cosper at ccosper@augusta.edu.

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For nearly 200 years, Augusta University and its legacy institutions have been centers of learning and drivers of discovery and innovation in Augusta, the state of Georgia and beyond. Our community of alumni, students, faculty and friends are amazing people living incredible lives and making invaluable contributions to our world.

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