Inaugural Dental Scholars Jessie Yuan (from left), Paige Elliott and Courtney Marshall
Inaugural Dental Scholars Jessie Yuan (from left), Paige Elliott and Courtney Marshall. Photo by Phil Jones.

‘Best choice I ever made’

Meet Three DCG students with very different life stories.

Paige Elliott, from Johns Creek, Georgia, distinguished herself on two courts while earning an undergraduate degree at Augusta University: the homecoming court (she was crowned the 2017 queen) and the volleyball court (a full scholarship funded her education).

Courtney Marshall, from Young Harris, Georgia, grew up sculpting wax models in her dad’s dental lab — a pastime that morphed into a burning desire to combine art and science in a helping profession.

Jessie Yuan, from Lawrenceville, Georgia, balanced multiple jobs and internships (one in Taiwan) as an undergraduate student.

The stories are different, but the students share a common denominator: They are the inaugural participants in the Dental Scholars Program.

The program, launched in 2014, enables select Augusta University enrollees to complete their last year of undergraduate studies and their first year of dental school simultaneously.

The program has rigorous criteria. Participants must demonstrate a clear commitment to achievement and hard work as high school students, and once enrolled at AU must maintain excellent grades and complete undergraduate research with a DCG faculty member.

“It’s definitely a very rigorous program, and I put an extra toll on myself by playing volleyball in college,” says Paige. “It was very challenging. But I think I’ll look back and appreciate what a unique college experience I’ve had.”

Her fellow scholars agree. Says Courtney, “At first, it was hard coming to college and managing the workload. But now that I’m in dental school, I realize how well-prepared I was for it. I love it. I’m so happy to be doing what I’m passionate about.”

Jessie had already been accepted to Johns Hopkins University when she happened to hear about the Dental Scholars Program. “I’d even sent my deposit to Johns Hopkins,” she says. “But when I found out about the program and emailed the director, he was kind enough to let me apply. And once I was accepted, I was excited to get started. I have a bite that needs correction, and dental specialists have impacted my life so much that I want to give back to others in the same way.”

As the students look forward to their second year of dental school this fall, they concur that the Dental Scholars Program opened doors they couldn’t have imagined as children sharing the same dream. Says Jessie about her decision to apply, “I definitely feel like it’s the best choice I ever made.”

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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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