Learning the Ropes

Posted on: Monday, 12/17/2018

Dr. Donielle Williams & Dr. Daniela Silva
Dr. Donielle Williams
, a pediatric dentistry resident, said her drive to pursue dentistry stemmed from the desire to improve peoples’ self-esteem. She witnessed first-hand how a lack of dental care can affect a person’s well-being since her father didn’t receive oral health care for the first 18 years of his life. As a result of the condition of his teeth, he had to endure corrective surgery and years of embarrassment. It was her father’s experience that ultimately piqued her interest in the dental profession.

A graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry, Dr. Williams is well into her first year of a 2-year pediatric dentistry residency program at UCLA. She expects to graduate in 2020 with the skills to start her own private practice focusing on treating the underserved, in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. She chose pediatric dentistry after a mission trip she took to Honduras while in dental school, where she had the opportunity to treat a population with severe oral health disparities. “The majority of the patients we were treating were children who had never seen a dentist, and the prevalence of early childhood caries was awful. We were extracting the teeth of children as young as two years old. It was very sad and eye-opening.”

Dr. Williams continued to make public health a priority throughout her four years of dental school. She regularly attended health fairs and screenings, in addition to volunteering at local community health clinics. She was accepted into an externship at UCLA, during the summer between her third and fourth years of dental school, where she had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Daniela Silva, chair of pediatric dentistry and program director for the residency programs. 

“I knew then that UCLA was the place for me. Not only does UCLA house some of the highest regarded professionals in pediatric dentistry, but the mission here is truly remarkable. It’s about training specialists who put their patient’s well-being first and are motivated and equipped to make a positive impact in the field of pediatric dentistry.”

Another passion of Dr. Williams is mentoring pre-dental students to help increase diversity in the dental profession. As a dental student, she served on the national executive board for the Student National Dental Association (SNDA)—the student arm of the NDA that strives to improve diversity and inclusion in the dental profession. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the guidance and encouragement of my mentors and professors. My goal is to be a role model to young children, adolescents, and teens, especially those from backgrounds underrepresented in dentistry. I want to encourage them that, ‘You too can be a dentist.’”

Over the next two years, Dr. Williams hopes to expand her knowledge and begin thinking like a specialist. She’s also pursuing a Master’s degree in public health and hopes to use her training to positively impact her community and reduce oral health disparities. “Servant leadership has made me a more culturally competent, compassionate, and understanding pediatric dentist-in-training. I want to make a difference in the smiles of young patients—one tooth, one smile, one child at a time.”