Balancing Training and Family: Richard Fike

Posted on: Tuesday, 04/14/2020

Richard Fike and family

THIRD YEAR PREDOCTORAL STUDENT, Richard Fike, became interested in dentistry after living in Rosarito, Mexico during two of his formative, adolescent years. The health disparities he saw among his neighbors left a lasting impression, which motivated him to choose oral health care as a professional path.

Richard eventually moved back to Indio, Calif. with his family where he met his future wife, Ashlyn, while in high school. He spent his undergraduate years at UCSD and completed his bachelor’s degree in human biology in 2017. He also joined UCSD’s Pre-Dental Society where he had the opportunity to assist practicing dentists and to garner valuable hands-on experience in the field – making him a more competitive dental school applicant.

Knowing the caliber of training that UCLA Dentistry offered, he applied to and accepted an offer to join the UCLA DDS Class of 2021. During his first year of dental school he and Ashlyn were married, and having been together for nearly 10 years, the two were ready to start a family. Like many of our student dentists who are at this stage, the Fikes asked themselves the hard question of how could they take that next step but also take on the financial commitment of dental school?

After evaluating a number of options, Richard decided that being commissioned with the Navy under their Health Professions Scholarship program would be an ideal situation for him. For every year of tuition and ancillary costs that the Navy covers towards earning an advanced degree in the health care field, the trainee dedicates a year of service after their training is completed. The financial support that the program offered the young couple relieved some of the pressure and uncertainty they felt about starting a family.

Towards the end of Richard’s first year of dental school, the couple found out they were pregnant and nine months later, their daughter Scarlett decided to show up on the evening before his oral pathology exam. “I plan to thank Scarlett when she’s older. Her birth gave me a good excuse to retake my exam,” Richard jokingly said. 

Balancing his role as a father and full-time student has had the opposite effect than what most people would expect. Richard said,“People ask me all the time how I manage being a father, husband, and student. Through my eyes, my family acts as a reprieve from the stresses of school. When I spend time with them, I only focus on them and living in the moment.”

Richard owes a lot of his academic successes and his ability to focus on school to his wife who dedicates her time to taking care of Scarlett. He’s also had a lot of support from his dental school colleagues who have helped him along the way. Following graduation, he plans to do a 1-year AEGD residency program, and after that he will start his five years of service with the Navy.

“My solution for juggling the pressures of dental school and a young family is to take things day-by-day. Having Scarlett has changed my perspective on life, I don’t put as much pressure on myself,” Richard said. “She has helped me realize what’s most important in life.”