Mississippi College-Tufts University Pipeline Prepares Med Sciences Students for Careers in Dentistry
Several years ago, a few Mississippi College graduates interested in pursuing careers in dentistry migrated to Tufts University, a world-class research institution in the Metro Boston Region, where the exceptional training they had received at MC allowed them to thrive despite a demanding curriculum.
The students’ success caught the attention of administrators at the renowned Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, the second-largest dental school in the country. The dean of admissions at Tufts traveled to Clinton to investigate MC’s Master of Science in Medical Sciences program.
The Tufts dean was so impressed with the students and faculty at Mississippi College that in 2018, an official agreement was struck: Tufts would recommend MC’s programs to potential dental students, and if they performed well at the Christian University, they could enroll in the Tufts School of Dentistry.
About 100 students have matriculated through the Mississippi College-Tufts University pipeline, and MC’s reputation for providing some of the finest-trained dentistry students has flourished.
This year, six MC graduates were elected to leadership positions by the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine Class of 2025: Tyrone Reese II, class president; Kaylin Thies, vice president; Mariah Matinian, treasurer; Alexis Gordon, Patient Care Quality Assurance Committee representative; Shouana Vang, Outcomes Assessment Committee representative; and Natalie Tran, Research Committee representative.
The success of Mississippi College students in Tufts’ highly regarded dentistry program comes as no surprise to Stan Baldwin, dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at MC.
“We offer an unparalleled curriculum compared to any other program in the country,” Baldwin said. “We offer five medical school and dental school-level classes. Nobody else does that. That makes us unique.
“Many of the students we send to Tufts end up being teacher assistants in gross anatomy there. They help teach the course. Whenever a new class comes in, the director of gross anatomy asks, ‘Who in this class went to MC?’ He identifies those students and assigns them to different tables so they can help everyone else.”
Each year, Baldwin treks almost 1,500 miles to the Greater Boston area to attend the School of Dental Medicine’s White Coat Ceremony and celebrate Mississippi College graduates advancing their dental education at Tufts.
At the conclusion of their second year of dental school, students receive their white coats to signify their transition from preclinical studies to clinical care. The students also pledge “to the service of humanity, my patients, my community, and my profession.”
“It’s a big deal for dental students across the country,” Baldwin said. “The (former MC) students appreciate that I take the time to see them and witness this special event for them.”
One former MC student, in particular, was happy to see Baldwin. Born in Jackson and raised in Douglasville, Georgia, Reese’s interest in dentistry was nurtured by parents who were each trained at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s School of Dentistry.
“As I grew older, I began to appreciate the science, art, and psychology involved with dentistry,” Reese said. “Shadowing and working at dental offices made me envision myself as a dentist.”
He returned to his home state and earned his B.S. in finance at Jackson State University. When he applied to the dental school at Tufts, he was encouraged to prepare for the rigorous curriculum by obtaining his M.S. in Medical Sciences.
Given a list of the best medical master’s programs in the country, Reese noted that Mississippi College was at the top. Jeanette Sabir-Holloway, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at Tufts, encouraged him to enroll at MC.
“MC 100 percent prepared me for the rigor of dental school courses,” said Reese, who obtained his M.S. in Medical Sciences at MC in 2021. “Being at MC taught me how to study, manage my time, and extract the needed information from books. I learned to appreciate labs by seeing something and touching it with my hands to understand its function.
“During the first year of dental school at Tufts, we took anatomy, biochemistry, and cell and tissue biology. I felt prepared for those classes because, at MC, we went hard learning those concepts. My training at MC also taught me how to teach and explain difficult concepts because I was a TA for neuroscience, and now at Tufts, I still continue to TA.”
Baldwin said Reese is an eager student who is poised for success in Boston.
“He did phenomenally well in our program, and Tufts snapped him up,” Baldwin said. “He’s a leader.”
When he arrived at Tufts, Reese continued to build the family atmosphere he enjoyed at MC, making a point to connect with each of his classmates and helping make their journey through dental school enjoyable. In turn, they elected him president of the class.
“I am honored to hold this position,” he said. “Being a leader is a huge responsibility. People depend on and require a lot from you; however, it is all through God who gives me the inner strength to lead with passion and purpose.
“I have done nothing alone. I am where I am because of an amazing support system: God, my family, friends, and colleagues. I would have never made it through MC without the great friends I met there.”
When he graduates from Tufts, Reese plans to do a residency in oral surgery and return home to improve dental health in the South. He maintains that moving out of his comfort zone is the only way to grow.
“It is important to be yourself,” he said. “The creativity and ideas you have are specifically for you, and it’s important to follow them. The only way you will not reach your goals is if you quit.
“Have an undeniable faith in yourself and pursue your goals even if it makes you uncomfortable.”
Baldwin said students from both ends of the Mississippi College-Tufts University pipeline are able to adjust to their new surroundings easily.
“Some of the students that go up there have never been to Massachusetts before; many of the students that come here discover Mississippi for the first time. We send Mississippi to Massachusetts and they send Massachusetts to us. It’s a neat pipeline.”
Matinian is an MC graduate from Massachusetts. Her family moved to the U.S. when she was 6, lived in Madison for two years, then settled in Boston. Since she was a child, she enjoyed going to the dentist.
“I love the friendly environment and all the cool gadgets that the dentist used,” she said. “As I learned more about the profession, I learned it was the perfect intermingling of art, science, and technology.”
If she experienced “reverse culture shock” when she came down South to earn her M.S. in biomedical sciences at MC, it didn’t last long.
“Clinton was a whole new world, but I never felt out of place,” Matinian said. “I was always welcomed into groups and quickly got involved with the MC Pre-Dental Society and teacher-assisting. I couldn’t explore the South as much as I wanted because I attended MC during the pandemic years, but there were always plenty of MC-run events that helped with the Covid blues.
“Whenever I did feel a bit homesick, I would stop by Dr. Baldwin’s office to chat about his favorite spots in Boston, and that would always cheer me up.”
Tufts was always Matinian’s top choice, but when the admissions team advised her to complete her master’s degree, she explored different academic institutions. The gross anatomy course at MC drew her attention.
“Most programs just have a simulation lab, whereas, at MC, there’s a full cadaver lab, much like medical and dental school,” she said. “I cannot begin to explain how well prepared I was for dental school after completing my program at MC. I learned how to manage my time properly and developed study skills that carried over to dental school and helped me not to drown in schoolwork.”
She also credits MC for helping hone her leadership skills. She was elected treasurer of her class’s executive board for the second consecutive year. Upon graduation, she plans to remain home in Boston and enter private practice. Her ultimate goal is to own her own practice and devote one day each week to community outreach.
She said the pipeline enriched her life while providing a means to pursue her career goals.
“I met some of my closest friends at MC who are now also at Tufts,” she said. “We always help each other out here.”
Tufts isn’t the only healthcare institution where MC’s budding dentists shine. The School of Dentistry at UMMC is also a popular choice for Mississippi College graduates, but it only accepts Mississippi residents into its program. Therefore, many MC graduate students attend leading dental schools from outside the state.
For more information about MC’s M.S. in Medical Sciences program, click here.