Undergraduate Student Gets a Taste of Dentistry at RSDM

Tiffany-Chrissy Mbeng had her mind set on becoming a political scientist. But her sister’s illness stirred her career plans toward dentistry—a field she knew through her dentist mother.

Photo of Tiffany-Chrissy Mbeng Tiffany-Chrissy Mbeng, a junior at George Washington University

“My sister had something called Trigeminal Neuralgia,” Mbeng said, which is an electrical shock-like acute sensation on one side of the face, affecting the trigeminal nerve. Mbeng’s sister’s pain began after a dental procedure. But making that connection took a lengthy process, involving many prescriptions and tests. Then, a general dentist pinpointed the problem.

“I saw my sister go from screaming at night to sleeping in peace overnight just because of one procedure,” she said. “I was inspired that somebody could do that, so that started my passion for dentistry.”

Ignited with passion, she shadowed her sister’s dentist for hours and changed her path to the predental track at George Washington University in Washington D.C. To get another step closer to her dream career, she attended Rutgers’ Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP) this summer.

SHPEP is a six-week innovative enrichment program designed to prepare the next generation of interprofessional leaders to make an impact on the health and health care of their communities. Besides RSDM, the program includes Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, School of Nursing, and Ernest Mario School Pharmacy.

“It was really the interprofessional aspect of the program that intrigued me,” said Mbeng, a junior majoring in biology and minoring in communications. “This was [also] my first time doing anything related to dentistry in the school setting.”

At RSDM, she got hands-on experience, such as making dental impressions. She attended lectures by faculty, broadening her horizons on dentistry and its applications as well. For instance, a presentation by Harry Zohn, professor in the Department of Periodontics, introduced her to forensic dentistry.

A photo of Tiffany-Chrissy Mbeng's dental impression Tiffany-Chrissy Mbeng made her first dental impression at RSDM.

“If I didn't have the exposure at Rutgers, I’d have never known about that field, which really intrigued me,” she said. She shot her debut vlog to document her experiences with the hope that it could inspire other students to participate in the program. “It helped me confirm that dentistry is my passion and that this is what I want to do.”

In addition to being a passion, becoming a dentist is also a mission for Mbeng.

She aspires to go into dentistry to care and be a role model for Black women. “We make up only about three percent of dentists,” said Mbeng, co-founder and co-president of George Washington University’s Black Girl Pre-Health Collective. She added: “Black women's pain rates and extents are diminished within the health field because of the limited knowledge and racial bias that exists within all fields of life, unfortunately.”

Mbeng grew up at the intersection of diverse cultures. Her parents are from Cameroon, but she was born in the UK and raised in Canada and Brazil. “Basically, my identities are within all the languages I speak,” which are English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.

“I really feel at home in Rutgers. It's really inspiring to see there are people who came from similar backgrounds as me and who made it,” she said. “Rutgers is one of the most diverse schools I've ever been to.”