"SMDEP was an integral part of my undergrad career because it gave me my first real experience with medical schools and the medical field, and offered me the opportunity to meet other minority pre-health students..."
Mr. Hilaire attended SMDEP in 2015 at the University of Virginia. Today, he is a second-year dental student at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine at Boston University. He graduated with a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park in December 2017, and completed a post-baccalaureate certificate program in 2020 at the George Squared Program between George Mason and Georgetown Universities.
What path did you take when you first started college?
I was a pre-med student throughout my undergrad years. I switched to pre-dental a few months before starting the George Squared Program. SMDEP was an integral part of my undergrad career because it gave me my first real experience with medical schools and the medical field and offered me the opportunity to meet other minority pre-health students, which wasn’t very common at my undergrad institution.
What led to your interest in a health profession?
I always knew I wanted a career helping people and I didn’t want a desk job. In high school, math and sciences were my stronger classes, and I played a lot of sports, so I naturally wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. I then developed an interest in dentistry after receiving my second orthodontic treatment, after I graduated college.
Who are what inspired you?
My orthodontist, and my cousin, who is a general dentist, were the main people who inspired me. I also looked for a lot of doctors and dentists, as well as students, on YouTube to find more people who looked like me. This is what eventually led me to start my own YouTube channel for my dental school journey. For those interested: www.youtube.com/c/StudentDoctorEli
What obstacles did you overcome in your educational or career journey?
My grades in undergrad were poor. They weren’t the worst, but I knew I needed a post-baccalaureate program if I wanted to go to ANY professional school. My post-baccalaureate program helped me really figure out how to navigate the classroom and prepared me for the rigor of dental school.
What are some of your recent milestones?
I’m almost done with my first semester of dental school, and I recently reached 1,000 subscribers on my Youtube channel.
What makes your story unique?
I think my story is unique because of my perseverance. I had a professor refuse to write a recommendation letter for me for SMDEP because he was doubtful of my abilities to ever get this far. I turned that into my kryptonite to make sure I never give up.
What surprised you the most about graduate/health professional school?
I would say how busy you are. I personally don’t think it’s THAT much harder than undergrad/grad school, but it is a lot of work, and you absolutely must become a master of time management in order to handle it all without feeling overly stressed or burnt out.
How did SHPEP influence you?
I saw how desperate minority students are to find not only other students that look like them & are interested in health professions but also to find mentors that look like them. This is what fueled me to make sure no matter how far I go, I always reach back to pull more people with me.
Do you remember your first day of graduate studies? What memory stands out the most?
I just remember walking into the first day of orientation and feeling like “Wow, I made it. All the hard work led me here and I’m finally here.” I felt like I worked so long and tirelessly to reach that point that I didn’t even realize that one day I would be starting dental school.
What has been your favorite part of the process? The most difficult?
I absolutely love school. For the first time, I feel interested in EVERYTHING I’m learning. No more general education courses and feeling like you’re learning useless information. That has been the best part. Again, the most difficult is finding balance and time management.