"You go to this school for three years but you end up being part of the school for your entire life. You don't just receive an education here."
If there's one characteristic that has helped Brian Baliwas navigate the road towards dentistry, it's been a positive attitude. As an undergraduate at University of California, Davis, Brian studied biochemistry with an intention of pursuing a career in the health field. However, he readily admits that, amid the experiences and distractions of college life, school was not his top priority.
When he decided that he seriously wanted to pursue dentistry, he faced the fact that his low GPA was not going to be sufficient to get into the Dugoni School of Dentistry. Rather than give up in defeat, he took on a new challenge: completing a post baccalaureate program in human physiology and anatomy at the University of Oregon, taking 20 units per quarter and graduating at the top of his class.
"School's a lot different when you want to go to school. You take it more seriously," Brian explains. "Once I decided on dentistry, I knew Pacific was my top choice so I was going to do everything I could to get in."
One of the major reasons he wanted to attend the Dugoni School was because of the positive atmosphere. Even before he was accepted to the school, he would come in with paperwork for applications and found that the faculty, staff and students were friendly and welcoming. And friends and family who have visited him at the school have only complimentary things to say about his school.
"Everyone is just so positive and happy here," he says, adding jokingly, "It's almost like the nitrous oxide is being pumped through the walls!"
The way Brian sees it, people truly excel and are motivated to do their best in places where everyone is optimistic and encouraging. Nobody wants to be in a place where people are complaining or focusing on the negatives. He realizes that while no place is perfect, it feels as though the Dugoni family chooses to focus on the good aspects rather than dwelling on the negatives.
Now in his second year, he's making the most of his time here, joining almost every club the school offers. In addition to participating in clubs such as the sports dentistry club and outdoor club, he serves as the Associated Student Body (ASB) class treasurer and is an active member of Student Community Outreach for Public Education (SCOPE) — participating in more than six events during his first year.
Brian believes that his preparation to get into dental school has helped him develop time management skills, and this has allowed him to take on so many extracurricular activities. His attitude is that if he makes time for an activity, it will work out. His upbeat nature and desire to be involved has helped him juggle his course load with the responsibilities of his extracurricular activities. The bottom line for him: being involved allows him to be part of the school.
"Participating in school activities allows you to give back and give your input to improve the school overall," says Brian. "There are some people who go through school complaining and they don't try to do anything about it. By being involved and trying to change things, it may not directly affect me, but it could affect future classes. And that's what Pacific is all about."
As for what the future holds, Brian isn't so sure. People tend to choose a specialty based on what they like most. The problem for him is that he likes everything and because of that, he doesn't want to limit himself to just one area. He might just practice as a general dentist and see where it takes him. He isn't anxious to figure out his path now. Brian knows it's never too late to go back to school later if he decides to specialize.
"My career plans are that I'm open to anything," he says. "I look at school and experiences like a toolbox. The more tools you gather, the more things you can actually build. I don't have anything in mind but I think it'll work out just fine."
One thing he is sure of is giving back. After graduation, Brian would like to come back to the school to teach.
"You go to this school for three years but you end up being part of the school for your entire life," Brian explains. "You don't just receive an education here. Our professors and faculty really contribute a lot of their time and effort in order for us to become successful dentists. Coming back to teach is just one small thing you can do to give back to the Dugoni family."