Hometown: Diamond Bar, California
Career Plans: One-year general practice residency in Seattle and then private practice
Justin Nichols '16 is a man of many interests. Health and fitness, competitive bodybuilding, menswear, meditation and blogging are just a few of the pursuits of this dynamic Dugoni School alumnus.
Another great interest is serving the health needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. While at the Dugoni School he turned this passion into a leadership role by serving as president of the school's chapter of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD).
"My interest in special needs patients started at age 12 when I traveled to Pennsylvania during back-to-back summers to serve as a coach for a Special Olympics sports camp," Nichols said.
He had a fulfilling opportunity to help individuals with daily living activities as well as sports instruction.
"The experience was life altering," he recalled. "I quickly realized how present-minded this population is, as they truly enjoy the smallest things despite the myriad of setbacks they endure. It demonstrated how I can and should incorporate this mindset into my own world, which has helped maintain my connection to this population. I'm thankful I can now give back to them in another form, through dentistry."
Serving as president of the school's chapter of the AADMD enabled Nichols to be an advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while raising awareness among fellow students.
Nichols pursued his dental education path at the Dugoni School after receiving his B.S. degree in human biology from University of California, San Diego.
"Growing up, I suffered from prominent dental trauma and was shuffled from one dental appointment to the next," Nichols said. "I dealt with a significant decrease in confidence because of my resulting appearance, and instantly realized how much oral health and dental conditions can affect morale and quality of life."
It was this experience combined with a strong desire to serve in the health field, where he could make a difference in the lives of others on a daily basis, which ultimately led him to dentistry. He was enamored with the autonomy, opportunities and experiences the career field offers.
His time at the Dugoni School gave him a good start. "The Dugoni experience has truly changed who I am today," Nichols said. "Coming into dental school, I was extremely apprehensive about a three-year program and concerned whether I'd keep up. Initially, that fear came true as I found myself at the bottom of my class, worried whether I'd even make it past the first year. However, the culture of this school is so encouraging such that your struggles become your biggest learning points, if you're willing to put in the time and effort to jump over your hurdles."
"Everyone genuinely wants you to succeed and faculty and staff are happy to be here," he said. "It's going to be stressful anywhere you go to dental school. But to spend the stressful days in an environment like Pacific makes all the difference, and I couldn't be more thankful for my decision to attend this school."
He was impressed with the abundance of clinical experience, knowledgeable faculty mentors, academic resources and leadership opportunities available to students.
Nichols is moving to Seattle, Washington, to start a one-year general practice residency at a veterans hospital. He hopes to expand upon what he learned in dental school, build additional confidence, speed and overall competency, and ultimately pass on what he learns.
"I can't wait to return to the dental school and give back to students, the way that my mentors have given back to me."
Outside of his time pursuing his dental career, Nichols is extremely interested in health, fitness and nutrition, as well as competitive bodybuilding.
"It's amazing what the human body is capable of when you incorporate a bit of discipline and willpower, and it's an outlet for me to constantly work on tangible goals for myself. Not to mention, the mental benefits that come as a result of a daily workout allow me to have a mind that's more prepared to influence others in a positive manner. To me, fitness is the gift that keeps on giving."
Nichols also has some useful words of wisdom to dental students just starting out.
"Fitness and meditation are the two personal modalities I credit most to helping me navigate through dental school successfully," he said. "It's so crucial to feed our minds on a daily basis with a 'reset', such that we're more equipped to sustain the obstacles we're presented with. When we're centered in this manner, we face problems with bliss and excitement rather than stress and negativity. It's critical to find an outlet to enrich your life with. Practice it daily, and the benefits will consume you! This in turn will enable you to live a more balanced, fulfilling life dedicated to serving others."
And if he isn't busy enough, Nichols has one additional new project on the horizon. He is in the process of producing a blog with a hometown friend, emphasizing a balanced approach to life for the modern man.
"The blog will incorporate topics ranging from menswear — a passion of mine — to fitness, nutrition, grooming, dating, oral health and self-improvement as a whole," Nichols said. "I'm incredibly excited for this adventure that will enable me to serve my fellow man on a grander scale as well as help me improve my knowledge on a range of topics that interest me."