Rachel Wians: A hate-love relationship with dentistry

Rachel Wians in a dental lab

Rachel Wians hated going to the dentist as a kid.

A member of the Gophers cross country and track teams, Wians is close to earning her undergraduate degree in physiology, and already has her next step planned—dental school.

“It’s kind of ironic that I decided on this career path now," Wians said. "I had a really great dentist, despite not enjoying it."

Dentistry made an early impression on her for other reasons. Her older brother, Zachary, was diagnosed with autism as a child, which can make dental cleanings or effective brushing hard because of sensory issues. Rachel took note of the accommodations their family dentist made.

"The population of people with disabilities is a pretty underserved population," she explained. "And not a lot of people will take on patients like that because they are more difficult, depending on their sensory issues and the different pathways you have to take."

Choosing a medical career is one of the more difficult academic paths one can take, but Wians is able to balance her course load with her athletic career by being wise with her time. And the practice regimen of a distance runner is detailed and thorough, much like preparing for a career as a dentist.

"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that's going on in cross country; no one is cheering you on as you're doing your long run on a Sunday morning," Wians explained. "But when race day hits, you have to step up to the plate. The same with dentistry; that's all dental school is, your preparation before you hit the big stage of your career."