Candace Duffy thought she knew what she wanted to do when she went to college but when she became pregnant and got an opportunity to shadow a dentist, her priorities changed.
“I don’t want to be on-call and work a job that’s super stressful. I don’t want a career where I have to feel unappreciated or taken away from my family,” she said. “When I was starting my family, I saw every day is different and the dentist I was shadowing was really hands-on and enlightening about certain situations… He put a lot of things into perspective for me and the first thing everyone sees is your eyes and your teeth. I’m really big on teeth so it’s a no brainer.”
Candace decided then and there that her real dream was to become a dentist. She had a bachelor’s degree in biology, but she was unsure what her next step should be. She decided to start with the basics and enrolled in the Dental Assistant Program at United Education Institute in Morrow.
“I wanted to learn the foundation of running a successful practice and knowing what everyone’s responsibilities and duties are,” she said. “I figured starting at the bottom would better shape me to be a better employer.”
‘THIS PROGRAM IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT’
Candace is active in the Georgia Army National Guard and is a First Lieutenant Chemical Officer. Her military training didn’t translate directly to dental skills, but her learned work ethic definitely helped. She maintained perfect attendance and honor roll through every course. Whenever she struggled, with sutures or x-rays, she knew more practice would get her through.
“This program is what you make it,” she said. “Take full advantage of every opportunity, whether good or bad there’s always a lesson to be learned. Always be humble and eager to learn. You won’t regret it.”
That was advice she was happy to share with her classmates when she became president of the student ambassador program.
“She’s just top notch, excellent all the way around,” said Lavonne Moore, DA instructor. “She’s one of the best students I’ve had in the whole time I’ve been an instructor. She has a very go-getting personality. She’s very focused, she knows what she wants, and she goes for it. She took her education seriously.”
‘IT PREPARED ME’
Just as Candace was ready to begin her externship, she was called for mandatory military training.
“It was definitely one of those ‘you signed up for it, you’ve got to do it’ moments,” she said. “I knew extern was coming and I was trying to work my schedule around it but unfortunately with the military it doesn’t work out always as planned. You’ve got to take the punches and keep hopping down that road.”
After a short break Candace was able to return to her externship and before it was over, she was offered a full-time position. She still has big plans for the future. In the next two years she will apply for dental school and hopes to become a dentist by the age of 35.
“I feel like I owe the UEI something because of the training that I was provided. It was so great,” she said. “It prepared me. Before I came up on externship, I was already shadowing at different offices to get a feel for what I wanted. I had already received a dental scholarship and other offers from other practices where I was previously volunteering at. When I graduated from undergrad in 2020, I did not have offers. I knew I wanted to be a dentist, but I didn’t know what first step I needed to take to pursue that career.”