Dental school bound student graduating in three years at Dominican

Only three years after entering Dominican to pursue his dream of a career in medicine, Casey Bravo ’20 has been admitted into his first-choice dental school.

Casey will attend the University of the Pacific’s Dugoni School of Dentistry this coming summer, selecting the San Francisco dental school over UCLA, Southern Illinois, and UT Houston. The application process has been daunting, but Casey says his Dominican experience supported him wholeheartedly along the way and prepared him well for the Dental Admissions Test last July.

“When I studied for only five weeks and got a score in the 90th percentile, I was amazed,” Casey says. “I didn’t study certain things because I was able to rely on what I learned here. Dominican gave me the education I needed to do well.”

Casey knew at a young age he wanted to be a doctor. He also had a dream of playing college soccer. In 2017, he signed a letter of intent to play for the NCAA Division II Penguins, but suffered a major right knee/leg injury in his final game for Jesuit High School in Carmichael. Casey kept his commitment to attend Dominican and delved into science research, majoring in Biological Sciences in the School of Health and Natural Sciences and adding minors in Chemistry and Business.

“There are many opportunities and there are good resources here,” he says. “It’s the only four-year college in Marin County, so we can get all the shadowing experiences we want in Marin and don’t have to compete with students from other schools.”

His freshmen year, Casey attended a pre-dental lecture on campus by Dr. Neidre Banakus, a pediatric dentist in Novato. She invited Casey to shadow her at work. After Casey participated in a dental mission to Guatemala in May 2018 with International Samaritan out of Ann Arbor, Mich., Dr. Banakus introduced him to Dr. Melissa Rinck, who offered Casey an internship in San Rafael.

In the meantime, Casey dedicated himself to studying. He added minors in Business and Chemistry because he thought these classes would be useful down the road in his dentistry career.

“I was in a zone. Something lit a fire under me,” says Casey, who went to Jamaica on a medical mission this past summer. “I just wanted to be in dental school. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to start living my life.”

An honors student, Casey also managed to do some research on the side. He worked with Dr. Ian Barr in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics to study how mutations effect the electronic transport chain in bacteria. Dr. Barr, along with Dr. Tyler Johnson and Dr. Gay Lynch, assistant professor of Religion and Philosophy, wrote strong letters of recommendation for Casey to attend dental school.

“My favorite thing about Dominican is that my professors let me do what I thought was best for myself. They let me choose my own path,” he says. “No one ever told me I was too young to apply or that I was taking too many units. They always encouraged me. I love that. I have great professors and great relationships with them.”

Ultimately, the decision on which dental school to attend belonged to Casey. Being from Roseville with family and close friends nearby helped him make up his mind, but he also took to heart a pep talk from one of his chemistry instructors, Dr. Ken Frost.

“Dr. Frost said `If you want to practice in Northern California, UOP is the place to go’ and he didn’t even know my decision,” Casey says. “I know UOP is where I can reach my potential and grow into the best doctor I can become.”

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