Chemistry major explores dentistry

Jessica Restrepo ’13
Jessica Restrepo ’13 is shown varied brushing techniques.

In just a few short years, chemistry major Jessica Restrepo ’13 has gained a great deal of experience working in the field of dentistry in both the United States and abroad.

Locally, she interned at Dental Partners of Boston in 2010, and at Boston Children’s Hospital cleft lip and palate program in the summers of 2010 and 2011. Abroad, she studied “Traditional Chinese Medicine” with now-retired professor Ed Tong in Kunming, China, in 2011.

Last summer she added to her list by working as a Davis International Fellow intern at the Himal Dental Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. There she had an opportunity to interact with dentists; observe dental procedures, including extractions, root canals and fillings; and to learn about the oral health of the Nepali community, all of which has helped to broaden her perspective on the field.

“My work at Himal Dental Hospital gave me a chance to understand another view on oral health and the common complications that may arise in developing countries,” she says.

Restrepo first became interested in health care, in particular dentistry, while a high school student at Health Careers Academy in Boston. At Wheaton, her interest has led her to take courses toward fulfilling pre-med requirements and, subsequently, to major in chemistry.

Jessica Restrepo ’13
Jessica Restrepo ’13 stands in front of the dental clinic.

“After finishing a year of organic chemistry with Professor Christopher Kalberg, I fell in love with the concepts and the challenges chemistry entailed. After my final semester of my sophomore year, I knew I wanted a major that would constantly challenge me and improve my critical thinking, and I believe that chemistry has done that,” she says.

She learned of the Nepal opportunity through the nonprofit Experiential Learning International, which aims to connect volunteers to meaningful international experiences. “An alum, Kevin Hewitt ’12, who did a medical internship in Thailand, told me about Experiential Learning International, and I was inspired to take a similar approach,” she says. “My clinical knowledge, people skills, adaptability and cultural sensitivity improved during my time in Nepal, all of which has better prepared me for dental school and to handle any situation in the future as an orthodontist.”