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Dental School Advice From Levi Powell

Levi Powell wearing scrubs and smiling proudly in front of dental school

Dental school student Levi Powell from the University of Southern California was born and raised in San Francisco. Growing up, he didn’t necessarily know what he wanted to do. He shares on The Homework Help Show Student Influencers Podcast that he thought he would grow up to be a fireman just like his dad. He recalls the first time he ever had to perform a dentistry procedure and how surreal the experience was and is now second nature to him.

Levi Powell performing dentistry

How Levi Got Into Dentistry

Levi was born to an African-American father and a Filipino mother. He shares his initial affinity towards dentistry and remembers fondly his orthodontist. He equated his dentist’s office to an inviting place that a lot of his friends and family also went to. Dr. Griggs, who Levi described as “super charismatic” and had a successful practice in Northern California, was his family’s first black doctor. Seeing someone who looked like him inspired Levi. From a young age, he has always taken extra care of his dental hygiene. When he entered high school, he was even more convinced of the possibility of him eventually taking up dentistry. He was initially a bit intimidated by the idea and associated only rich families being able to send their kids off to medical school and he had come from a working-class family. But his inspiration from Dr. Griggs, which really impacted him growing up, opened his mind to the possibility of dental school being a reality and he hasn’t looked back since.

If you’re applying to dentistry or just want to study better, check out our blog on how to develop good study habits.

Levi Powell wearing brown scrubs in his campus

Dental School Journey

After graduating from the University of Southern California, Levi didn’t know if it was a “sure shot” that he would take up dentistry. Right after his undergraduate degree program, he moved to Los Angeles, had a decent job at a dental office in Santa Monica, was able to provide for himself, travel, and afford a good lifestyle but he took a huge risk. Not everyone believed in him and he often would get comments from friends or faculty either doubting him or telling him not to think about going to graduate school.

He also went on to become an adjunct faculty member at USC and he calls this time in his life “instrumental”. Being surrounded by academia only pushed him forward to his inevitable journey to dentistry. Five years after moving out of the Bay Area, he moved back home and decided he was going to take the DAT or Dental Admission Test. He wasn’t going to be able to study and work at the same time and that was the biggest risk for him. He fortunately had money saved up to allow himself to take a break and focus on studying.

He even joked about becoming a Starbucks regular and having people come up to him to wish him good luck on the exams since he would spend 6 to 7 hours a day studying. He treated studying for the DAT like his job for three months. To Levi, taking up dental education was just a pipe dream. There was a possibility that he would not even be accepted, and he had just risked his very comfortable life in Los Angeles. He had self-doubt for sure, but he was also very determined to make his dream a reality. Nine months after he had moved back to his hometown from Los Angeles, passing his application, studying and taking more prerequisite classes needed, Levi was accepted.

All Or Nothing

In getting his degree, Levi shares on The Student Influencers Podcast “I just don’t really make plan B’s.”. His journey into the school of dentistry was an uphill battle. Odds might have been against him but his dedication to the craft really set him apart. He shared that coming out of undergraduate school, he had a lower GPA score. But since he did spend a lot of time studying for the DAT, his exam score was pretty strong.

He shares his all-or-nothing mindset with a metaphor for riding planes. If you psych yourself out before an exam by fixating on what people say about there only being a 50 or 13 percent acceptance rate it’s almost setting yourself up for failure. “A sane person wouldn’t get on an airplane that had a 13 percent chance of landing.” Putting yourself in a mindset of failure won’t get you anywhere. For Levi, there was only one option and that was getting into dental care, and with his motivation and no plan B mindset, that’s exactly what he went on to do.

A great piece of advice he has for dental students or really anyone who has a goal is “find out every single reason why they can say no and turn that around.”

You might not have Levi’s “all or nothing” mindset, but if you do need that extra push to get into the school of your dreams or pursuing your dream career, Homework Help Global can help you with your college or university entry applications!

Model student Levi Powell sharing advice to dentistry students

Advice For Students Considering A Career on Dentistry

Levi is now involved in the dental school admissions program team so he has a lot of great insight for anyone considering going into medical school. Admission program teams aren’t necessarily numbers-focused but rather look for individuals who have the ability to contribute. His advice is to get as much experience as possible. Whether it be shadowing professionals or going on mission trips or volunteering, it can be the biggest difference in your application. In preparing for dental school, Levi says it’s important to “walk that life” and get experience.

Performing dentistry in seven different countries is an experience Levi proudly has. Applying to medical school, whether it’s dentistry or another program altogether ultimately boils down to the idea of wanting to help people which is the goal. Getting experience really puts you closer to that and brings out even more motivation because you get hands-on experience to actually help people. Theory and studying are great but practice weighs heavier. The admissions team would much appreciate their candidates having some sort of physical training rather than having high grades and never having had to step foot out.

Dentist On A Mission

Levi shares more about his experience doing dentistry in seven different countries. He was on a mission trip which was essentially similar to Doctors Without Borders but for dentists. Their mission was to raise money or build infrastructure in the country they were serving.

His first ever mission was in Guatemala and he called it a life-changing experience. He was a dental hygienist at the time and remembers how grateful and kind the people he worked with were back in 2016. Because he had such a positive experience, he went out in 2017 to Nicaragua, went to Panama in 2018, to India in 2019, and then to his mother’s hometown in the Philippines. In 2020, at the height of COVID, he was in the Dominican Republic on yet another mission.

Levi Powell shares how to make it in dentistry

How To Make It In Dental Medicine

There was a time when Levi felt like he wasn’t being the best representative of his university. During his second and third years in school, he wouldn’t do well in an exam because he tried to cram so many things into his schedule. This overachieving tactic of his made him lose focus during exams. It wasn’t because he didn’t study the material, but rather his mind was elsewhere while taking them. He also wasn’t prioritizing his responsibilities and recalls a time when he had to take exams in a hurry just to take a conference call. It was only after his school director sat him down in disappointment that he realized he wasn’t utilizing his time properly and packing on too many things in one day was no longer sustainable for him.

To change, he has become more focused on creating goals and sticking to them. He has learned to allocate his time correctly. He even said, “it’s okay to say no to things.” It allows you to practice more confidence and self-awareness which a lot of students need because the university is not a place for hand-holding. Levi says, “You are completely accountable for everything you do. No one’s holding your hand anymore and you have to learn all that stuff on your own.”

Learn from Levi’s mistakes and read up on our past blog on how to study effectively for your next exams!

Levi Powell does dental procedure on young patient

A Passion For Mentorship

Learning from his mistakes has made Levi passionate about mentoring other students who may be considering dental education. Being a part of a minority community, he’s felt like he has sort of defied the odds by living the life he does now. He is living proof that success is possible despite the mistakes you might commit along the way. His advice is to be aware of these mistakes early on and learn from them.

He also shared tips on how he can de-stress after hectic schedules and responsibilities. Levi says to find things that bring you joy and spend time doing that. For him, he likes to make sure he spends time with his family. Health and eating clean are also very important to him as well as working out. When he follows through with his goals of eating clean and starting his day with a workout he automatically feels like his day will go well. Discipline and hard work also go into how he takes care of himself which is most likely why he is able to excel in his career.

We’ve also written a blog on how to de-stress in college so if you need more tips, be sure to check that out!

Levi Powell happily shares advice on dental education

Listen In To Levi’s Full Interview On The Homework Help Show Student Influencers Podcast

Levi exudes confidence and will surely motivate anyone who gets to listen to his advice about life, persevering through the odds, and making it in dental school.

Watch the full episode on our YouTube channel or listen in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Breaker, Overcast, and more!


Levi [00:00:00] I just don’t really make plan Bs. I don’t. Like, I don’t- I don’t allow myself to think in that capacity because I get pretty fixated on things and once I set my mind to something, I don’t really allow myself to at least not give it a fair shot.

Lesley [00:00:19] Hi, everyone, welcome to the The Homework Help Show Student Influencers Podcast. I’m your host, Lesley, and today we are here with Levi. So welcome, Levi. How are you today?

Levi [00:00:30] I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Lesley [00:00:33] To begin, we usually just ask a few get to know you kind of questions. So let’s start with where are you currently located?

Levi [00:00:41] So currently I am in Southern California in Los Angeles.

Lesley [00:00:45] OK, nice and sunny there.

Levi [00:00:47] Yeah.

Lesley [00:00:49] Where were you born and raised?

Levi [00:00:51] Born and raised in San Francisco, California. So I just came down the- came down the Five from Northern California to Southern California for school.

Lesley [00:00:58] Perfect. What- so what school are you at?

Levi [00:01:03] Currently I’m at the University of Southern California, so I’m a fourth year dental student at USC. It’s what we call it out here. And I also went to undergrad at USC. So I did my four years of undergrad, did my bachelors at USC, and graduated with my degree in dental hygiene in 2015, and then I came back to school and I’m in dental school now, starting in 2017 until 2021 next year.

Lesley [00:01:29] And so that’s, that’s at the same campus?

Levi [00:01:31] Correct. Yeah. Exact same program, exact same school, all that stuff.

Lesley [00:01:34] Oh that’s perfect. Is it kind of like a thing where you could just transition into it? Or is it, was it like a separate thing you had to go through and apply to?

Levi [00:01:41] Yeah. So they had that option. It’s called a pathway program, where you can do like a dental hygiene degree and then two years- two years of dental hygiene degree, which are the last two years of your undergrad. So first two years of undergrad are like didactic courses where you’re just taking prerequisites and then you transition into the dental school during your junior year of undergrad. You spend your junior and senior year, as well as a summer in between, where you’re seeing patients clinically and, you know, you’re working all on site with with patients. And then you would start the four years of dental school right after that. I didn’t do the pathway program. I chose to split up the time in between. I really wanted to get some clinical experience and work in the field and work in private practice and kind of get some more hands on experience before I started dental school. So I didn’t do the pathway program. But that is an option, or was an option, for- for students previously. They don’t have it anymore, unfortunately.

Lesley [00:02:37] Oh, interesting. Yeah, that makes sense to me because, I mean, if you- if you’re in more of a hands on position, you really- that’s when you can really scope out whether- whether or not you really want to be there.

Levi [00:02:47] Really. Yeah, yeah. 100 percent.

Lesley [00:02:50] Yeah. It’s the same with, like, I think a lot of the health care fields are like that too. Like I’ve talked to nursing students who always say the same thing, like, it really- you don’t really understand what you’re getting into until you actually just get in there and get that hands on experience, so that’s probably a better way to do it.

Levi [00:03:08] 100 percent. I still remember, like, literally the very first time- it sounds weird, but I had gloves on obviously. I remember the very first time I put my hands in someone’s mouth that was like… Like it was very- it was a strange experience. I remember exactly where I was at, I remember my classmate, who it was, I remember what chair I was in, what we- I remember, it’s like so vivid to me. But now it’s second nature, obviously. I mean, I’ve seen thousands of patients and it’s- I look at people’s teeth all the time.

Lesley [00:03:35] Yeah. That would that would be- I’ve never thought about that before. That would probably be really weird. Like, I’m just going to put my hands in your mouth now.

Levi [00:03:44] Yeah, yeah.

Lesley [00:03:46] Weird. So what made you choose a career in dentistry? Is that something you always wanted to do?

Levi [00:03:55] So I originally didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was growing up. My dad’s a fireman, my mom works in accounting. So my whole life I thought I was going to be a fireman, honestly, just like my dad. I really looked up to my dad. I still do to this point. But what really sparked my interest in dentistry was when I was in seventh grade, I met my orthodontist. My orthodontist’s name is Dr. Griggs up in Northern California. He’s incredible. Like, really an amazing guy, super charismatic. His practice is very successful. A lot of my friends, family and friends went there. People from my high school went there. It was just kind of like a place that was very inviting. And so I just kind of had an affinity towards that environment in general. And then also, he is my family’s first black doctor. So I am half black, half Filipino. My dad’s full black, my mom’s Filipino. And having someone in that position who kind of looked like me and resembled me, I didn’t really understand it at the time, you know, what that impact was going to be for me for years to come, honestly. But really seeing him thrive and seeing him have such successful practice. Everyone loved him. He was, again, super charismatic. It was- I looked forward to going to see him. That’s what kind of sparked my initial interest in dentistry. And then I always liked my teeth. I know it sounds very vain, but not in like a vanity way. Like, I just want to keep them clean all the time. Like I don’t want to disappoint my dentist or my orthodontist. So I would, like, brush for 30 seconds in each quadrant and like, move, like I was- I was crazy. So that was all kind of like premature. Like, that was like the younger Levi thinking about dentistry. Right. So that’s like seven- seventh grade, eighth grade, kind of high school, like, OK, this might be a thing. And then once I finally understood what dentistry actually entails in terms of undergraduate, then graduate school to get a doctorate and then potentially specializing, I was like, wow, this is not me. Like, I was very put off by it. I was very intimidated by it. For me growing up, like I said, my family comes from like a working class family. For me, growing up, everyone who was going to be doctors were the sons and daughters of doctors or all the kids who are rich. Honestly, like, that’s just what I- that’s really what I thought and what I believed. But again, seeing Dr. Griggs in the way that he moved, the way he impacted me, opened my mind up to- to actually believing that it’s possible. And I really haven’t looked back ever since.

Lesley [00:06:14] That is so powerful too, because yeah, especially in the medical field, there’s not a whole lot of representation because it tends to be a lot of generational like this, like people who come from families of doctors. And it’s always- that representation is so important so that is definitely a powerful thing.

Levi [00:06:35] Thank you.

Lesley [00:06:36] That being said, and after you learned like, all the work that has to go into it and even going from the undergrad part to actual dentistry school.

Levi [00:06:49] Yeah.

Lesley [00:06:50] What kind of did you learn in that process? Like is there anything that you learned that you could use to give to it as advice to anyone else who might be considering that career path?

Levi [00:07:00] One hundred percent. And I think you’ve been doing this, it seems like, for a little while, because it’s a very, very important question. That time from undergrad or even like high school for some students, some demographics, but that time in between, like graduating from one program or school or degree and then embarking on another one is a very, very, very pivotal time. It’s probably the time that I learned the most about myself in terms of what drives me, in terms of what my motivation is, in terms of what my resolve looks like, all those things. Because for me, when I graduated from undergrad, it wasn’t a sure shot that I was going to become a doctor, like it wasn’t a sure shot that I was just going to go on to dental school. It wasn’t sure for me. If anything, like, there were some questions about like, like, is this really for you from like faculty, from like some classmates, you know, things you hear here and there, right? That you kind of latch on to. A comment passing by that you’ll latch on to forever of someone doubting you or someone telling you you don’t study enough or a faculty saying, you know, don’t worry about graduate school, worry about passing my class. Like these are things that actually happened to me. And so to answer the original question, that time from when I first graduated undergrad to going into applying back to dental school was very, very trying. The first year that I graduated, I did a lot of things that set me up. So the first year I graduated, I stayed in Los Angeles and I worked at a private dental office in Santa Monica and one in Studio City kind of all over. And that was really good for my experience. I also worked as an adjunct faculty at USC, so I graduated in May and then I started teaching literally a month later in June. So that was very, very instrumental in terms of just me being surrounded by academia and staying in kind of that environment. But when it really got serious was after a year of doing that, I was like, OK, now I have to like get my application stuff together. I have to take the DAT, which is just like the MCAT, the entrance exam for dental school. And I couldn’t do those things while working, right? So I took it upon myself to take a break from work here in Southern California and I moved back home up to the Bay Area. And mind you, this is the first time that I’ve been back home in about five years. And I was already a successful dental hygienist. I made a really good salary coming out. I was able to afford my own apartment and got a brand new car, all these things. But I sacrificed all of that for this kind of pipe dream, is what it seemed like, to move back home and take this exam and study. And so literally, when I moved back home, I had saved up enough money to not have to work right away just so I could allow myself to study for the exam. And I took three months studying for the exam. I treated it like it was my job. I would show up to Starbucks at eight- eight in the morning and sit there until four very- seriously, the same one every single day. All the old grandmas, they would come in and say hi to me and say how is studying going and wish me luck. It was, it was so cool.

Lesley [00:09:49] You were like a regular.

Levi [00:09:51] I was one hundred percent a regular and it was really cool. But along that journey, those three months was probably the most trying time because here I am giving up my life in Los Angeles, giving up this like I made it, you know, I graduated from USC. I have a full time working job. I am able to support myself to travel and do all these things. But I gave all of that up to maybe not even take this exam and pass. To not even potentially get accepted. But I learned about myself during that time that when all the self-doubt comes in, it’s- it’s just everything else trying to weigh me down. It’s just all these external things, like the statistics and then all that stuff is trying to weigh me down. And if this is something that I really want to do, I would just show up every single day, whether it was a good day or a bad day, studying and just sitting in that chair for six, seven, eight hours, whatever I had the you know, the stamina for that day. I ended up taking my exam in San Francisco and I passed. It was weird because I was like, I took it in San Francisco and I had this moment, like this euphoric moment, like walking out of the exam. And just like I cried to myself, I called my younger brother. But it was like the culmination of all of those feelings of like doubting myself, but then saying, hey, listen, man, like, that’s not it. Like, let’s just focus. Like, let’s focus, because this is- this is what- what it’s about now. And so from the moment that I moved back to San Francisco, it was about nine months, I took the- studied for the DAT, I applied, got a couple more like a couple more prerequisite classes that I needed for dental school. And I got accepted within nine months of coming back to dental school.

Lesley [00:11:23] That’s amazing. That’s really a very powerful quality to have, is to keep yourself so driven and so motivated on that final goal, because a lot of people would have just been in that position, whether that a dental hygienist or like, you know what I’ve got- I’ve got my salary, I’m good. I don’t need anything else, but it really takes a lot to be able to actually push yourself further and say, no, I’m going one step further, I’m taking it to that next level and really, really staying on that goal. What do you think kind of like kept you going? Like was it just kind of keeping your eyes on that final prize because you knew that that’s what you wanted?

Levi [00:11:59] I don’t- and I don’t- I really don’t mean this in like a cocky way at all, I really don’t. But I just don’t really make plan Bs. I don’t. Like I don’t- I don’t allow myself to think in that capacity because I get pretty fixated on things. And once I set my mind to something, I don’t really allow myself to at least not give it a fair shot. Right? And so I think a lot of my application process was kind of defying the odds. I had a lower than average GPA score coming out of undergrad in terms of accepted GPAs for dental school. My DAT score was pretty strong, again because I put a lot of that time in and dedicated a lot of that time. But it was an uphill battle. It really was. And I think for me, one of the things- another one of the things I learned during this process is not to rely on the statistics. If you look at a graduate program or an undergraduate program or a job or whatever, and it says 13 percent acceptance rate, 50 percent acceptance rate, or this amount of people fail, like if you look at that- a sane person wouldn’t get on an airplane that had a 13 percent chance of landing. Like, you just wouldn’t do that. You know what I mean? So it’s like, why- like, why would you put yourself through that? But for me, like, I- I’m choosing to not look at those numbers and just say, hey, listen, if this is what you want to do, then find out every single reason why they can say no and turn it- and turn that around. Like if it means your personal statement, if it means talking about some bad grades that you had, if it means like defining your GPA a little bit by having a better entrance exam or the standardized test exam score, like all these things that I can control, I’m very fixated on kind of cracking that code and to keep myself moving and keep myself motivated. I never really had a Plan B and told myself, like, just give it a fair shot, give it a fair shot, try your best. And if you don’t, we’ll figure it out after that. Like that’s really what it comes down to. And it’s been working out ever since.

Lesley [00:13:55] Yeah. So it was more like a go big or go home kind of situation.

Levi [00:13:58] Right. So much, so much so that I only applied to one school every time, like I only applied to USC coming out of undergrad. I only applied to USC for dental hygiene school and I only applied to USC for- for dental school. I don’t recommend it to any predents that I talk to or any pre-health students that I talk to because it’s just not smart like odds-wise.

Lesley [00:14:16] Right.

Levi [00:14:16] But it just- it just speaks to, like, how my mindset was. Like, I, I knew if I didn’t get accepted I would apply again and I would figure it out at that point, but I wasn’t going to stop.

Lesley [00:14:26] Yeah. And it really speaks to that, staying motivated and staying on those goals, because you obviously you knew exactly what you wanted. You knew what it took to get there and then you did it. And that is really, really hard for a lot of people to do. And it’s really hard for a lot of students to stay in that zone because it’s so easy to just get really frustrated or get sick of what you’re doing and just stop.

Levi [00:14:50] Yeah, I agree.

Lesley [00:14:52] And another thing, too, is what you mentioned about the statistics and stuff, because I feel like a lot of people, a lot of students, whether they’re applying to undergrad or they’re applying to like a grad program, a lot of students get really, really caught up in those statistics. And the numbers like, oh, like my GPA isn’t high enough or, you know, only a certain percentage of people get accepted so I’m not going to bother. And I feel like that’s, you know, something that- sure, it’s a relevant statistic, but it’s not- those aren’t the only things that matter.

Levi [00:15:26] One hundred percent. And also it’s like, you- there’s so many other variables. And again, I think this speaks to just me being involved in it now, like me being involved with our admissions team and working on ways that we can increase minority applicants and retention and all that stuff, like I’m involved in this space. And so I know a little bit about how they think. It’s not just numbers focused. It’s not. They really want to know someone who can be successful in their program and then contribute afterwards. It’s not just we want to get the smartest people, the people who are like a no- you know, it’s dynamic. It’s not just a very rigid structure.

Lesley [00:16:01] Yeah. So what do you think the kind of things aside from, you know, the test scores and things like that, what do you think that some of the things that the schools are looking for in their candidates?

Levi [00:16:12] I think one of the biggest things is getting experience. Getting experience. Because if you have experience, whether it be shadowing, whether it be like mission trips, whether it be volunteer opportunities that are out there, I think that’s the biggest thing that you can speak to in terms of like the closest connection you can have to whatever program you’re applying to. Because once you have that, once you kind of walk that life a little bit, or if you’re trying to be in the hospital, you wake up at four thirty in the morning and you show up for rounds and you show up for surgeries and all that stuff super early in the morning. Or like for me, like I traveled the world and I’ve done dentistry in seven different countries, six different countries now. And it’s been such an amazing experience. But I can speak to all of that. I can speak to how it felt to be in a different country and not be able to provide a dental service. I can only do a hygiene service for this patient. And because of that, I want to go back to dental school, learn these trades, and then go back to doing whatever I want to do in terms of service. Like, when you can actually speak to why you want to do something and not just like- and I hate to use this generic phrase because maybe a lot of people do want to do this, but like, I just want to help people. And like, I just like- it’s like- it’s- I think it means well and I think it’s great. But once you have that actual experience, you’ll understand why you want to help people and what you have to learn and how hard you have to work in school to get that level of- of- of competence to be able to serve in the way that you want to serve. You know, it’s not a generic answer across the board. And so I think when you can get that experience and you can speak to that, whether it be in an interview or in your personal statement or a letter of recommendation, I think that’s what a school is going to latch onto a little bit harder than I got a 4.0 when I was in the library for four, four years straight, never stepping foot out, you know?

Lesley [00:17:54] Right. Yeah, I think that’s definitely something to speak to. And like everyone does say, I mean, yeah, a lot of people do just genuinely want to help people. But it says something so much different if you say, yeah, I like helping people versus well, this one time I had this experience and it really changed my outlook on things and that’s when I decided I wanted to do that, too. Or if you have, like, something, you know, that’s just so personal like that, that really shows that connection to that, it makes- I feel like that makes a huge difference, whether it’s in an interview or even in like an admissions essay or anything like that. I feel like that’s- that’s not more important than your grades, but it’s equally as important as all of those numbers and all of that stuff combined.

Levi [00:18:43] And that’s one of the biggest things I try to speak to anyone who’s like pre health, because I think we have this fixation not only in our culture right now to like be the best. And like there’s so much competition. And like obviously with social media, there’s like a bunch of like, you know, like everyone’s painting their greatest picture, you know, like no one’s putting in their folds. Right. And so it’s like there’s a lot of external pressure that causes internal pressure. And so if you feel like you don’t- you’re not fulfilling whatever artificial standards are being set out there, then it’s easy to implode. And this conversation I have with a ton of, like especially like pre dental students, like it’s not just- exactly what you just said, Lesley. It’s not just about the numbers. It’s not just about your scores. It’s about who you are as a person and how you can speak to the breadth of your application and your experience, not just one specific subset.

Lesley [00:19:32] Right. And especially when you’re going into a field that people are relying on you for their well-being and their health and there are- like, the physicality of their life is being put in your hands, because even with dentistry like that, a lot of that is connected to your heart health and your mental health and everything is so connected that you’re basically trusting that person with- people are trusting you with their life and you have to have that right attitude to take care of them properly, otherwise you’re just there for the money, I guess.

Levi [00:20:08] But which like I mean, unfortunately or fortunately, however way you want to look at it, some people do that. Some people do that. And it is what it is. It’s not- it doesn’t make and doesn’t make or break the profession. It doesn’t make or break the person. But I think it allows for opportunity to tell your unique story, right? It allows for opportunity to say, like, this is why I want to do it, and this is what I’ve done as a pre-dent or as a- as a pre health student, whatever the case may be. And this is why I want to do what I want to do.

Lesley [00:20:35] Exactly. Yeah. So you just mentioned that you did dentistry in seven different countries. How did that happen?

Levi [00:20:44] Yeah, I’m kind of like a travel like mission trip nut. Crazy.

Lesley [00:20:50] Like Dentists Without Borders.

Levi [00:20:52] Exactly. That’s essentially what it is. Yeah. It’s- it’s- it’s like you partner with the organization. I’ve been a part of like three different ones. And you guys either like raise money or there’s already funding or you have some type of infrastructure within the country you’re seeking to serve and you go with a team and it’s a different team every single time. Sometimes the core is the same, but like other members of the team might be switched around a little bit. But I just- I- my first year as a hygienist, I went on a trip like this to Guatemala, my first one ever, and literally changed my life. It changed my life. It just is- like, the gratitude that that I got from the patients. And they would say things like through translation, like, thank you for coming to my country and helping my people. Like God bless your soul, like, like things like that. Like I remember those interactions with those patients. And it wasn’t elitist. It wasn’t like, oh, I like this God complex, like here I am, an American, helping these people. Like, no, like it was like I have the skills. That’s just that’s just what I had, like from somewhere across the world. And I learn these skills and you can benefit from them. So let’s just make this happen. There’s no insurance, there’s no egos, there’s no faculty, there’s nothing. It’s just like a person who has skills who can help someone and a person who needs the help. And that mix for me, just like really, really works. And so it became infectious. I went to my first one in 2016 in Guatemala. 2017 I went to Panama- no, Nicaragua. 2018 I went to Panama. 2019 I went to India and then I went to the Philippines and then 2020 literally like during the week that Covid was announced a pandemic I was in the Dominican Republic doing a mission.

Lesley [00:22:33] You were probably freaking out.

Levi [00:22:35] I didn’t know if I was going to get back in the country to be completely honest.

Lesley [00:22:37] Yeah, because you could have got- you could have gotten stuck there.

Levi [00:22:41] One hundred percent. And I didn’t know that. And I think, like, that’s a whole different topic. But like, I think the sentiment around it. Like during like March when it first hit, it was like, oh, don’t wear masks, do wear masks. Like, it was like very loose, like people were overblowing it. And then I was like, no, this thing is actually real. So yeah. Yeah. Had I known the severity of it I definitely would not have gone. But luckily I was able to go and meet some great people, work with some great people, and I made it back safe.

Lesley [00:23:05] Yeah, definitely. Like, it’s great that you made it back safe because I mean, you can’t predict that too, right? Because you- you were just doing your thing and going and helping people. Yeah, but that’s really incredible, because that’s a lot of countries in four years on top of taking your school and working.

Levi [00:23:25] Yeah.

Lesley [00:23:25] Doing all that. So I mean, that’s a lot to pack in.

Levi [00:23:29] Yeah.

Lesley [00:23:30] Did you kind of have to do that like on breaks from school?

Levi [00:23:33] Yeah. The- I’m with this one specific group where we go, it’s with the school, it’s completely ran by students, it’s not sanctioned by the school. They don’t provide funding. We like fundraise and like reach out to companies, get donations. Like it’s a really, really cool family that we’ve kind of built here. But with that group, we go every December, literally. We take finals like in the middle of December and then that Friday, everyone has finals in the morning and then we’re on a plane taking a red eye to another country in December, like every year. And so it’s amazing. It’s like very exhilarating, like all that stuff. But the other trips were just kind of sprinkled in. Like I literally went in November right before Thanksgiving, and then I was out again in December. But those were two separate groups. I do take- some- I’ve taken a couple of days off of school and I have a good relationship with my faculty. I just let them know hey, a couple of months in advance, like I’m going to spend some extra days in clinic and kind of get ahead and then I’m going to be away for a little bit just because, like, this type of work means so much to me. It means so much to me. And I think it’s absolutely important. It’s necessary. And I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of ridicule from faculty or students or whatever for the sake of it. I’m not an irresponsible student. I’m still maintaining my grades and all of that stuff. But I, I make it a point to look at the calendar, carve out some time and see where I can get ahead or make it- make it work a little bit with my schedule.

Lesley [00:24:56] Yeah. That’s really nice that they let you- that they’re willing to kind of help you compensate that so you can do your extra hours that week so you’re not behind. I think that’s really- like I’m sure there are some professors or people out there that might not be willing to accommodate that. But. And obviously, your motive- your motivation was really good for that. It’s not like you were just like, hey, I’m going for spring break to Miami. Bye. Right?

Levi [00:25:23] Even though that would be fun.

Lesley [00:25:24] I mean, it would be. Not right now, but it would be.

Levi [00:25:28] Yeah.

Lesley [00:25:29] Yeah, yeah. So, yeah, that’s that’s super interesting. And so it was all just it’s all student organizations that do that? And you guys fundraise?

Levi [00:25:40] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. For the most part. The- it was six. I said seven earlier. It was six trips. Out of the six, they’re all basically student ran and then like some- like, our doctor ran like smaller groups. The last one, the one when I went to India was with a company, a medical apparel company that I work with called FIGS. They’re amazing. They’re similar to Tom’s shoes, where every single time you buy a set, they donate a set. So as part of our mission in that other country- in India, we went with a team of three doctors, two nurses, one PA, and me. I was the only dentist or dental student and we brought like six hundred sets of scrubs to, like, donate to their local nursing school that just opened up there, too. So it’s a part of their culture to give back. And the cool thing about it is like their ambassadors are all health care workers. Like we’re not like- like we’re really health care workers. We’re not just, like, paid to be on camera to like pose as people, you know? So that was really cool.

Lesley [00:26:42] That is cool. What kind of got you interested in that? Was it just like someone kind of like you maybe like you saw something about it or?

Levi [00:26:49] I saw their website and they have this thing called Threads for Threads and it’s like buy threads and they give threads like that’s like the philanthropic side of their company. And so I was literally just reading on their website and I saw that and I was like, these guys are incredible and they look super comfortable and they are really comfortable. So I reached out to them. Yeah, I reached out to them and they- it kind of started since then. And then that was like back in 2017, 2018 when I first started dental school. And so I’ve been working with them pretty closely for the duration of dental school and it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve met a bunch of people.

Lesley [00:27:24] Yeah, that’s- that’s amazing. The reason I was asking that is like in case there are, you know, some students who are listening, who are thinking like maybe that sounds really interesting and maybe they don’t really know if their school has anything like that or where to find something like that. So.

Levi [00:27:38] Yeah.

Lesley [00:27:41] There might be, you know, questions about how could I do something like that? I’m sure that you can check with your school, too, and see if they have any connections.

Levi [00:27:52] 100 percent. I’d say- I’d say most schools have- at least every school that I’ve encountered, whether it be like students or faculty at those schools, have a philanthropic side. Like a philanthropic aim in terms of like health care programs. Right. Even like my my younger brother is in law school at UCLA and he has like a pro bono section of his program that he has to fulfill also. So it’s like not even just health, but every- yeah- every group has, from my experience, has had some type of like give back type of work. I think it really- it really speaks to the culture of the program and the culture of the students and all that stuff. So, yeah, I’m definitely sure that all the programs, you can reach out to them and they’d give you some info.

Lesley [00:28:30] Yeah, because you definitely see those like organizations that aren’t even one specific field or if it’s like a Habitat for Humanity or something like that where anybody can- if you want to volunteer you can just volunteer. Would you say, if someone’s interested, that they should definitely, like would you recommend doing it?

Levi [00:28:49] A thousand percent, a thousand percent. I think– I think I don’t want to butcher the quote, but it’s somewhere along the lines of, like, losing yourself in the service of others. I’ll find the quote somewhere else and I don’t know if you guys want to see it but I believe in that. Like, I really do believe in that. I think that you can learn so much about yourself by serving others. All these mission trips, like selfishly, kind of like I think I get more out of it in terms of like learning about myself, learning about the culture, about the people, then maybe the feelings that I might be more attracted to or whatever. I’m sure it’s appreciated, but, you know what I’m trying to say.

Lesley [00:29:21] Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I mean, I would I would say I can’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t be fulfilling or rewarding or why anyone wouldn’t want to get involved. And maybe there is always that factor of if you’re joining, you know, like a Habitat for Humanity mission that’s going to another country and maybe you’re like, oh, this is really scary.

Levi [00:29:43] Yeah, especially now. Especially now.

Lesley [00:29:46] Oh yeah, right now.

Levi [00:29:47] That’s the tough part. But there’s so many different ways to help. There really are so many different ways help. Like for us in the groups that we that we’re part of, like there’s a lot of like pre screening that goes on. So like calling patients and translating or like getting bags together, like packing instruments, like all the stuff you can do domestically to help whoever is going abroad or help out whoever’s going to serve. So there’s so many ways to get involved.

Lesley [00:30:09] Yeah, definitely. And it just comes down to that finding the right organization to really do that with. And I’m sure there’s tons at every school.

Levi [00:30:18] Yeah, one hundred percent.

Lesley [00:30:20] I was going- so, do you have any other extracurriculars that you kind of do or is it is that all you can really pack into that schedule?

Levi [00:30:33] That’s pretty much it. I mean, I do a lot of stuff in like organized dentistry, meaning like a lot of the schools come together, like all the West Coast dental schools, we have different affiliations, like student- student dental networks. Like, we have conferences and there’s a bunch of like networking things that happen. So I’m involved in a little bit of that. But for the most part, for me, it’s- it’s about like volunteering and being in school. And I work as a- as a dental hygienist also, like during some breaks that we have and on the weekends and things like that, too. So I keep myself very busy.

Lesley [00:31:06] Yeah. So that was going to bring me to my next question is, you’re obviously very busy. How do you manage all of those responsibilities?

Levi [00:31:17] Yeah, that’s- I think that’s a work in progress. I don’t- I don’t have an answer for concretely how how I figured it out because I haven’t figured it out yet. But- but I did have a couple of reality checks and I’ll be transparent. Again, I don’t think life should be all about glamorizing and all the great things. Right? Because there was- there was a moment in between my junior and senior, my second and third year of dental school, where I didn’t do so well on like an exam. And the reason behind it is because I was literally trying to cram all these things together and I was like taking the exam and then thinking about something else and trying to rush into the exam so I can make a conference call. It was just like it was silly, like why would I plan it that way? And I did it. I did it because I think, like, sometimes when I’m doing all these things and moving at such a fast pace that I’m like kind of superhuman, honestly, like not like in real time, but like I’m packing so many things in my day because I’ve been successful with it in the past. And let’s add one more thing, like what’s that? Just an hour less of sleep. And that’s- that’s my mindset, right? But when I didn’t do well on this exam and it got back to my director and my director really had to sit me down and let me know that I let him down, I kind of let the school down a little bit. Like I- I wasn’t a good representation of what USC is all about. That hit home for me big time because it’s not that I’m incompetent. It’s not that I don’t know the material or that I can’t master the material because I obviously studied really hard, went back and got a 98 on the same exam. So it’s not that I don’t or can’t figure it out, but it’s just I wasn’t prioritizing. And so that’s a conversation that he and I had. So what I, what I did in that moment is I made a list of what my priorities are right now and my priorities are reflective of what my goals are. So my goal number one right now is to get accepted into a residency program for dentistry. And I want to be a part of a dental anesthesiology program for residency where I would work with special needs patients. I’d work with needle-phobic patients, pediatric patients and do their general anesthesia under supervision of- well, you know how anesthesia works.

Lesley [00:33:24] Right.

Levi [00:33:24] So that’s what I’m applying to right now, and that’s my number one goal. And so based on that number one goal and then my number two goal, my family being healthy and three, like those things, like that’s how I prioritize how I’m allocating my time. And as a result of that, I said no to a lot more things that I would have ever said no to. And that’s probably the biggest thing that I learned in my junior and senior year and now in dental school is it’s OK to say no to things. Like it really, really is. And if anything, it shows like a little bit more confidence and competence and self awareness when you’re able to say no to things because you’re allowing yourself to prioritize in the right way.

Lesley [00:34:00] Exactly. I think it’s also better from a mental health standpoint too, to just, you know what, I need to say no and like learning to recognize those signs in yourself when maybe you’re starting to feel really overworked or maybe you’re prioritizing going out with friends too much over studying. And you need to, you know, learn to recognize that, learn your own personal signs so that you take a step back and say, no, it will be really good for me to just say no.

Levi [00:34:26] Yeah. One hundred percent, I agree.

Lesley [00:34:27] And I think that’s something that a lot of students kind of struggle with, especially when you’re coming into university in your first year and you’re you know, you’re coming out of high school and the threshold is just so different. Like, you are completely accountable for everything you do. No one’s holding your hand anymore and you have to learn all that stuff on your own. And a lot of students really struggle with that.

Levi [00:34:50] Yeah.

Lesley [00:34:51] And some students, I feel like, never figure it out.

Levi [00:34:54] Yeah, I agree. I agree. But that’s why it’s really good to have, you know, things like this about people and yourself who made these mistakes and can speak to it, you know, and- and I think that’s- that’s why I’m so passionate about mentorship, especially for like within the minority community. It’s a huge passion of mine because I just feel like I have walked this life and I’m actively living this life that is kind of like defying odds. And again, it’s not from a like look at me, I’m so glorious perspective. But just like it is possible. It’s possible. It’s possible to make mistakes early on. It’s possible to make mistakes later on. But the important thing is that you recognize those mistakes and learn from them. And that’s my biggest piece of advice.

Lesley [00:35:37] Yeah, I think that’s definitely- I mean, it doesn’t- it doesn’t matter what program you’re studying, that’s always, you know, it’s OK to make those mistakes and making mistakes is how people learn and how you recognize, OK, this is how I’m not going to do that again, because we’ve all done it. And yeah, it’s super important to recognize that. That was actually kind of brings me to my next question, which was going to be, how do you kind of manage stress? Like, what do you kind of do to keep yourself from that burnout?

Levi [00:36:13] And that also I’m still working on. I- I- I think one of the one of the biggest things is something as simple as like understanding how I work, understanding how I operate, understanding really what like brings me joy. So a couple of those things are one. Number one, spending time in my family. So checking in with them, talking to my mom, talking my brother, my sister, my dad, and just seeing how their, like, life is going. Like, just hearing about them and like understanding what they’re going through makes me realize, like puts things in perspective. Like it’s not just me going through this stressful time, but they’re doing the same thing at work or at school or relationships or whatever the case may be. So that really helps. That brings me a lot of joy. And then eating clean, number one. And number two, working out. Like those- I think the combination of those two things like it just like it builds on me, like it really like it sets the tone. If I eat clean and then I work out in the morning like the rest of my day, I feel like it’s going to be amazing. So I know those things take a lot of work and a lot of discipline. That’s the hard part. But I know I have those as like positive fuel that I can use to kind of turn my day around sometimes.

Lesley [00:37:30] Yeah, definitely. And those things too, like that- like, what you eat and getting physical exercise and stuff is also really important, not even just for the destressing part, which is obviously it’s really good for, but also to your overall performance in school and your studying and your ability to retain information and to focus. And there’s so many benefits that come out of that that’s not even just getting fit or like saying- destressing yourself.

Levi [00:38:03] Yeah, I agree.

Lesley [00:38:04] I think that’s really, really important. And I mean, it isn’t easy. I recently had to do the same thing. I had to adjust my diet like back in February. And it was a drastic thing, like, OK, cut back on this, this, this and this and this. And then I was like, what am I going to eat? And like it’s fine now, but- and I feel better, like I feel so much better. But it took so long to get in like that habit of this tastes not as good as that pizza over there, but I feel better when I eat it.

Levi [00:38:38] Yeah. Yeah. And then also you understand balance too, you know, it’s like not all one way, but like if you’re never exercising and you’re always staying up late watching TV or eating junk or whatever, like a lot of negative self talk, you know, that that just compiles on itself, you know? And so like having the balance of I can still do all of those, you know, quote unquote, like negative things, I guess, if you want to call it that. But like, it’s about balance, you know, having a majority healthy lifestyle and being able to indulge a little bit sometimes.

Lesley [00:39:09] And now when I do eat pizza, it’s like it tastes so much better now because I don’t eat it very much anymore. It’s like, oh, I missed this but not enough to eat it every day.

Levi [00:39:23] One hundred percent. One hundred percent.

Lesley [00:39:24] So another thing that we kind of ask is what kind of life skills would you say you’ve learned from being in school so far? I mean, there’s a lot of possible life skills that you could learn, like learning how to be an adult. But is there anything in particular that you really feel like you kind of- that has kind of helped you-.

Levi [00:39:45] Like to be successful in school? All that stuff?

Lesley [00:39:46] Yeah.

Levi [00:39:47] So, yeah, I think one of the biggest things is communication. Like, very clear, concise, like transparent communication. And that- and that’s especially important, I think, for me in my profession, because with dentistry, a lot of it is patients not really understanding or knowing what’s going on. I like to articulate it to being a car mechanic. It’s like you go to the car mechanic when you hear something squeaking or if something doesn’t feel right. Or maybe it used to do this but doesn’t do that anymore. But you don’t know exactly know how to change sparkplugs or what the transmission fluid looks like or you don’t know exactly what but you know it’s a little bit off, right? Same exact thing in dentistry, you know? And so for me, I really found a lot of success in developing a language and developing it like a cadence in how I talk and communicate with my patients where I know they understand. It’s not just like me rushing from A to B because my faculties- I don’t know, the faculty can wait. I can wait. I’ll go to school late. I’ll come back the next day if it means that I can take 15 minutes, 15 extra minutes to make sure you understand. And I think people really, really, really appreciate that. And that’s not just like the patient student or patient doctor relationship, but also like between me and my classmates or me and my faculty, like that communication piece. When it’s not lost in translation, if everyone is on the same page, I would say that I’m doing things less over and over and over again and I’m just doing it right the first time.

Lesley [00:41:11] Right. And I think that, especially with dentistry, and that communication is important because, I mean, a lot of people- there’s a stigma where a lot of people hate going to the dentist or they just don’t. It’s not a- it’s not like it’s a fun- it’s not like going to an amusement park. It’s not a fun experience, right? And someone- especially if you have, like cavities or something and someone is coming at your mouth with that big huge needle or like those giant drilly things. Communication, I feel like, is very important because at least you’re like, OK, I know I’m coming at you with this huge needle, but here’s why. Or they just kind of like- like I have a dental hygienist who kind of does that where she kind of just gently talks you through everything she’s doing. And it’s super, super helpful because I hate needles. So then if I do have to get that needle, I’m like- yeah, it really, really makes a big difference because I just- you feel more comfortable and more relaxed. And it’s just it- it does make such a huge difference.

Levi [00:42:11] And one thing that I’ve learned by being in school and like the short career that I’ve had thus far, it’s that- exactly what you just said. It makes a world of a difference. But honestly, all it takes is us spending maybe one or two more minutes. Really. Like if you think about it, like, it just takes us like slowing down for one second and just checking in, slowing down for one second and explaining this thing, slowing down for one second and just asking one more question question to make sure that we’re one hundred percent on the same page, you know, and it makes a huge difference. So again, it’s like you can turn a four hour appointment into like a one and a half, two hour appointment if your communication is correct.

Lesley [00:42:48] Exactly. And it really comes back to that, you know, the people who genuinely want to be there because they want to you know, they want to help- actually help people, that’s that sign that, you know what? You are someone who wants to make a difference in this person’s life. Now, you’ve taken that extra one or two minutes and you really have made a difference in that person’s life.

Levi [00:43:09] Yeah. And that just goes back to- that goes back to experience. Right? It goes back to experience. It goes back to like a pre dental student shadowing a doctor who’s like that or going to another country and watching the translation between everyone and not just someone who doesn’t speak their language and just shoving a needle in there. Like, like the nuance of that conversation and that relationship, like it takes experience to understand that. Wow, like that’s how it’s supposed to be done. Like that’s why this guy is successful. That’s why this person is happy every time they go to work, as opposed to the person who is just showing up, trying to pay their bills. You know, it’s like- like anyone. That can turn anyone off, you know, and you can you can really speak to interaction that you as a volunteer or assistant have with that patient, you’re a part of that communication. And you can speak to how like that’s why I want to do this specific thing, because I want to be that person for this person, not just I want to help the world be sunshine and rainbows.

Lesley [00:44:02] Exactly. And I think there are opportunities in every career to try to find, you know, feeling like that. And then, you know what? Some people are happy just getting up, going and collecting their paycheck and coming home.

Levi [00:44:12] That’s OK.

Lesley [00:44:13] And you know what? That’s fine. But if you really find that that’s- that position that really makes you feel like, you know what, I’m being fulfilled like, that’s an amazing thing.

Levi [00:44:24] Hundred percent. Even more. Yeah. And that’s like- I don’t want to belabor the point, but that’s just I think it’s important. Like, that’s I wrote about this recently on social media, actually. Like, that’s one- one- like, a new thing for me. Like that mindset of like gratitude, honestly, like people ask me all the time, like how is school going, like how is covid going, like, what are you guys like? Every single time I tell people that I’m very, very, very grateful, like very grateful. I wake up every single morning, like, of course I’m exhausted most of the time. I stay up late studying and go to sleep, wake up early. Right. But like, I’m absolutely grateful and so excited to be able to every single day work towards a goal that I’ve been dreaming of, like fantasizing over for years, you know?

Lesley [00:45:08] Yeah, that’s- gratitude is definitely something that that I’ve been working on, too. Since I was- in October, I was in the hospital for about two weeks, and it really made me- and because a lot of my friends were constantly- like, my two best friends every single day were texting me. They came every other day and they were constantly coming there. And just the amount of people who showed up all the time and were constantly checking in and constantly being there, it really kind of changed my mindset a little bit to where, you know what, I have so much to be thankful for. And so ever since then, it’s been really like if someone texts me, just asking me, how are you doing? I’m like thank you for checking in on me, because you just learn to appreciate it so much more.

Levi [00:45:55] Yeah, I agree. Couldn’t agree more.

Lesley [00:45:57] Yeah, definitely. My next question was going to be what- if you- what struggles or challenges have you faced? But I feel like we already kind of talked about that. So I’m going to flip that and ask you, what is one of your favorite memories so far in school?

Levi [00:46:13] Wow.

Lesley [00:46:16] We all have a lot.

Levi [00:46:18] Yeah.

Lesley [00:46:18] It’s hard to pick one.

Levi [00:46:20] I know. I think the obvious ones are like traveling, traveling and doing dentistry and like being with my classmates and all that stuff. I would- I would also say not like a concrete memory, but just like remembering how I thought when I first stepped onto campus at USC, when I first stepped onto campus in terms of hygiene school, like how I thought then in terms of like being so intimidated, so overwhelmed, so, like, deflated all the time. I was very like unsure, kind of like anxious a lot because of the enormity of it. Like, you walk around, there’s doctors everywhere, there’s like degrees and everyone’s so smart and has so much money, all this stuff. Right? And so it’s intimidating. Remembering how I thought then and knowing how I feel about myself now and knowing that I can speak to, like all of my experiences I’ve had that have led me to have, like, this mindset that I have now, I think that’s probably been the thing that is most rewarding about school. And then I’m appreciating school for the most is kind of like that transformative experience for me.

Lesley [00:47:21] Yeah, definitely. That makes total sense to me because I feel like- I feel like that- I kind of get like that too, where I just kind of look back and I was like, this is how I felt like during this time. And like, how do I feel this good in my life now? And you kind of just remember what what led you to those certain moments in a certain time.

Levi [00:47:39] Yeah, yeah.

Lesley [00:47:40] I think that’s valuable.

Levi [00:47:42] Yeah.

Lesley [00:47:44] Another question that we ask everyone on our show is if you could go back and talk to your 15 year old self, so like- sorry, high school freshman, what would you say or what- what would- what advice would you give yourself?

Levi [00:47:58] Don’t sell yourself short. Like, honestly, don’t sell yourself short at all. Like, don’t- like if you think you want to be a doctor or you want to be an astronaut, you want to be a physicist, you want to be a painter, whatever. Like, don’t sell yourself short and literally, like use every single resource that’s at your disposal, because people do want to help. People want to help. The reason why we’re sitting here right now is because we want to help people, you know? People really want to help, like, seek that stuff out. And don’t be shy about seeking help from others, you know? Like really establishing those connections that can get you from whatever you’re dreaming to actually bringing that into reality. Like, that’s what I would- I would tell my younger self because I really again, I really do feel like I sold myself, sold myself short a little bit like in terms of my mentality, like I thought small back then because I just- my environment, my surroundings. Like this is just what people around me did. Like I wasn’t going to be a doctor because no one else in my family was a doctor. But like now I’m like, forget that. Like, no, like you can be the first doctor in your family. Like, that’s okay. Like- and people ask me if they want to be MDs, like, you can help them get to that route too. Like it- really, it’s- it’s not- it’s not as big as the world makes it seem. It’s not as impossible and exclusive and elusive as the world makes it seem. Like, dream for it and just work your butt off to get to that point to where you want to be.

Lesley [00:49:23] That’s the thing. As in high school, your world is so small when you’re in high school. And it’s really tough to get out of that, like, oh, this is- this is it. This is it. And it’s hard to kind of picture anything beyond that. And it is also hard for people, whether you’re in high school or if you’re in university or whatever, wherever you are, it’s so hard for people to just reach out and ask for that help. But if you embrace that, it’s actually stronger to acknowledge to recognize that and to get that help and to take that step than it is to just sit there and be like, oh, well I look dumb if I ask for help or whatever you feel. Right?

Levi [00:50:04] Because that’s what I was scared of. I was scared of looking dumb. I was scared of I was scared of that. Like I was scared of looking dumb or looking like a nerd or like- look- like- like, oh, like just just go with the flow like everyone else is, like relax and chill about it. Like, no, like I have questions about this and I want to solve these questions and I want to like expand on what intrigues me. And now like as a more mature, not all the way mature I guess, I’m thinking-.

Lesley [00:50:28] On the way.

Levi [00:50:30] On the way. Yeah. I have the confidence to ask those questions and pause everyone in the room for a second, just so I understand respectfully, obviously. But I wouldn’t have had that. I did not have that confidence as a fifteen year old playing varsity basketball, being very social, had a bunch of friends like I did not have that confidence. I really didn’t.

Lesley [00:50:50] And that’s the thing is, like you said before, there are so many people who want to help you and there are so many people who can help. And you just have to get over that hump of your- your- you will- nobody’s going to judge you. And if- even if- if someone judges you for asking for help, they’re not worth your time and effort anyway, because they’re obviously not a supportive friend.

Levi [00:51:16] 100 percent.

Lesley [00:51:20] Exactly. So, yeah, that’s definitely helpful. So I know that this year is very weird and confusing and it’s not a normal year, but so what advice would you give to a student who’s maybe starting university or college this year and is kind of going, what?

Levi [00:51:40] Yeah, I- that’s tough. I look at the dental students now and they’re starting and the first month of dental school was like probably the most fun I had in all of dental school. Super social, we were always going out. Everyone’s hanging out like we are all around the school. Everyone’s asking for help, giving help, like the upperclassmen helping the lower classmen. It’s tough. I mean, it really, really is tough. The best advice I can give is- is just to be adaptable, honestly. Be adaptable and be- and be willing to roll with the punches, be willing to, like, change whatever the school or program or infrastructure has set up for you, because that’s the only way that we’re all going to get through it. Like, I don’t even know if I’m going to graduate on time. Like, I’m supposed to graduate in May of 2021. Like, seven months from now I’m supposed to be a doctor and I don’t feel comfortable in that, but I’m OK with like putting in as much time as I need to between now and then to achieve this goal and hopefully get into residency and all those things.

Lesley [00:52:40] Yeah, and I think it’s also important to remember that everybody has had to adapt and like people have had to postpone weddings. And, you know, these big- like, my best friend had a baby in July and no one could touch or see the baby. So like, yeah, everyone’s going through this. And I know that a lot of students in particular are struggling right now, but everyone is just doing with it- everyone’s doing their best.

Levi [00:53:10] The best we can. Yeah.

Lesley [00:53:11] Yeah, yeah, definitely. So another thing we kind of always ask is if you have any favorite motivational quotes that you want to share.

Levi [00:53:22] Oh, man.

Lesley [00:53:24] Or just like words you live by.

Levi [00:53:26] I have a ton. And they’re in my phone, I don’t remember them. I literally have a tab in my notes for quotes. I think- I think the- the- what I try to live by is treating other people how you want to be treated. Like, I know it’s very- it’s like, kind of borderline cliche, but like if you really think about it, like if you really, really need to think about like how you want to be treated and how you treat other people like it’s easy. Like I’m not going to be racist or I’m not going to be crazy to this person or treat them with disrespect just because I’m frustrated or flustered, because I wouldn’t want to be treated like that. And also like I wouldn’t want people to treat my mom and my sister like that. So why would I talk to a woman like that? You know, it’s like that. I really, really do believe that if more people got out of themselves and treated other people how they wanted to be treated, I think would be a lot better off.

Lesley [00:54:13] I think this world would be a better place if everyone lived by that. Especially right now.

Levi [00:54:19] Yes, especially right now.

Lesley [00:54:21] There’s a lot happening right now. So that’s yeah. I mean, I- and yeah. You know what? It may be something that people say all the time, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Obviously, people say that for a reason, right?

Levi [00:54:34] Yeah. Yeah. True.

Lesley [00:54:34] So I just have one more question, and this is a fun question we like to end with, and that is what is your favorite social media platform and why?

Levi [00:54:46] It’s a love-hate. The only social media platform I use, I don’t have Facebook, I don’t have Twitter. The only one I use is Instagram. Part of it is like business, like I have a couple affiliations on there, that- companies that I work with and things like that. But I do really believe in, like, the reach. I believe in like posting positive content and having the ability to, like, reach so many people all at once and then also being a mentor for people who otherwise don’t have one. One of my- one of my goals of using my platform is to really, really, really help people who feel like they don’t have a mentor or don’t have an example or don’t have someone they can speak to about whatever it is under the sun, whether it be their mental health or relationship problems or like specifically like medicine or questions about dentistry, things like that. I can either connect you to someone that I know in my network or I can personally carve out the time to help you through that. I’m very intentional about that because I think that had I had someone like that a little bit earlier on, things would have been a little bit different, even though I was able to kind of navigate my way. I just don’t want people to go through the same things that I went through. I don’t want people to have the same trials and tribulations that I had because it’s not- it’s not right. Just because someone who maybe doesn’t look like you occupies that space that you want to get to, but you’re too shy to ask that person, I can be that for you for sure. And I can help you out. I can bridge that gap for you.

Lesley [00:56:07] So, yeah, definitely. I mean, Instagram is a big thing that we use too that we like share our, you know, our content and stuff. And that’s that’s where we get a lot of people message us asking for advice and help with things. So, yeah, it’s definitely been- it’s definitely a very effective platform for networking and connecting with people in general.

Levi [00:56:29] Yeah.

Lesley [00:56:30] Definitely. So that’s pretty much all the questions I have. But before we say goodbye, do you have any last final insights that you want to share? I know we already shared a lot, but.

Levi [00:56:43] Not- I mean, yeah, like you said, we covered it all. I mean, the one thing I would say, if you can vote, go vote. Go register. Whatever side of the coin you’re on or if you’re in between, like educate yourself, go out and vote, especially like millennials. Now, Gen Z, like our vote matters. Our voice matters, too. So I think it’s absolutely important.

Lesley [00:57:00] I absolutely agree with you. So thank you so much for taking your time out of your day today to talk to me. You shared so much information and you’re such a fascinating person. So I really think that this is going to be super, super informative and motivational for our listeners so.

Levi [00:57:19] Thank you.

Lesley [00:57:19] We want to thank you on behalf of our company for joining us today.

Levi [00:57:23] Yeah. I appreciate the kind words and thank you guys for taking the time to set this up. I think this is a platform that a lot of people can benefit from. And a lot of people who are in my shoes like have very unique stories and impactful stories and anecdotes to be able to share. But sometimes we just don’t have the platform or the means or the time or energy to kind of put this together. So I think it’s an equal thank you to you and your team for for being involved and being dedicated to this kind of work, because it helps so many people, people who listen passively or don’t reach out or who won’t even say, hey, I heard that and was motivated. Like, those type of people are being impacted just as much as the person who posted in The New York Times. So thank you, guys.

Lesley [00:58:05] So thank you for saying that. We really appreciate it. And it’s always so good to hear from that side, so.

Levi [00:58:12] Absolutely. And well, we’ll talk soon. Thank you so much.

Lesley [00:58:16] Yeah, we’ll be in- we’ll keep in touch with you and. Yeah. Have a great rest of your day.

Levi [00:58:21] You as well. Take it easy.

Lesley [00:58:23] You too. Bye.