UMMC School of Dentistry graduate John Sinclair has new assignment: Treating patients in the Navy
When John Sinclair looks back at his four years of study at the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry, he doesn’t just think of how hard or easy his classes were.
“One of the surprises was the sheer amount of time involved in it,” he said of the hours he spent in lectures and labs.
Sinclair also thinks of the opportunities, even as a student, even years out from professional practice, to make a difference in the lives of patients. That hands-on exposure during Dental Mission Week and at the student-run Jackson Free Clinic has shaped him into the dentist he has become.
“One of the most exciting things is when you have a patient come in who has had bad teeth for a long time,” said Sinclair, a Mendenhall resident who is married to fellow fourth-year SOD student Katelyn Allen.
“You take the teeth out, take the patient through the healing process, and then make them new dentures,” he said. “They pick up a mirror and look at them. Some will smile, and some will cry.
“It’s one of the moments I love … when you give someone a smile and a fresh chance on life.”
What stands out about Sinclair is “his attention to detail, his desire to understand his patients and giving them the best care possible, his willingness to take on some more challenging cases, the kindness in which he communicates with this patients, and his ability to do things efficiently,” said Dr. James Lott, associate professor of Care Planning and Restorative Sciences.
Sinclair is one of 27 dental students graduating this month from the SOD, in addition to 20 dental hygiene students. Along with the schools of Medicine, Population Health and Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, SOD graduates will take the stage during 10 a.m. ceremonies May 28 at the Mississippi Trade Mart.
During his time at Belhaven University in Jackson, Sinclair knew he wanted to be either a physician or a dentist. “A lot of the guys who were mentors to me growing up were dentists,” he said.
Sinclair has enjoyed and appreciated the school’s structure, including “how close-knit the classes are. Classmates have been in my wedding. I met my wife in dental school. That was a big plus.”
He’s been active in a number of campus organizations, including student chapters of the American Dental Education Association, the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association of the American College of Dentists and the School of Dentistry’s UPSTART summer research program.
COVID-19, he said, “definitely had a big impact on school.
“All of our curriculum in the last few years has been patient-based. This happened in the D4 year, and we missed a lot of clinic time,” Sinclair said. “We didn’t get back to seeing patients until August.
“There were some change made to help accommodate things, but it’s still been tough. But, the good thing that came out of it is that it forced the school to update its teaching methods. We made the switch to virtual, and a lot of people were able to make better use of their study time.”
The pause in clinic time “made some patients appreciate dental care more,” Sinclair said. “In my time here, I’ve probably had 50-60 patients that I am responsible for, and for taking them all the way through their treatment.”
During dental school, Lott said, “there are days that are definitely better than others. John has shown a consistently positive attitude throughout the ups and down of going through the academic challenges.
“The ethical and kind nature that John has shown throughout his time here at the dental school has been tremendous. “
Sinclair remembers one of his favorite professors, Dr. Charles Ramsey, assistant professor of Care Planning and Restorative Sciences. “He really modeled compassionate health care, and making sure to take time to talk to your patients,” Sinclair said.
“He taught us to always think of the patient’s needs and that they be comfortable, rather than just focusing on the procedure. He is an example of grace and patience.”
A member of the U.S. Navy, Sinclair is assigned post-graduation to Naval Station Norfolk (Va.) as part of a four-year commitment. “I’ll be working with sailors coming in and out of port and their dependents and will have tours at sea for 12 months,” he said. “Then for the next few years, wherever the Navy takes us.”
Naval Station Norfolk “is one of the largest Navy bases in the nation, and it has one of the largest dental clinics in the world, with over 100 dental chairs,” he said.
After that? He’s got a pretty good idea.
“The plan is to come back to Mississippi eventually,” Sinclair said, as a recipient of the SOD’s Best and Brightest Scholarship, which requires those scholars to practice in Mississippi a minimum five years.
Story by Ruth Cummins/University of Mississippi Medical Center