As a student at Brandon High, Colby Roberts knew he wanted to do something in the medical field.
His first inclination – dental school – seemed more in his dreams than in his future. “I wasn’t sure I was going to get in, and me and my now-wife were talking about getting married,” Roberts said. “I rerouted and did nursing.”
After getting his degree in kinesiology at Mississippi State University, he earned an associate’s degree in nursing at Hinds Community College, later bridging from RN to BSN at the School of Nursing on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus. He cared for patients in UMMC’s surgical ICU, working a night shift, beginning in 2015.
Then, things got a little more complicated. “It was taxing on me and family life. I decided to make a change and have a better work-life balance,” Roberts said.
He circled back to thoughts of the UMMC School of Dentistry. “I had a different application at that point. I thought I had a better chance of getting in.”
Roberts had underestimated himself. “I applied and got accepted. I was excited to get in,” he said. “It was a last-minute decision, so I had to take a couple of classes to get in the prerequisites.”
He began classes in August 2018. Working as a nurse was in his past. “Especially for the first two years of dental school, I was engaged in books and studying. It’s a full-time job,” he said. “I had to completely leave nursing behind.
“Getting back to studying and going to school is an adjustment. And in the middle of the second year, my wife and I had a little girl. Throw that and COVID into the middle of everything!”
Dr. Amanda Morellato, an assistant professor in the Department of Care Planning and Restorative Sciences, has known Roberts since his first year of classes. “Colby knew what he wanted to do and went after it,” she said.
“He came to the School of Dentistry with experience in the medical field, which was evident in his professionalism and maturity but also in the way he communicated with faculty and patients,” Morellato said.
“Colby is very driven and doesn’t accept mediocrity. He always wants to know what he can do better to give his patients the best result, and I saw this from preclinical practice and onward to the patient clinics,” she said. “He didn’t slow down even when his first baby was born while in dental school, continuing to work with the American Student Dental Association and representing his class on various levels.”
Roberts’ favorite part of dental school has been seeing patients in clinic. “Just being able to treat my patients is rewarding in itself,” Roberts said. “Now that we are transitioning out of school, I’m getting in touch with all my patients, seeing the relationships we have developed over the last two years.”
“He has a friendly, calm demeanor and just really exudes a positive light,” Morellato said. “Colby treats his patients exceptionally well and he takes a personal interest in each of them, and it is obvious his patients feel this level of compassion from him.”
Roberts said his eight weeks of fieldwork helped him decide to go into private practice after graduation in May. “I was able to see how it all operates and work alongside the dentist,” he said.
In the stretch toward graduation, Roberts said, life with wife Christy and daughter Laney has been hectic. But, the Brandon resident said, “we love to travel, and we love going to sporting events at MSU. And, we just had a trip to Disney World with the 2-year-old.”
After earning four degrees, is a fifth in his future?
“I think I’m done,” Roberts said. “This will be it. I’ve found what I enjoy doing. Learning never stops, but organized school does.”
By: Ruth Cummins