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  June 7, 2004

Christopher Shank, Doctor Of Dental Medicine

After a visit to the dentist, then seven-year-old Christopher Shankdidn't think much of what dentists had to do.

Image: Christopher Shank

Photo by Peter Morenus

"I will never become a dentist," he told his mother.

But now, years later, Shank is illustrating the old adage, "Never say never," and embarking on a career in dentistry.

Shank, who earned his dental degree at the Health Center May 16, was selected by his peers to speak on behalf of the dental graduates.

It was his mother's dentist who pointed Shank toward dentistry. Shank originally wanted to go to medical school. But he completed his undergraduate degree at Colorado State University mid-year and so missed medical school application deadlines. When his mother's dentist, Dr. Robert Deloian, offered him a job as an assistant, he accepted, and began learning about various dental procedures and how dental offices operate. He also observed a man happy with his work.

"Dr. Deloian served as a mentor to me in many ways," says Shank, who started to consider dental school.

He made up his mind after taking part in a vigil in Littleton after the shootings at Columbine High School. "I met some interesting people," he says. "In some way, they inspired me. I woke up the next morning, and it was clear to me that I wanted to be a dentist.

"It's actually a good fit for me," he adds. "I like to talk."

A Denver native, Shank earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Colorado State. He also was an exchange student at the University of Wales, Swansea, as an undergraduate.

While in dental school, Shank taught in Hartford health education programs and provided oral examinations and education at the South Park Inn Homeless Shelter, the Migrant Farm Workers Clinic, the Connecticut State Special Olympics-Special Smiles, and in schools through the UConn Dental Outreach Council. He also served in various capacities for the American Student Dental Association; provided counseling through the CHIPS program (Confidential Help for Impaired Professionals); and developed a questionnaire for a pilot research study. He received the UConn dental school's 2001 Alumni Scholarship Merit Award.

Shank will do a one-year general practice residency at Northwestern Memorial in Chicago. After that, he'll decide if he wants to continue with general dentistry or pursue a dental specialty.

He plans to settle in Colorado.