lauren-kuhn-pngMy goal in life is to leave a legacy… Isn’t that what we’re all searching for?  As a future dentist, my goal is to relieve pain and anxiety that patients face regarding their oral health and the appearance of their smile.  I am a second year doctor of dental medicine student at Harvard University and in May 2017, you’ll be able to call me Dr. Lauren.  It is a thrilling situation to find myself in–I’m attending my dream school, living in the wonderful city of Boston, and serving my community as Miss Massachusetts and volunteering and raising funds for worthy causes, such as women’s education and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  Unfortunately, this amazing experience comes with a hefty price tag.  I will be 25 years old when I graduate as a dentist and I will have at least $200,000 in debt.  If I choose to pursue a specialty, it is likely that it will add an additional $300,000 to my debt burden for a grand total of $500,000.  This is intimidating for many students and it is my fear that future dentists are being deterred from their dreams by the extreme cost.

Did you know that graduate students, like myself, pay a higher student loan interest rate than undergraduate students?  In addition, these loan rates are rising (see attached image entitled “loans”).  The cost of attendance for my education is about $100,000 per year for four years at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (see attached chart, entitled “HSDM costs”).  Dental students like myself are burdened by debt and unfortunately, this adds to the problem of not having enough dentists in low-income and under-served areas.  New dentists often are forced to practice in areas with plenty of demand and an ability to pay because they themselves need to pay back their student debt.  Loan debt also contributes to the high cost of dental services that most patients are asked to pay.  While this is not an easy situation for me, it is still encouraging to know that I can learn to manage my budget, appreciate my education more since I am financing it, and be generous and considerate in the future, knowing all too well the challenges that students and young professionals are facing.  I have and will continue to lobby on Capitol Hill for student loan debt reduction to help future dentists, in addition to students in other fields, find ways to make their educational dreams a reality.

Hoping you will pursue your dreams fearlessly,

Lauren Kuhn is McGaunn & Schwadron’s latest blog contributor. She is the current reigning Miss Massachusetts 2014 and a member of Harvard University’s School of Dental Medicine Class of 2017.