Alumni Spotlight: Kailee Williams, D.M.D. ’19
Kailee Williams, DMD ’19
Clinical Director, Waterville Community Dental Center, Maine
The Office of Alumni Advancement recently interviewed Kailee Williams, D.M.D. ’19 about her UNE experience and her current career.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? How did that impact you?
I grew up in a small town in central New York. It’s in Cortland County, one of the poorest counties in New York and an even more rural area than where I currently practice in Waterville. The high school I attended only had approximately 100 hundred students. I’m also a first generation student and was able to attend Hamilton College for my undergrad, which was an amazing opportunity.
Now that I’m in this very professional world, everyone I see has a maintained smile. That’s not the norm where I come from. It’s why I’ve gone back to that for the patients I treat — I grew up with a lot of people dealing with oral health problems. I feel like I want to give back. And I’m so grateful to Delta Dental Plan of Maine to have expanded the loan repayment program to include alumni. Dental school is a huge financial commitment and I’m thankful they are making this possible.
How did you get interested in dentistry? How did you select UNE’s College of Dental Medicine for your degree program?
I grew up around poor oral health, but my family always made sure my siblings and I had dental care. When it came to education, I always thought of myself in the sciences and studied biochemistry in college, but was miserable in the lab. During a trip home from college I went to our dentist – Dr. Cheryl Reygers – and she suggested dentistry as a profession. It’s really great to have a female mentor and role model and to have that so early on was definitely helpful for me.
I wasn’t quite sure which schools to apply to. My advisor and I looked at UNE — it had just opened, but their mission to care for the underserved was very vocal and visible. I felt comfortable and happy during my interview with Dr. Finegold and the student interviewer, Mitch. The other college had basically said that dental school would be the most terrifying experience of my life! It seemed clear that UNE was the right choice.
Caring for patients is incredibly rewarding. Do any stories come to mind?
I did my rotation at Kennebec Valley Family Dentistry. It was awesome to see the different pace and structure from how the UNE Oral Health Center operated, and was helpful to get experience with the same kind of patient population I wanted to work with. I’m also getting my Master’s in Public Health. This is my mission, it just comes out of me. I’ve always had that little fire in my belly because it’s so important for people to understand the perspective of people who are underrepresented. Waterville Community Dental Center is open to solving public health issues, and they have allowed me as Clinical Director to change things up a bit to make sure we provide emergency services and to provide care that is morally and ethically aligned. It’s a team that really wants to make a difference.
There have been many memorable patients. Sometimes people come in who have very limited English proficiency, and at times they don’t even have the benefit of an interpreter. It’s been very rewarding to develop a communication style with certain patients, people who have anxiety and fears about being in the dental chair. Even though they are in a vulnerable position, patients can develop incredible trust if you help them to understand what you are doing. One special patient I remember was so appreciative to go from chronic pain with infection and swelling all the time to being able to function normally. Through the language barrier, through the anxiety, we were able to help him get significantly better. I think UNE does a great job of training new dentists in managing this kind of real life dentistry and treatment planning.
What do you like to do outside of your work at Waterville Community Dental Center?
I really enjoy singing and musical theater. In high school I was in Little Shop of Horrors – that is my favorite. I sang in my college’s select choir, and would love to find a choir to reconnect with. And then there are my two cats, Vivian and Miriam. They’re super fun!
It’s a special honor to be selected for the Delta Dental Loan Repayment Program. What does it mean to you?
As a first generation student, getting here financially was a challenge. I’ve always thought, ‘I’ll figure it out after I get there,’ and felt that the most important thing was to do something I’m passionate about, believing that things would work out. Delta Dental’s Loan Repayment Program is going to make a huge impact on my ability to continue to work and live in this area. Knowing that I now have help on my biggest bill, my student loans, takes away a huge burden. I’m beyond grateful for Delta Dental’s help!