Trending Content

The Week That Was: Special Scholarship Edition

By Paul Roberts

March 20, 2024

Last week’s blog barely had time to mention the 2024 MDA Foundation Scholarship winners. Now that they’ve all received a happy text notification from me, it’s time we fete them properly. After all these 6 rose above the total 22 applicants to be awarded a $5000 scholarship towards dental school tuition for the 2024-2025 school year. Thanks to all our members who support MDAF with their voluntary dues donations or through our exciting Connect4Cash Raffle which is now open for ticket sales. Check out the banter here. Now, let’s profile and celebrate these upcoming member dentists for their achievement.


Katie Jennings – UMKC 2027 Katie loved her small-town childhood in Oak Grove, Mo., where she learned to appreciate a connection with her local community. This connection and her involvement with groups like the Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri fueled her desire to give back. An Oak Grove High graduate from 2019, she got a Health Science degree from MU. Now she’s in her first year at UMKC as an Area Health Education Center Scholar. In her essay she writes, “As a dentist, I want to do more than just fill teeth and fix temporary problems. I want to lead my community toward improving the overall quality of life and wellness of community members for generations to come.”

Gabriel Martin Sasamoto – UMKC 2026 Gabriel is a 2017 graduate of Parkway Central High School in Chesterfield, Mo., who gained a Biochemistry degree from MU. His experience as an immigrant needing to learn English and then acting as his mother’s translator at doctor visits and teacher meetings shaped his thinking. After feeling like his mother didn’t understand her dental visit, he was determined to help close the language gap for Spanish-speaking patients. He helps his fellow dental students on this front and plans to focus his career on serving and advocating for underserved Hispanic communities.

Elise Baumann – UMKC 2027 Elise earned her biological sciences degree from MU after graduating from Hannibal High in 2019. Her journey toward dentistry had its roots in her struggle with her own smile. Her dentist and mentor, Dr. Roger Janes, helped her see the impact a dentist can have on his or her community. Elise also demonstrates a strong volunteer spirit and leadership through many charitable organizations.

Andrew Self – UMKC 2026 Andrew was third in his Blue Springs High School Class of 464 before earning his biochemistry degree from MU. His academic prowess and diverse volunteer involvement earned him a variety of scholarships. As a member of UMKC SOD this same volunteer exposure to those in need is shaping his career intentions as well. He writes, “Whether through joining an FQHC or a practice that places an emphasis on taking Missouri Medicare patients, I hope to be able to be part of the solution to providing care to these critical and in need populations.”

Tia Kawhaji – UMKC 2027 Tia’s education journey includes Lee’s Summit North High School and a biology degree from UMKC. She then stayed at UMKC as part of the SOD. Tia’s dental journey has roots back in Beirut, Lebanon where she initially wanted to be a fashion designer and sewed many designs. But seeing the lack of dental care among her relatives and community led her to dentistry where her thread and needle were replaced by a polisher and dental suction. She values organized dentistry and writes, “While each dentist can serve their community, I believe there is value in coming together as professionals to expand our outreach, advocate for those whose voices aren’t heard and fight to eliminate barriers that prevent one from receiving dental care.”

Sara Burch – KCU 2027 Sarah grew up in southeast Missouri where she graduated from Chaffee High School before gaining a biomedical sciences degree from Southeast Missouri State Missouri. She is a proud member of the inaugural class at Kansas City University College of Dental Medicine and the first KCU CDM student to win an MDAF Scholarship. Having a sister with Down Syndrome fueled her early desire to be a dentist and to serve those with special needs. She notes, “My goal is to bridge the gap between dentistry for the abled and disabled in rural communities.”

The Week Ahead

Your regularly scheduled blog will return on March 29. Enjoy your NCAA brackets.

Quote of the Week

“Originality is the essence of true scholarship. Creativity is the soul of the true scholar.” – Nnamdi Azikiwe