Photo by Doug Coombe

Photo by Doug Coombe

Life After LEAD

by Sedonni Harris, ’16 | Fall 2019

When I think about my career path, I look back on the life-altering incident that happened to me at the tender age of 6. One day, while playing outside, I slipped and fell face-first onto the steps of a giant metal slide. The force of the impact completely knocked out one of my permanent front teeth. On that day, the health professional so many people fear became my personal savior. Over the next decade and a half, I had countless appointments for impressions, X-rays, referrals, and adjustments to whatever prosthesis we were trying at the time. Looking back, I realize it was not just my teeth they were treating, but my entire well-being.

The uneasiness I felt smiling, enunciating, and biting was eventually replaced with a brighter smile, an ability to chew with no worries, and a willingness to share my story. Knowing how far I had come not only empowered me, it inspired me to dedicate my life to bringing others that same sense of renewal.

Once I officially decided to pursue a career in dentistry, I began to prepare diligently for college. Nothing caught me more off guard than receiving a letter explaining that I had been chosen as one of the LEAD Scholars and would be a recipient of not just a one-year, but a four-year scholarship. When I learned that I would be associated with a network of individuals invested in my professional and academic development and that the core values of the LEAD program are leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity, I could not have felt more reassured about the journey I was about to begin.

I’m proud to say that seven years later, as an alumna and third-year student in U-M’s School of Dentistry, my enthusiasm for LEAD has remained. When I’m not treating patients in the dental school’s student-run clinics, completing semester requirements, studying for an exam, or hosting review sessions for the first-year students, I’m preparing for the next opportunity to connect with LEAD scholars. The research study I’m conducting—where I explore the effects of exposing students of varying backgrounds to dentistry through educational intervention—allows me to meet with the scholars and other campus groups regularly. Through surveys, I can assess these students’ career-related decision making, but my ultimate goal is for them to consider the dental field.

After graduating, I anticipate practicing in a clinic for underserved populations and, because of my love for educational enrichment, eventually becoming a faculty member at a dental institution. Between dentistry and LEAD, my life has come full circle and I look forward to giving back what was given to me.


The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Michigan Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit umalumni.com/support.