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A future in dentistry seemed assured for Hannah Bloom the moment when – at age 7 – she stared into the mouth of a 400-pound lion and found it fascinating instead of frightening.

Hannah BloomHannah BloomAs a child in Huntsville, Bloom grew up around the dental profession, with a total of five aunts and uncles who practiced and a grandfather who was an orthodontist. So it certainly is not surprising that Bloom is following the family tradition as a student in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry.

“I’ve wanted to be a dentist for as long as I can remember,” Bloom says. “I’ve just always been around the field.”

If she had any doubts, they quickly were wiped away by a trip to the Dallas Zoo. During spring break while still in elementary school, Bloom spent a week with an aunt who worked for the zoo as a veterinarian dentist. One day during her trip, Bloom watched in enthralled awe as her aunt performed a root canal on a lion.

“I was fascinated,” Bloom recalls. “The teeth were so huge. I was blown away.”

A decade later, Bloom enrolled at UAB and earned a degree in neuroscience, with minors in psychology and chemistry. She says she enjoyed her experience as an undergrad and was proud to have chosen UAB. So after hearing a talk from School of Dentistry (SOD) associate professor Carly Timmons McKenzie, Ph.D., she knew she wanted to remain at UAB for dental school.

“Something that really stuck with me was when I heard Dr. McKenzie say that UAB produces dentists who are ready to practice on day one (after graduation) because of their high clinical requirements,” Bloom says. “UAB School of Dentistry has both phenomenal clinical experience and cutting-edge research opportunities, but the high level of clinical requirements really set UAB apart.”

“I also like the collaborative environment that I’ve seen around the school. The relationship between students and faculty is really good. The faculty are always eager to help. Every experience I’ve had with the School of Dentistry faculty has been phenomenal.”

Along the way, Bloom discovered somewhat by accident that she is interested in the research side of dentistry as well by working with SOD associate professor Nate Lawson, D.M.D., M.A., Ph.D., in his research lab.

“I started doing research just to learn more about the field,” Bloom says. “But in Dr. Lawson’s research lab I was introduced to a whole new side of the field that I had never seen before. I really enjoyed it and fell in love with it.”

Some of Bloom’s research at UAB has been in the Biomaterials lab. She also participated in an externship last summer in Chicago at BISCO Dental, where she learned about various dental materials and adhesive dentistry.

“There are always new innovations within the material science part of dentistry,” Bloom says. “That’s what I like about dentistry. It’s always evolving. So a career in dentistry will allow for lifelong learning.”

Which fits in well with Bloom’s enjoyment of research. So far, she has done work for the National Dental Practice Based Research Network; presented at the American Association for Dental, Oral, Craniofacial Research conference in Portland, Org.; been published in the Journal of Oral Health; participated twice in the UAB SOD Scholars Symposium; and served as President of the UAB Pre-Dental Society.

It can be a lot to handle, so during her free time Bloom likes to go running. She was a member of the UAB cross-country team while an undergrad, and she currently is in training to run her first marathon in December. She hopes to use that race to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon.

“I really enjoy running. It’s a good way for me to relax and de-stress,” Bloom says.

Those relaxing moments are needed, because there remains much that Bloom would like to do, both at UAB and beyond. In fact, Bloom says she still has not decided which direction – or directions – her career path will take her.

“There are so many different avenues you can take with a DMD degree,” Bloom says. “I want to continue doing research, and I also want to learn more about having a career in academics. And then there are all the different specialties. I look forward to exploring the possibilities.”

Bloom will have the opportunity to explore possibilities as she begins her dental school journey with the UAB SOD class of 2027.