All Smiles

Mark Abere is on a mission to help patients look and feel better
By Kelley Freund • Photo by Steve Wood
Closeup of Mark Abere aiming camera at viewer; headline: All Smiles
Mark Abere is on a mission to help patients look and feel better
By Kelley Freund • Photo by Steve Wood
On the final day of a recent medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic, School of Dentistry student Mark Abere helped extract a rotting tooth from the mouth of a young boy. Nearby, the boy’s grandmother began to cry. As she explained the difficulties she faced in raising her grandson, Abere (pictured above) gained a clearer picture of his impact on this family’s life.
“It is rewarding to relieve people of their pain,” Abere says. And dentistry provides an avenue to “reach out to meet the needs of people all over the world.” He hopes to do more of that now that he has been named national president of the Student National Dental Association. The organization promotes oral health among minorities, provides care in underserved regions, and encourages more minority enrollment in dental schools.
“Minorities, including African Americans and Hispanics, make up a lot of the population in underserved areas,” Abere says. “People tend to be more comfortable when they have a doctor or dentist who looks like them. So it’s important to bring more minority students into these fields.”

Communication and confidence

The opportunity to serve others drew Abere, now in his third year of dental school, to health care. He grew up in metro Atlanta and graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in microbiology. He came to UAB as the recipient of the Johnny and Claire Walker Scholarship—established by Colorado orthodontist and 1978 School of Dentistry graduate John Walker, D.M.D.—which assists underrepresented minority dental students.
“I like being able to sample everything,” says Abere of his school, which trains students for procedures used in both general and specialty practices. “In the South, there’s no other school that has the number of requirements and covers more procedures than UAB,” Abere says. “I knew I would be comfortable graduating and going straight into the field.”
Beyond his studies, Abere volunteers with Colgate’s mobile dental van, which provides oral screenings for children in underserved areas. He also pursues creative outlets, including singing—he has twice sung the national anthem at the dental school’s commencement—and photography. He particularly enjoys shooting portraits. “A lot of people have confidence issues when they get in front of the camera,” Abere says. “But when you show them they look good, they’re more self-assured. I like the reaction I get from people when they like a picture of themselves.”
Abere says photography has taught him about professionalism and the importance of good communication—skills that translate well to dentistry. “Dental work can be uncomfortable or expensive, and things of that nature typically do not bring people rushing into your office,” he explains. “But when a dentist has excellent communication and people skills, patients become more comfortable and trusting.” Abere proves his own point: His mission trips to the Dominican Republic and Honduras inspired him to learn Spanish so that he can communicate with patients he encounters both in Alabama and overseas.

"Prepared for anything"

After graduation, Abere plans to move back to the Atlanta area. He is considering a career in pediatric dentistry, inspired by his experiences working with kids in underserved areas and shadowing specialists at UAB, but he is keeping his options open. “With the awesome teaching and faculty, and with the great student network at the school, I feel prepared for anything in dentistry,” he says. “I know I’ll end up where I’m supposed to be.”

Published March 2018