Student: Jessica Shamberger

As a second-year dental student at East Carolina University, Jessica Shamberger is combining her love of public health with her desire to help underprivileged areas.

“The mission of ECU’s dental school is to practice in underserved and rural areas of North Carolina, and as a future dentist I see myself combining dentistry, public health and research,” Shamberger said.

A native of Aberdeen, Shamberger received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in public health. She also received a post-baccalaureate certificate in predental and premedical studies from UNCG.

“As an undergraduate student, dentistry was not on my radar. I loved public health, but I was unsure of how it would fit into my future career. When I decided that I wanted to become a dentist, I realized that I could keep public health at the core of my practice,” she said.

Part of the dental school’s mission is to help underserved communities in North Carolina, and this outreach component is important to Shamberger’s academic and professional goals.

“I don’t want to just be a dentist in the community, but I want to be a member of the community. This isn’t something you will find at every dental school. As a health care professional, we can’t always expect our patients to come to us, we have to be willing to meet them where they are,” Shamberger said.

Recently, the dental school started its own student chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, which aims to increase community interest in public health and dentistry. Shamberger is president of the organization.

“The chapter is a great addition to the school because of ECU’s focus on public health,” she said.

Shamberger also serves as the vice president of the Student Research Group.

“Research is very important to me because it is the foundation of what we learn. We are taught to practice evidence-based dentistry, and to do this, we need researchers. Our organization aims to increase the student participation in research, and I believe we are engaging the interest of the students,” she said.

Shamberger also participated in the Summer Research Scholars program before her first semester in dental school. The program looked at the impact of ECU’s dental school in communities statewide.

“Since starting dental school, I have had the opportunity to continue working on the study. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a dental student, because I’ve gained experience in conducting research, data analysis,” she said. “I’ve also gained presentation skills by presenting at three national conferences.”

But the biggest advantage of coming to ECU, Shamberger says, is that she gets to spend more time with family.

“My younger sister is an undergraduate student at ECU. I am very close to my family and it helps to have someone close by,” she said. “We live together now, and it’s great to come home to a familiar face.”

What advice do you have for other students?

Take advantage of your relationships with your professors. You never know who will recommend you for your first job or help you start your career. Whatever career path you choose, make sure there is passion behind your decision. Be sure to explore the career and be sure it is the career for you. Ask yourself if you would ever do it for free. If you would, it’s a keeper. Never forget your support system. I know school gets busy, but it only takes five minutes to call and say hello.

What would be your dream job?
I see myself working in an underserved area of North Carolina. After gaining some experience I would like to come back and work in some aspect of academic dentistry.


College: ECU School of Dental Medicine

Major: Doctorate of Dental Medicine

Age: 29

Classification/Year: Second Year (D2)

Hometown: Aberdeen, NC

Hobbies & Interests: Spending time with family and friends, karaoke, yoga, Pilates, movies, traveling, trying new activities


Favorite place to eat: My parent’s house. Dental school doesn’t leave me much time to experiment in the kitchen, so I leave that to my mom and dad. It’s nice to go home and have a home-cooked meal just because they love you.

Favorite Movie: Titanic, The Notebook, Dreamgirls, and The Lion King

Favorite website: Pinterest

Favorite place on campus: Any place outdoors. It’s nice to sit on the benches outside of the dental school during one of our breaks. We have windows in our classroom, but it’s nice to have the fresh air.

Favorite hangout: Any place with friends and family

Favorite class: Endodontics and clinical dentistry

Favorite band/musician: A Different World, How to Get Away with Murder, and Grey’s Anatomy

Favorite TV show: Mariah Carey


Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. Sharon Gordon and Dr. Gloria Mejia – both professors are my research mentors

The one thing you cannot live without: I specifically cannot live without applesauce cups because they are great on-the-go snacks.

Dream Job: I have been working my dream job for 28 years at Edgecombe-Martin EMC

Role model: My Mom and Dad

Your words to live by: Keep God first! (My parents made sure they engrained this in me and my siblings as children. When dental school gets harder than the usual, these three words keep me grounded and give me the motivation to continue.)