Student Profile: Elizabeth Fadoju Credits the Power of a Great Educator

Third-year dental student Elizabeth Fadoju knows exactly what a difference one individual can make in sparking and encouraging a young person’s career interests.

In Elizabeth’s case, it started with her mom. Mrs. Fadoju began her own career as a midwife in Lagos, Nigeria, before eventually moving to Baltimore, Maryland, with four-year-old Elizabeth and the rest of their family. There, Mrs. Fadoju earned her nursing degree and encouraged her daughter to become a physician.Photo of Elizabeth Fadoju

Elizabeth grew up to earn a scholarship to the University of Maryland, College Park. But it wasn’t easy meeting the scholarship’s minimum GPA requirement while pursuing a pre-med degree. In her very first year, Elizabeth experienced moments of deep discouragement.

“As a freshman, I had to take organic chemistry--the big, bad wolf!” she joked.

Her GPA took a hit, and she started second-guessing her academic choices. But Mrs. Fadoju, as well as a key professor at Maryland, encouraged Elizabeth to keep going.

That same year, Elizabeth attended the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at Columbia. Established by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, SMDEP is a free, six-week residential program for first- and second-year college students interested in medicine and dentistry.

Through SMDEP, Elizabeth discovered the innovations taking place in dental medicine at Columbia. She was awestruck by experiences like Dr. Candice Zemnick’s lectures on the use of maxillofacial prosthetics to fabricate new eyes and noses for people who suffer traumas from cancer.

“I was overwhelmed with the possibilities that the field offered, by the impact I might make as a health provider, and the opportunities that an education from Columbia would provide,” said Elizabeth.

During her SMDEP experience she also met Dr. Dennis Mitchell, Associate Professor of Clinical Dental Medicine and Senior Associate Dean in the Dental College’s Division of Community Health. Dr. Mitchell took notice of Elizabeth’s growing curiosity in dental medicine and encouraged her to persevere in her undergraduate studies.

She finished at Maryland, earning a B.S. in General Biology with a minor in Spanish Language and Culture. And Elizabeth also credits her summer at SMDEP as cementing her decision to pursue dental medicine as a career.

“The day I found out I got accepted into the D.D.S. program at Columbia was, as corny as it sounds, truly a dream come true after many ups and downs in undergrad. It took a village!” Elizabeth said.

She added, “Dental school is dental school, but the people at Columbia make up a diverse amalgam (dentistry pun intended) of unique, genuine, and beyond-talented individuals.”

Now well into her studies at the College of Dental Medicine, Elizabeth is more focused than ever on pursuing her career. Not only is she a U.S. Navy Health Professions Scholar, but she has also embarked on a dual degree at Teachers College.

“My life might have turned out a lot differently had it not been for educators, so I’m incorporating that degree into my studies and ideas for work as a professional,” said Elizabeth. “It’s my own affirmation of a key principle at Teachers College--great educators push students to believe that success is both possible and expected.”

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Available Date(s): 
Thursday, December 3, 2015 to Sunday, January 31, 2016