“We can’t be what we can’t see,” says Dr. Christina Rosenthal, an African American dentist who runs her own dental practice in Memphis. This principle is a driving force behind Dr. Rosenthal’s efforts to not only be the best dentist she can be, but also help others realize their dream of becoming a doctor as well.
She said, “I grew up in North Memphis. There were no doctors on my street. I was 13 when I saw a dentist for the first time.”
Her first dentist was a Black female. It was enough to shape her career path. “Representation is definitely important not only for the exposure component but also to know that it’s possible for us to despite background,” said Dr. Rosenthal.
When she was growing up, there was a struggle for most families around her, including her family, so she had to move around a lot. As she grew older, she realized where you come from does not define you in any way.
This belief is a gift she passes onto others. Dr. Rosenthal later started “Determined to be a Doctor Someday (DDS),” a program teaching toddlers and teens about healthcare and its careers. They provide networking opportunities with healthcare professionals and hands-on exercises, such as learning how to suture.
Children and youth from around Memphis gather together at DDS events because they all want to pursue a career in medicine, and Dr. Christina Rosenthal is helping them get there.
It serves as a pipeline for minority students that are interested in careers in healthcare. The program introduces students to a variety of healthcare professionals, and students get the chance to win scholarships and prizes. At the end of the program, the students receive a white coat that they can take home to help them remember their experience and their dream.
About the program participants, Dr. Rosenthal said:
“They get a renewed sense of determination overall about their next steps in their journeys. It is an amazing, amazing feeling.”
“It makes goals seem more obtainable because typically, you don’t see Black females or many females in the medical career,” said one participant.
“Seeing that everyone here is a person of color, it really helped me be aligned with that. I can do it too because there’s other people doing it too,” said another.
In the end, it confirms Dr. Rosenthal’s purpose. “Even if it was for just one student, it was worth it,” she said.
You can learn more about DDS at their website, determinedtobeadoctor.com. Dr. Rosenthal has also written a children’s book, called “You can become a doctor too.”