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Feature Article: Celebrating the Dentistry Class of 2017 with Brett Hawley

Brett Hawley, Class of 2017

Brett Hawley, Dentistry Class of 2017, recently took on a rather unexpected role in his final months as a dental student – that of officiant at a friend’s wedding.

The groom was alumnus Dr. Jonathan Sanderson, DDS’16, who had a big influence on Hawley during his time at Schulich Dentistry.

“Jon was my unofficial mentor in dental school,” he explained. “He was always willing to answer my questions and drop everything to help me out.”

Hawley happily agreed to perform the wedding ceremony in May.

And on June 16, he will be taking part in another of life’s big milestones. This time joining 75 of his classmates to graduate from Schulich Dentistry and officially enter the dental profession.

Looking back at his dental school experience, he paints a picture of a lively, spirited four years. “I’d describe my classmates as family,” he said.  “Everyone was so supportive and encouraging.”

The family ties go even further than the walls of the School. Hawley shared a roof with three classmates for most of dental school, living in a house that became a hub for class social activities.

He also made connections on the ice rink, playing with the Mighty Dents, Schulich Dentistry’s esteemed hockey team. In his final year, he was the team’s assistant captain.  “I got to know people in different years of the dental program,” he said. “We had a great time playing together.”

Community service was another important priority for the active student during his studies. He volunteered with Oral Health, Total Health’s Sharing Smiles Day, an annual event that aims to remove barriers and improve access to oral health care for special needs patients. Hawley served as co-president for the initiative in his third year.

This past fall, Hawley spent two weeks in Moose Factory, a remote town on the edge of James Bay in Northern Ontario. One of a handful of students selected to participate in the placement, Hawley says the opportunity to gain hands-on skills and interact with patients in the community was extremely valuable.    

“I was able to experience what dentistry is like in a more remote setting,” he explained.

Hawley is quick to turn the spotlight to his peers, recognizing their accomplishments as a group, including involvement in the School’s strategic planning and renewal process.

“There were a few leaders in the class that really paved the way, and had the ambition and passion to make a difference with the curriculum and clinic processes,” he said. “As a class, we were proud to help shape experiences for future students at the School.”

The 30-year-old also found more than just camaraderie at Schulich Dentistry. He met his girlfriend, Sarah, during his second year. She is a third-year dental student, and will be graduating next year.

Born and raised in Kinburn, a small town west of Ottawa, Hawley completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees in biochemistry at the University of Ottawa.

It was a fellow grad student in his research lab that first planted the seed about a career in dentistry. After doing some research, Hawley started shadowing his own dentist in his spare time.

With experiences in a number of summer jobs, including carpentry, mechanics and bartending, Hawley knew he preferred variety in his day-to-day work and enjoyed interacting with people – which is why the dental profession appealed to him. “Dentistry is different every single day,” he explained. “And there’s opportunity to build strong relationships with patients and co-workers.”

After graduation, Hawley will be joining a private dental practice in Ottawa as a full-time associate.

With the transition to professional life ahead, he’s grateful to his classmates and friends for getting him through the ups and downs.

“It’s been the best four years of my life,” he said.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry congratulates Brett and the entire Dentistry Class of 2017 on their incredible achievements during the past four years and on their graduation.