Dr. Ilse Longerich is a first-year endodontic resident at University of Louisville. The Paper Point’s Dr. Moein Sadrkhani recently caught up with her to learn more about her journey to endo, her military service and her passion for horseback riding and rodeo.
Dr. Moein Sadrkhani: Thank you for accepting our interview request. Tell us about yourself, Ilse.
Dr. Ilse Longerich: I was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and moved to the United States when I was 6 years old. I grew up in California but since graduating from undergrad I have lived in Philadelphia for dental school, Oklahoma and Texas while in the Army, and now reside in beautiful Louisville, Kentucky, where I am a first-year endodontic resident at University of Louisville.
Dr. Sadrkhani: From UC Santa Barbara to Temple Dental School, what made you choose dentistry?
Dr. Longerich: I always thought I’d be an equine veterinarian but I volunteered at a low-income dental clinic while in college and it set things in motion for me to become president of the Pre-Dental Organization at UCSB. Dentist guest speakers and tours of dental schools showed me how perfectly dentistry could combine my passion for medicine and proficiency in art while sparing my equine hobbies from becoming my job. Looking back, it was the best career choice I could have made. I get to work with my hands every day, but I get to do it in air conditioning.
Dr. Sadrkhani: After dental school you joined the army and did an AEGD residency, tell us more about this experience and thank you for your service.
Dr. Longerich: Thank you for your support! I joined the U.S. Army through the Health Professions Scholarship Program as a way to say thank-you for the opportunities this country has given me. After dental school, I spent the next five years serving as an active-duty general dentist. My first duty assignment was at Fort Sill, Oklahoma to complete a one-year AEGD with some of the best mentors a young dentist could ask for. The next four years I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, where I took great pride in preserving the dental health of our soldiers. While active duty I’ve been able to experience some really neat things like having my name put on a Humvee, shooting a Paladin M109 Howitzer, crowning a military working dog’s tooth using CEREC, and getting trained in combat casualty care. This summer has been a whirlwind transition from active duty to civilian life but residency definitely has had some similarities!
Dr. Sadrkhani: How can other students that are interested join military programs?
Dr. Longerich: The best time to apply is actually before starting dental school but there are many options for those who are interested in joining later in life by joining the Reserves, National Guard, or going active duty. The best place to start is with an AMEDD recruiter but there are also a lot of great resources through social media if you search for military dentistry groups online.
Dr. Sadrkhani: I see lot of leadership positions and work during dental school, why do you think is important for student and residents to be involved in leadership?
Dr. Longerich: We don’t realize how the small things we do now impact our ability to do bigger things later in life. The leadership positions I held in undergrad and dental school directly influenced my leadership later in the military, and will continue to affect how I lead in my own practice one day.
Dr. Sadrkhani: After this great journey, what brought you to endodontics and how have your first few months been?
Dr. Longerich: During my AEGD I realized that at the end of the day the endodontist was the only mentor to ever leave on time and this definitely piqued my interest. The decision to ultimately join the specialty was influenced over the years by the amazing endo residents that bailed me out of curvy canals in dental school, my AEGD endo mentor, my military endodontist battle buddies, and my very convincing long-time endodontist best friend. Residency has had its challenges. It’s difficult to come from a confident place in your career to feeling intimated every day but the small improvements with each case are so rewarding. I’m very excited for my future and I feel blessed to be here.
Dr. Sadrkhani: Please tell us more about your horseback riding and all the rodeo competitions, the pictures look amazing. Do you do any other formal competitions like barrel racing or breakaway roping?
Dr. Longerich: Horses have been a long-time passion for me. When I went off to college, I never imagined the journey I would be on and how long it would take for me to get back in the saddle. After dental school, I was able to finally immerse myself in this world again. I hauled all over central Texas competing in barrel racing against some of the best in the world on my 8-year-old American Paint Horse Association gelding named Bravo. I believe it is so important to maintain hobbies outside of dentistry. Riding has been a huge stress relief for me and an amazing social networking tool. I’ve already made some new riding friends out here in Louisville! Breakaway roping is definitely on the bucket list and I look forward to competing again after residency!
Dr. Sadrkhani: Any last words for our readers?
Dr. Longerich: Nurture your friendships and invest in your professional relationships — you never know where they may guide you!
Dr. Longerich also shared the below photos with us, showcasing her rodeo and military experience — as well as her military working dog patient!: