Rachel Vorwaller, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine Class of 2018

Rachel Vorwaller'18: From Psychology to Dentistry

Rachel, who grew up in Chicago majored and in psychology at Duke University, will never forget the first procedure she performed or the supportive faculty member who guided her through it.


Rachel and a friend, decked out in Columbia gear, pose for a picture.
Rachel Vorwaller DDS '18 (left) poses with her classmate and friend Amanda Prentice.

Why did you choose to become a dentist?

I remember being nine years old and knowing I wanted to be like my pediatrician. I was always curious about science and enjoyed being able to give back to others. Throughout my life since then, I was lucky to have had a variety of mentors who inspired me and ultimately lead me onto the path of pursuing dentistry. One mentor in particular was my dad’s best friend, a periodontist, who I worked for in high school – he was the first person who really made me excited about being a dentist! I ultimately found that dentistry is the perfect combination of my interest in biology and psychology paired with my passions for education and serving others.

Can you describe one experience from CDM that you’ll always remember?  

I will always remember my first procedure on a patient at CDM. It was a class 2 on a maxillary premolar on my very first patient (who was the absolute best)! Although I had done this on a typodont countless times, this felt totally new. I was so nervous, but I worked with an awesome and supportive faculty member that day who guided me the whole way through. It was my first time feeling like a real dental provider!

Is there any particular lesson you learned— from a faculty member, a classmate, or even a patient— that helped you become a better dentist? 

One lesson I have learned from my faculty is to truly listen to your patients and their chief concerns. It is so important to value the patient and their feedback, as this will not only guide your treatment, but make your relationship with the patient that much stronger.

What advice do you have for future dental students?

Dental school is tough. Classes, exams, and patient care can be all consuming, so don’t forget to enjoy dental school! Four years flies by quickly. Make sure to cherish the time you have with your classmates and absorb all of the knowledge you possibly can learn from the faculty. Don’t forget to take advantage of all of the awesome opportunities CDM provides – there are many clubs to join, community outreach events to partake in, alumni events to network with your future peers…the list is endless!

What’s next for you?

I am heading back home to Chicago to start a 2-year pediatric dentistry residency at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It really is a dream come true. I am so excited to start this new chapter and continue on the path of becoming a pediatric dentist!

Is there anything else you want to say to your classmates and the greater community?

Thank you for the memories. It was a jam-packed four years and I am so lucky to leave CDM having learned so much from my faculty and classmates. I could not be more grateful for the people who made my CDM experience so wonderful – I know I will be walking away with lifelong friendships!