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Thank you: A letter to WVU School of Dentistry donors

Fourth-year dental student Cassie Liston expresses her sincere thanks to donors who have made an impact on her time at WVU.

Dear WVU School of Dentistry Donors,

My name is Cassie Liston and I am a fourth-year dental student. I was honored as one of many students awarded scholarships for this academic year. I’d like to start by telling you a little about myself.

I grew up in a small town in Preston County just 30 minutes from Morgantown. I decided in ninth grade that I wanted to become a dentist and set high goals for myself to achieve over the years to come. I attended Preston High School and graduated top of my class in 2012. I came to WVU to obtain a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in biology. Being a West Virginia girl my whole life, I knew I wanted to attend the WVU School of Dentistry. I was beyond thrilled when I got my acceptance letter in 2016, and I am still so excited for the career I have ahead of me.

I was not the first in my family to attend college, but I am the first to become a healthcare professional. With this career path, as we all know, comes a great amount of financial debt. I received numerous scholarships in undergrad including WV promise, the presidential scholarship based on ACT scores, one each year from the chemistry department, several from the college of arts and sciences including study abroad stipends, and a few from local organizations that I was chosen for as a high school senior.

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While these awards mostly covered my tuition and fees, I still had a great amount of out of pocket expenses, so I took out student loans. As one of three children in a single income family, I knew I would have to rely on student loans for my dental education as well.

Student loan debt is something we all know is there and it is necessary to attend professional school, but we try to avoid thinking about it or worrying about it until we really have to. Upon graduating dental school, I personally am facing over a quarter of a million dollars in loans to pay off. I know my out-of-state classmates are feeling this burden even more.

This year, $575,000 was awarded to deserving students. I have been lucky enough to receive a dental scholarship the past three years and was chosen for two awards this year. I want to sincerely thank the donors for your contributions because any amount is appreciated and so special to us students.

Beyond the monetary aspect, being chosen to receive these awards gives us the validation of our efforts and the confidence to do great things. My first year of dental school was much more difficult than my undergrad years. I had to study harder than I ever had before, and I was learning new hand skills that only come with a lot of practice.

More: 2019 WVU School of Dentistry Scholarship Recipients

One of the awards I received this year was the Dennis P.J. Zickefoose Memorial Scholarship given to students who excel in compassionate patient care; it meant so much to me to receive this award because compassion is one thing I really try to focus on with every patient I meet, as it is the foundation for building a trusting relationship with someone who walks into your office and is fearful.

I hope we all remember the feeling when we received notice of our scholarship awards and that it inspires you to give back one day so another young dentist can have that same feeling. So, thank you to the faculty and scholarship selection committee for believing in us and encouraging us, and another big thank you to all the donors who have provided us with such a meaningful gift. I hope you always feel that your investment is appreciated and know that you are making an impact on our education and futures in such a positive way.

Thank you,

Cassie Liston

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