Meet YKHC’s Yupik Dentist Susan Sergie DMD

Story by – Susan Sergie

November 1, 2013 - 5 minutes read
Dr. Susan Sergie checks an xray.

Waqaa! Wiinga Uqviilluq. My name is Susan Sergie. I am full Yup’ik, originally from Alakanuk. I am the fourth child out of seven. We grew up living a subsistence lifestyle, living off of the land.

My first thought of dentistry was when I was eight years old. For a remote village in Alaska to receive dental care, a dentist had to travel via airplane. Dr. Jill Calvert came into our classroom to talk about dentistry as a career and showed us wonderful pictures of her trip around the world providing dental care to those in need. Dr. Jill fixed an enamel defect that some of the children would tease me about because I had dirty buck teeth. Dr. Jill had such a tremendous impact on my life by allowing me to have more confidence in myself.

After high school, I went to Bible school in Waxahachie, Texas. Due to family emergencies, I came back to Alaska and worked in Togiak where my parents were living. In Togiak, the nurse practitioner asked me if I wanted to become a dental assistant. The dental clinic in Dillingham had a dental assistant who had trained at the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana. The dentists asked if I would be interested in receiving training at that school. I thought training in Montana would be beneficial. I was off on another adventure that also included meeting my future husband. After training, I returned to Dillingham. I was sent on a village trip the second week I was there and loved every second of it. I soon found myself signing up for every opportunity to go on village trips. I developed presentations about the importance of oral health for the schools in these villages to speak about dentistry.

I had the pleasure of going on a village trip to Ekwok with Dr. William Murdock, who inspired me to become a dentist. My goal was to become a hygienist, but he was the first to help me see my potential of becoming a dentist and that there is a great need for dentists in rural communities.

I moved to Anchorage the summer of 2003 to go to college. As I was pursuing my dream, my brother committed suicide. In response to this tragedy, I reduced my course load. Then months later, my older sister committed suicide in the fall of 2004. This was a time when my family needed to be together so I took a leave of absence from college then returned to pursue my career. I stayed strong through the love and support of family and friends and by focusing on the positive rather than the negative. Through this experience, I believe there are two types of people in this world—those who dwell on the problems they face and those that look for solutions to their problems.

I worked with Southcentral Foundation as a dental assistant/oral surgery assistant from May 2004 to August 2008, then attended Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine, graduating in 2013.

SusanSergieDMDThere have been many people who impacted my life. I would not have made it this far without their encouragement and support. I owe a mountain of gratitude especially to Dr. Thomas Kovaleski and Dr. Richard Simonsen who believed in me and allowed me to make my dream a reality. There may be unexpected twists and turns on your path towards your dream, but with love, support and encouragement from family and friends, you can accomplish your goals!

Plans at YKHC: There is a great need for Native dentists in the rural communities of Alaska. I want to be a role model for my people. I hope that through my example, they will see and know that with support, persistence and determination, we all can be successful!