BALTIMORE — Ashlee Thomas, the 2016 Miss Black Maryland USA, is now Dr. Ashlee Thomas.
The beauty queen began her undergraduate career at Howard University, majoring as a physician’s assistant. Now she is ready to embark on a career as a pediatric dentist.
“Over time, I really admired the career path of my dad, and the ultimate impact he was able to leave everyday with his patients,” said Thomas, who earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree on May 19, 2017 from the University of Maryland School of Denistry in Baltimore. “I decided to go to dental school my sophomore year … I’ve had an amazing experience.”
The most challenging aspect for Thomas has been the sheer volume of work she’s had to do over the past four years.
“Dental school or any professional school for that matter require a lot of endurance and focus so I’m happy to finally have completed this chapter,” she said.
The desire to work with children, whom she refers to as the most honest and kind individuals, helped to motivate Thomas and her decision to compete for Miss Black Maryland and Miss Black USA was motivated by a desire to help others.
“My drive really stemmed from wanting to give back to the Baltimore community. I had volunteered with organizations with school and decided this would be my way of having an even greater platform. I also thought competing in another pageant would be a lot of fun,” she said.
Besides being very smart, Thomas possesses a natural internal energy that, in addition to her excellent organization skills, allows her to be active in extracurricular activities, said Dr. Clemencia Vargas, an associate professor in the division of pediatric dentistry at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.
“Ashlee’s passion for working with and for children has made this year as Ms. Black Maryland very enjoyable for her. She was a great role-model to numerous children,” Vargas said. “Now, another factor that I think made Ashlee successful is her warm personality— she is a delight to work with.”
The field of pediatric dentistry is a friendly specialty and there is an increase in the number of residency positions, which makes the profession more accessible, according to Dr. Vargas.
“There is not really one single reason why pediatric dentistry has become so popular,” Vargas said. “Dental procedures for children are much less traumatic than 20 years ago, thanks to new materials and wide use of nitrous oxide. A factor we can’t ignore is that pediatric dentists have among the higher salaries among dental professionals,” she said.
That may bode well for Thomas and her many charitable efforts at UMB, in the community and as Miss Black Maryland.
Thomas is part of the Student National Dental Association, whose local chapter won the 2016 Chapter of the Year Award and she’s helped the organization with oral screening fairs at elementary schools, walking buses, and fundraising efforts.
“I was invited [last month] to be a celebrity reader at the Reginald Lewis Museum after a visit and tour a few months prior,” Thomas said. “The Reading Fair was a great way for kids to come out and learn more not only about their culture but the importance of literacy and I had a great time.”
The sky remains the limit for Thomas who says her biggest advice to others would be to eliminate any self-doubt.
“You will encounter obstacles and people that make you think you can’t be anything you want and the worst thing you can do is believe it. Dream big,” she said.
Thomas also says she is honored to be among the six percent of African-American dentists and growing percentage of women dentists who graduate each year.
“I encourage our young men and women to not be discouraged by their environment but look forward to a future in education and prosperity,” she said.