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Esteemed Dentist Cut His Teeth at Dallas College

Last updated on February 9, 2024

Gerald Davis was a 14-year-old dual credit student when he started at Dallas College. He remembers taking geology from Dr. Mark Presley and speech from Mr. Dan Rogers. He also laughs now looking back about how he tried to keep his age a secret so nobody would use it against him.

Today, Davis takes pride in what he accomplished in his younger years. He earned an associate degree from the Eastfield Campus by age 17 and, because he took a few classes from Paul Quinn College while attending Dallas College, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Paul Quinn a year later at age 18 in 2005. Davis remains the youngest graduate from Paul Quinn.

At that point, Davis had his sights set on becoming a dentist. He thought everything was lined up to continue on at the Texas A&M School of Dentistry. However, what essentially amounted to a paperwork error forced Davis to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) without preparation.

And it didn’t go well. Davis’ score wasn’t high enough to be admitted. That low point turned out to be a positive, though, as it led Davis back to Dallas College. Davis knew he had to gain a better understanding of chemistry, and the late Professor Jesse Fox was known as a teacher who could explain chemistry at the Mountain View Campus.

Taking Fox’s class was a life-changing moment for Davis.

“The way Professor Fox would explain material and concepts,” Davis said, “Lightbulbs just went off.”

Davis scored well enough the next time he took the DAT, and he went on to graduate from Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville in 2011. Davis has since established himself as one of the rising stars in the dental world. Davis’ accomplishments in his young career include:

  • Being the first Black dentist to work full-time at the Nashville VA Medical Center in 2022
  • In 2023, began role serving as academic dean of Lyon College School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine as the school plans to launch the first dental school in the state of Arkansas
  • In 2018, being named to the American Dental Association’s “10 Under 10” list, which honors dentists who are making an impact on the profession less than 10 years after graduating from dental school
  • Becoming a “specialist” in the dentistry field by earning a master’s degree in orofacial pain and oral medicine at the University of Southern California in 2019
  • Earning a master’s degree in dental education from the University of the Pacific in 2014

None of it would have been possible without Dallas College.

As Davis said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the faculty at Dallas College. Period.”

Servant’s Heart

Davis has always helped others when he could. One of his first jobs was working as a tutor at Mountain View. He continued as a tutor at Meharry where a vice dean described his skills as “legendary.”

The impact Davis’ tutoring had on the underclassmen helped Davis land his first full-time job as a clinical instructor at Meharry. He worked his way up to assistant professor, associate professor and eventually became the academic dean of the dental school.

Davis has since transitioned into a full-time role at the Nashville VA Medical Center. For Davis, it’s the ideal situation. He loves providing a service to those who served our country.

“To be able to give to that (veterans) group, that population who sometimes have been completely put down, completed disregarded … it’s an honor to try and serve them every day,” he said.

Seeing Very, Very Far

Davis formed meaningful relationships with several of his professors over the years, but nothing quite like his time at Dallas College. Particularly, his relationship with Fox extended beyond the classroom. Fox helped Davis land his first job as a tutor in the chemistry lab at Mountain View. Fox also imparted wisdom beyond just chemistry concepts.

One of the most impactful things Fox told Davis is: “Education does not make you better than anyone else. What education does is it allows you to see further. The further you can see, the further you can go.”

Those words resonated with Davis every time he furthered his education – from Dallas College to Paul Quinn College to Meharry to the University of the Pacific to USC.

So, when Davis had his last conversation with Fox before he passed in December, he had a simple but impactful message.

“Mr. Fox,” Davis said, getting emotional, “I can see very, very far now.”

This story and others like it can be found in the Student Newsletter. Check your Dallas College email to see the latest edition.

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Published inWhy Dallas College?