Feature Stories

A Grad On his Way to Columbia's Dental School

Andrew Deek, a 2013 graduate, was accepted into Columbia's Dental Program.

Andrew Deek graduated from NJIT after just three years with a perfect GPA: a 4.0.  He entered NJIT with college credits from high school and while here also took summer classes: that’s how he graduated a year early.  He majored in biology and was a student in the Albert Dorman Honors College.

He studied hard, and it paid off: Andrew was recently accepted at Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine, where he plans to specialize in orthodontics. When he was a boy, he wore braces for five years. In the end, he was happy; his teeth came out straight and he formed a bond with his orthodontist who later became his mentor.

“I wore braces for a long time and they made me feel self-conscious,” says Andrew, who is quick to flash a smile that reveals straight white teeth. “I remember what a great feeling it was when I finally got my braces off. And I realized how one person, your orthodontist, could shape your life.”

In high school, he shadowed his orthodontist for a year. He wanted to see if he liked the job. Unsurprisingly, he did like it. So he knew what he wanted to be when he entered NJIT and studied diligently to assure his entrance into a top dental school.

“Dentistry is an interesting field that people overlook,” he says.  “It’s a mix of science and social skills. You must have the skills and abilities to do the procedures, while also being friendly and reassuring to calm your patients.”

The dental program at Columbia is four years, and students apply for specialization at the end of their third year. The orthodontics program is another three years. So he has seven years more of studying ahead of him. But his three years at NJIT prepared him well for professional school. 

At NJIT, Andrew was president of Tri Beta, the biological honors society at NJIT. He was a student in the Albert Dorman Honors College who had three scholarships. He also worked on two research projects: one in astro-physics and solar flares and another on testing and evaluation of socio-technical software. For the latter project, he co-authored three academic papers with the professor who directed his research and a doctoral student. He minored in Science, Technology and Society (STS) and worked as a Resident Assistant in Laurel Hall, an NJIT residence hall.

“I had a great time at NJIT,” Andrew says. “I made great friends and was able to accomplish my academic goals.”

Andrew is looking forward to getting an apartment in Manhattan and enjoying city life as he works towards his dental degree at Columbia.

And he’s also looking forward to helping poor people get dental care. Columbia offers externships in which students volunteer to work in public health clinics, both in America and abroad.

“As a dentist you are in a position to help people in need, people who can’t afford a dentist and don’t have dental insurance,” he says. “I see it as my civic duty to help those people in any way I can.”

By Robert Florida