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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May 8, 2003

The Canadian Armed Forces has a New Dentist

Military career made it all possible.

By Hilary Thomson

He’s a second lieutenant in the Canadian Armed Forces, but lately Sunny Tatra has had a hard time getting anyone to salute him.

That’s because the 32-year-old is also a UBC student who graduates this month with a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree.

Tatra joined the service after a cousin in the military bet him he couldn’t tough it out for even one year as a soldier. That was 1990. Since then, he has been an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces which has supported, in whole or in part, his 12 years of education with tuition, books, cost of living allowance and salary.

“If it hadn’t been for the military, I never would have had this education,” he says. “My parents couldn’t have afforded to help send me to university for so many years but with the support I’ve received, getting an education is my full-time job.”

A Calgary native, Tatra obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Calgary in 1993. He took another bachelor’s degree -- this time in Botany -- in 1996, followed by a master’s degree in plant molecular physiology and gene expression earned in 1999, the year he enrolled at UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry.

When he wasn’t pursuing a degree, Tatra was hitting the books as an officer and in 1994 qualified as a military health-care administrator. He has also taught basic and officer training, and schooled medical assistants during a one-year full-time stint as an officer and during summer breaks between terms.

Originally aiming to be a physician, Tatra opted for Dentistry because he felt it offered a better chance for a balanced home life.

The toughest part of the last four years, he says, has been the intensity of the dental program -- the volume of information and skills to be mastered. Even so, the experienced student was the first recipient of the Dean of Dentistry scholarship in 2001/2002. Because his education was paid for, Tatra redirected his award to fellow students and has established an annual bursary of $1,000 to support a student entering UBC Dentistry.

Tatra will be posted to the Canadian Forces Base at Esquimalt on Vancouver Island after graduation where, for four years, he will serve as one of the base dentists. Once licenced, he returns to his previous rank of captain and with every patient in uniform, his dental skills are sure to earn him a salute or two.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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