UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 5 | May
The Canadian Armed Forces has a New Dentist
Military career made it all possible.
By Hilary Thomson
Hes a second lieutenant in the Canadian Armed Forces,
but lately Sunny Tatra has had a hard time getting anyone
to salute him.
Thats because the 32-year-old is also a UBC student
who graduates this month with a Doctor of Dental Medicine
Tatra joined the service after a cousin in the military bet
him he couldnt 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 hadnt been for the military, I never would
have had this education, he says. My parents couldnt
have afforded to help send me to university for so many years
but with the support Ive received, getting an education
is my full-time job.
A Calgary native, Tatra obtained a bachelors degree
in Biochemistry from the University of Calgary in 1993. He
took another bachelors degree -- this time in Botany
-- in 1996, followed by a masters degree in plant molecular
physiology and gene expression earned in 1999, the year he
enrolled at UBCs Faculty of Dentistry.
When he wasnt 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
Originally aiming to be a physician, Tatra opted for Dentistry
because he felt it offered a better chance for a balanced
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.