UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 5 |
May 5, 2005
Carpenter Picks up Dentist’s Drill
By Hilary Thomson
Same skills, different drills -- for Gary Wessels, the shift
from carpentry to dentistry was a natural transition.
“I’ve worked with tools my whole life,”
says Wessels, a former carpenter who graduates with a Doctor
of Dental Medicine degree this month. “Working in reverse
using a mirror took a bit of practice, though.”
Wessels has worked as a welder and machinist, building mountain
bike frames, following his graduation from the University
of Texas at Austin, where he majored in zoology. A third-generation
carpenter, he operated his own building company in Vancouver
for three years.
When he wasn’t building or studying, he traveled north
to work as a mountain guide in the Princess Louisa Inlet area
of B.C.’s west coast. That’s where he met his
wife, Robyn, a Canadian and UBC alumna.
The couple was married in 1998 and Wessels immigrated to
Canada. He started thinking about another career where he
could use his hands, work with and help people and run his
own business. When Robyn’s dentist suggested a career
in dentistry, he realized it would be a perfect fit.
“Dentistry represents a union of science and art,
a unique intersection of the classic and the romantic,”
says the 30-year-old. “Dentists address concrete clinical
problems but also need to understand form, light and aesthetics.”
Wessels was accepted to UBC’s dental program in 2001
-- in the same week that he and his wife had their first child,
Abby. Two years ago, they had twin boys, Noah and Cody.
“Without my wife’s support, I couldn’t
have made it through school,” he says. “This has
been a joint effort.”
Having spent so much time out of doors, both recreationally
and professionally, one of the toughest parts of the last
four years has been feeling “cooped up,” he says.
So even with a hectic schedule, he tries to find time for
running and biking.
Following graduation, the couple plans to move to one of
B.C.’s small towns where Wessels will join a practice.
Once settled, he plans to realize a life’s dream.
“I’m going to pick up my tools again and build
my family a home.”