Chickasaw citizen and pediatric dentist Paula Vanbuskirk loves waking up every morning to help brighten the smiles of children. Growing up in Davis, Oklahoma, her Chickasaw grandfather instilled a sense of pride in her about her heritage and her people. After attending Murray State College and East Central University for her undergraduate degree, Paula entered the pediatric dental program at the University of Oklahoma. It was there that she learned of the opportunities to serve her tribe. The Chickasaw Nation supported her education with a scholarship and throughout her residency in Denver. Upon graduating, she headed back to Oklahoma to serve the dental health needs of the nation's youngest citizens, and after working in private practice for 14 years, she is now the Chief of Dental Services at the Chickasaw Nation.
Paula finds joy working with children every day and knows how important her job is because children's teeth have a higher rate of decay and it's critical to start healthy dental habits at a young age. She says that it's just an amazing feeling to get up every morning, and then be inspired by what the day's going to bring. Her work brings her so much joy and she's proud to impact their lives in any way she can. For every patient she sees, she is reminded that she might be serving the next pediatric dentist, legislator or even governor. "Children are just fun," she says. "They're exciting, the way they look at the world. Kids explore every time they're getting off an elevator, or walking into a room. They look at it in a different light than we do, and I actually get to see that and interact with them. It's so fulfilling."