Sticking to Her Roots

Brhan Eskinder’s career change to dentistry is rooted in community impact

Brhan Eskinder has the ick that’s going around in early 2024. She’s going to take a few days off from dental school to rest, but she’s determined to log on to Zoom and chat with me about her experience in our Post-Baccalaureate Health Professions Program.

I tell her we can reschedule, but she’s adamant to be interviewed. Why?

“I would love for other people who look like me to see themselves in this program, and say, ‘Oh, I can go there.’”

Every day, Brhan is grounded in and giving back to her community. She attended Spelman College, an all-girls HBCU, for her undergraduate studies, which was a life-affirming moment, Brhan enthuses.

“There's not a word—even now, 10 years later—that I can use to encapsulate what my time was like there,” she adds. “I think everybody gets something different out of college. For me, it was a very identity-affirming place to be and grow and expand. Feeling like a beautiful young black girl in college and being very rooted in history that I had never known of—I absolutely loved it.”



“I would love for other people who look like me to see themselves in this program, and say, ‘Oh, I can go there.’”



From Atlanta to New York

After graduating from Spelman, Brhan headed north to New York, where she taught sixth-grade for two years at Uncommon Schools. This network of high-performing charter schools sends hundreds of students from low-income backgrounds to four-year colleges and universities each year. Moreover, the network celebrates that more than half of their teachers identify as people of color.

Not only providing deep educational opportunities for her students, Brhan understands the value of lifelong learning—it’s what pushed her to apply and complete her master’s in teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education, all the while still teaching full time.

A fulfilling career in education looked like it was Brhan’s path forward. But tragedy struck. Dr. Tracey—a valued community member, dentist and family friend—passed away.

“My family immigrated from Ethiopia to the U.S. in the late-’80s,” Brhan recounts as she thinks back on deciding to make a career change into dentistry. “There are a lot of things that immigrants navigate when they come here, some of them being health care, dental care, things like that. There was an orthodontist, Dr. Tracey, who we went to growing up and he was super-impactful in our lives and our oral health. He became a family friend and was really involved in the well-being of my immediate and extended family.

“The catalyst for me to move into dentistry was his passing away. I asked myself, ‘If Dr. Tracey is gone, who fills that void?’ I can't talk about dentistry without talking about him. That was the first time I stopped to realize how impactful his passing was to my father, to my mom, to my aunts. I didn't anticipate how much my community mourned for him. That was the first time I understood the impact of a health care practitioner.”

Thus, a seed was planted to pursue dentistry.




It felt good to be with other working professionals because a lot of other post-bacc programs will put you in a class with undergrads.



From New York to California

To make this huge career pivot, Brhan knew she would need support from not only her family, but her larger community. So it was back to her roots in the Bay Area.

Not having completed a single science prerequisite during her undergrad, Brhan was looking for a comprehensive program that would provide not only those credits, but would also allow her to continue teaching full time as she navigated the career change.

“My journey to Extension started with a Google search for post-baccalaureate programs in California. UC Berkeley Extension’s post-bacc program was one of the first things that popped up. I was born and raised in California—everyone knows the name Berkeley!”

An acceptance letter later, Brhan found herself chipping away at completing those prerequisites at night while still teaching during the day—this time at Oakland-based Lighthouse Community Public Schools in the humanities.

“The fact that I could still work while having the flexibility of my UC Berkeley Extension courses was a god-send,” Brhan recalls.

Her road map as a career changer included:

General Biology I

General Biology II

General Chemistry I

General Chemistry II

General Biology Laboratory I

General Biology Laboratory II

General Chemistry Laboratory I

Health Careers Seminars I

Health Careers Seminar II: The Application Process

Organic Chemistry I

Organic Chemistry II

Organic Chemistry Laboratory I

Organic Chemistry Laboratory II


General Human Anatomy

Medical Microbiology

Physics I

Physics II

Physics Laboratory I

Physics Laboratory II



Brhan did find a sense of community in each of these classes as each student was aspiring to be accepted into their dream health professions school.

“They were spaces where you walked into the room and we all knew why we were there,” Brhan describes. “So there's a sense of collaboration, and the majority of the other students were also working during the day. It felt good to be with other working professionals because a lot of other post-bacc programs will put you in a class with undergrads.”

Three years after being accepted into our program, Brhan was accepted into the prestigious University of Michigan School of Dentistry!




I felt really prepared by taking my baseline prereqs and a couple other classes that gave me an advantage. I'm really doing well here.



From Berkeley to Michigan

Today, Brhan is finishing up her second year of University of Michigan’s four-year D.D.S program. Not only is she studying at the #1 dental school in the U.S., but her education is fully funded as she is a National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholar. This program awards scholarships to students who have demonstrated a commitment to serving in underrepresented communities upon graduation.

Here, she is thriving. In terms of the academics, our post-bacc program provided her with all the preparation she needed to succeed. “Not only by completing the prereqs,” Brhan adds, “but I also feel like I really got an education with you. Sometimes you take online classes and it feels like another box to check off. But with this post-bacc program, I also had the opportunity to take upper-division science electives, like Biochemistry and Medical Microbiology. That was really great, because in my own research, I knew that to apply to the University of Michigan, I needed to challenge myself further with those types of classes.

“I felt really prepared by taking my baseline prereqs and a couple other classes that gave me an advantage. I'm really doing well here.”

In two more years, Brhan will have met her goal of finishing her studies and giving back to her community—this time as a dentist. She also plans to re-invigorate her educational roots by becoming more involved and showing younger people that dentistry is not only important, but, in her words, “kind of cool.”

“Dentistry is where I want to be forever. I really want to open up a cute, family-friendly children's practice that makes children of all backgrounds feel safe, included and empowered to take care of their teeth from a young age.”

Looking back on her time with us, Brhan has this advice to offer:

“The only way out is through. You're here for a reason. Show up every day and do what you need to do. No matter what anybody tells you, figure it out, hustle hard and make it happen.”