“I was in basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, during 9-11, and that was a very intense time,” said Ed Rynkowsky, a third-year dental student.
Rynkowsky enlisted in the United States Army National Guard in Connecticut at age 17, and served two combat tours of duty in Afghanistan.
He didn’t begin with an interest in health care, having earned an undergraduate degree in political science at the University of Connecticut.
It wasn’t until later in his military career that Rynkowsky discovered an interest in dental and oral health.
“While I was in Afghanistan, our interpreter would chew on sticks, called ‘miswak.’ Common to the culture, it was his way of brushing his teeth. I thought that was very interesting,” he said.
The father of a fellow soldier was a dentist, and Rynkowsky shadowed him and learned more about the dental profession.
He made the decision to return to school, completing pre-requisites for dental school at Central Connecticut State University.
Rynkowsky was accepted into UofL’s DMD program in 2015. The United States Army is supporting his dental education through the Health Professions Scholarship Program. Upon graduation, he will serve as a military dentist for at least four years.
And, he wants to do what he can now to meet the oral health needs of veterans in the Louisville community.
“I love when veterans come to the School of Dentistry as patients,” he said. “But, they can’t always afford the treatment needed, and some resort to alternatives. It would be great if people could give to help these individuals.”
The School of Dentistry has established a compassionate care fund to help adults in need pay for dental treatment.