During the summer of 2016, Anže Tavčar spent his days in the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, representing his home country of Slovenia in men’s swimming events. This summer, as athletes from around the world gather in Japan for the Olympic Games, Tavčar is spending his days just like any other fourth-year dental student at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry: seeing patients in the clinic and promoting good oral health.
After completing undergraduate studies at Indiana University, where he was part of the top-ranked men’s swimming team, Tavčar started dental school at ULSD in 2018. He says a career in dentistry is a natural fit for his personality.
“I love meeting people from all walks of life and getting to help them with their problems,” he said. “In addition, I love the dynamic nature of dentistry. There are so many different procedures you can do, there are different ways you can go about the same procedure and there is always more to learn. The amount of knowledge there is in dentistry is a bottomless pit, and I love diving into it head first.”
Although it might not seem like competitive swimming and dentistry have much in common, Tavčar sees a link: “One of the main things that differentiates great athletes from the herd is that you actively think about what you’re doing and trying to improve yourself every single day, rather than just going through the motions. Dentistry follows a similar pattern.”
Years of competitive swimming also prepared Tavčar for the rigors of dental school.
“It taught me how hard work and repetition go a long way. When you’re trying to shave a tenth of a second off of your time, you have to repeat the swim over and over again and look at each one of them in an excruciating amount of detail,” he said. “On my way to becoming a dentist, I translate what swimming has taught me in knowing that repetition is key.”
As for this year’s Olympics, Tavčar will not be glued to the TV screen watching coverage from Toyko over the next two weeks.
“I find most sports boring to watch,” he said. “Competing at a sport and watching one are very different.” However, he might tune in for one event, the men’s 100 freestyle, “just to see how my personal best time stacks up with this year’s competition.”
After graduating with a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry degree next spring, Tavčar does not plan to return to Slovenia.
“I have been in the states for 8 years now, have gotten married and created a life for myself. While I love my home country, there’s no reason for me to walk away from everything I worked so hard to build here,” he said.
He might even stay at ULSD a bit longer, extending his training through the general practice residency.
“There is more to dentistry than I ever could have imagined, and I believe I owe it to my future patients to educate myself to the highest level possible,” he said. “I don’t just want to be a dentist. I want to be a great dentist.”