David Liberman is on a pretty solid professional momentum: he pursued his passion for dentistry at USC, and commissioned in the US Army through a scholarship that covers his tuition for dentistry school at University of Pennsylvania. Guided by his light-hearted wisdom and humor, Liberman tells us about why and how he chose his current career path, where he sees himself in the future, and how he manages to not take life too seriously.What was your college experience like?
I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got to USC. I just told my mom I would stay close to home, otherwise she would have had a heart attack. Low and behold, I was the typical L.A. native that entered college and joined a fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, in my fall freshmen semester to get better situated with life, and become as involved as possible. Sierra Canyon wouldn’t be proud of my grades that semester, thanks to pledging that fraternity, but I definitely picked up afterwards.
I really got motivated about school and my future after I worked with Rohit Khanna (SC ‘09) setting up an organization called Volunteers Around the World, where we fundraised thousands of dollars and traveled with medication and supplies to Guatemala to work with doctors and treat underserved communities. It opened my eyes to travel, life, and cultural awareness. After this, I kept moving forward, opening up a dental trip, since smelly mouths and rotting teeth were my passion.
I could not have enjoyed my college experience more because the University of Southern California gave me everything I had ever wanted: friends that became my family, opportunities to grow as a person, and a wicked strong liver!
What led you to choose the path you have taken?
I’ve always wanted to become a dentist. My mom, dad, brother, grandmother — hell, everyone in my family! — have been in the dental field. Let’s just say it flows through my veins. I particularly decided to move out of California to go to the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine because I wanted a change of pace and to see the rest of the U.S. I wanted to grow as a person and meet completely new people. It’s been a great decision thus far. Did your SC experience help prepare you for your university studies?
And lastly, a very specific path I’ve decided to go was to apply to the United States Army for a scholarship for dental school. I am now a commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Army and when I graduate dental school, I will become a full-fledged Dentist with Captain standing, treating those that serve our country. This program pays for all my school tuition and gives me a little something on the side as well, and it will build me into a great dentist, leader, and person. I’m not sure where I will be after graduation, but you can expect me to be wearing the green and brown camo!
Sierra Canyon definitely helped prepare me well for USC, in some ways more than others. The English department absolutely drove me to become a great writer. I want to give shout-outs to Ms. Heidi Ellis and Mr. Eric Schrode for all that! Being a student at SC, I also got to experience and expect change well, being a part of all the renovation and building of the school. Who at SC made you the man you are (and are becoming) today?
This is a good question. There isn’t just one person. I can’t do that. Besides Fennell who taught me everything I needed to know about speaking Spanish and random European history facts, Ms. Alison Brown was there for me when it came to reading and writing personal statements for college, and listening to all the problems that ever arose for those four years, and we still keep in touch now. She was even there to help me write my personal statement for dental school four years later. The other really influential person was Ms. Heidi Ellis. When I wasn’t working my butt off creating the school’s yearbook for two years straight, I was napping on her many couches in her room. It’s like she wanted her students to not pay attention and fall asleep during her lectures! But she was the most caring and light-hearted person to be around. She always knew what to say to pick me back up and definitely got me to see the brighter side of things, which I still do now.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
It’s really hard to say where I see myself in the future. Because of my contract as a dentist with the US Army, I could honestly end up anywhere in the U.S. or the world. Although my contract is only for four active duty years, I may really enjoy it and stay in longer. I get full pension if I stay in for 20 years! I may discharge after four years and go work with my family in our Los Angeles practice. I may open up dental clinics around the world so that I can travel and help others as much as I can. All the cards are there; I just need to wait and see where the world takes me, because never in a million years would any of my friends from Sierra Canyon think that I would end up as an officer in the United States Army, and here I am! What advice and tips would you give to our current seniors?
Honestly, to all the seniors: “Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive.” (Elbert Hubbard) I didn’t realize until midway through college that I loved to travel, that I loved food and cooking and that I needed to do things for MYSELF to really enjoy life. I’ve gone to Vegas with my fraternity the weekend before a Physics exam that Monday, but ended up setting the curve because I studied so hard ahead of time. I’ve traveled to Amsterdam for five days last year in dental school because I needed a break, with a luring Immunology exam two days after my return. These aren’t poor life decisions, these aren’t priorities. These are doing what you need to do in order to equilibrate your mind back to normal so that you can attack life and grab it by the horns. It can be done in any way you see fit. Mine is through travel. You choose your path but realize everything works out in the end when you put all your mind and effort into it. I’ve been through the lows of college where I didn’t think I could have gotten into dental school and now I am at one of the very best in the country through perseverance and passion, and spontaneous journeys across the world!