NASHVILLE, Tenn. Danielle Epps wanted to help people. From an early age, she was interested in caring for the community and ensuring that everyone was able to live a healthy life.
Specifically, she was most attracted to dentistry.
“I always wanted to be a dentist,” she recalled. “I’ll be the first in my family.”
Epps graduated from the Classical Academy -- now known as Southwestern Classical Academy -- in Flint, MI, not long before the city was hit with the now well-documented water crisis. The source of residents’ drinking water was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the less costly Flint River, and because of insufficient water treatment, lead leached from water pipes into the water.
Although her friends or family was exposed, thankfully the incident’s fallout did not affect their overall health to the same degree as others within the city.
“We still drink bottled water,” Epps said. “Some even still use it to brush their teeth.”
Epps went on to Michigan State University in East Lansing, where she earned a Bachelors Degree in Human Biology. She then enrolled at Meharry Medical College, where she’s currently preparing to start her second year toward earning a Masters of Science in Public Health Degree.
Although she’ll be the first Dentist, Epps won’t be the only clinician in her family.
“There are other types of doctors,” she said. “I was interested to see the influence they had on people’s lives. I’m just doing that a different way.”
Epps then joined the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance team as an intern, hoping to work with community agencies and advocates.
“I want to learn how to work with different community partners, network with them and get to know what each organization does for Nashville,” she said.
During her time with the MVA, Epps has worked with Interprofessional Education (IPE) and Inter-Institutional Collaborative Learning and the Pipeline effort to bring more black men into health professions.
“I want to learn how to put together a program that’s beneficial to others,” she said.
Ultimately, Epps plans to be a Pediatric Dentist.
“I want to teach kids about the proper way to care for their oral hygiene, because most times they just learn what their parents know,” she said. “And sometimes that’s not right.”
Reaching children at an early age was vital, she stated, because that can benefit not just them, but their families, as well.
“Maybe I’ll open a nonprofit clinic,” she said.
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.