(DALLAS) — Physician Ryan Womack is a novelty in his dental class and a first in the oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

After earning a medical degree at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and completing a general surgery internship, Dr. Womack has enrolled at HSC-BCD to obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree and specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

“Everyone follows a path in the pursuit of their education; mine just happens to be more winding than most,” Dr. Womack said.

Dr. Womack’s path to dental school began during his general surgery internship in Lubbock, Texas.

“I operated many facial trauma cases and head-and-neck cases with ear, nose and throat surgeons and became very interested in that area of the body,” Dr. Womack said.

Upon meeting two students in HSC-BCD’s OMS residency program fulfilling their medical requirements at the Texas Tech Health Science Center, Dr. Womack began asking questions about oral surgery. After befriending a handful of Lubbock-area oral surgeons, he knew he found his calling in oral surgery.

“During medical school, I realized that I enjoyed the operating room more than clinic work. I guess it’s that instant gratification and working with my hands that I enjoy so much,” Dr. Womack said.

One reason he became interested in oral surgery is the widening scope of its practice.

“I’m intrigued by the amount of hands-on, surgery-oriented procedures oral and maxillofacial surgeons can perform in their clinics without the frustrations of having to go to the OR,” Dr. Womack said.

Dr. Womack will undertake approximately three years of dental school integrated with an additional three years of OMS residency training, according to Dr. Bob Schow, professor and residency director at HSC-BCD. Ultimately, he will hold both dental and medical degrees, as well as certification as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Currently, Dr. Womack is taking a combination of first- and second-year dental classes in addition to his work in oral surgery. He has successfully completed his medical board exams and is eager to receive his medical license. At that time, he can begin taking patients in the hospital alongside his peers in the residency program.

In the meantime, Dr. Womack, who affirms he has a lot of respect for dentistry as a profession, is learning as much as he can about the practice and scholastics of dentistry.

“In medical school, we were taught very little about teeth and the oral cavity as a whole, so as a fully trained physician you know very little about these things,” Dr. Womack said. “I have become much more aware of this the past six months. Dentistry is a huge part of total patient care.”

Founded in 1905, Baylor College of Dentistry at Dallas is a component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. HSC-BCD is a nationally recognized center for oral health sciences education, research, specialized patient care and continuing dental education.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— LaDawn Brock