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The Catalyst

Dental graduate, leader makes an impact on others

By Cindy Abole
Public Relations

It’s a couple of weeks before MUSC’s May 17 commencement ceremony and new dental graduate Brandon Hagan, DMD, may seem overwhelmed with the work ahead of him. But the energetic and affable 27-year-old is not fazed. He loves staying busy and managing several things at once and is good at it.

Those who know Hagan are used to seeing the Louisville native around campus whether he’s collaborating with staff at the Student Programs Office, working out at the Wellness Center or working with peers and faculty at the Dental Clinical Education Center of the James B. Edward’s College of Dental Medicine.

Dr. Brandon Hagan accepts an SGA award from Dr. Willette Burnham, SGA faculty advisor.
Dr. Brandon Hagan accepts an SGA award from Dr. Willette Burnham, SGA faculty advisor.

It was not long after setting foot on campus that Hagan realized he wanted to be involved with MUSC’s larger student body and be a leader for positive contributions and student involvement through university initiatives. He also wanted to expand diversity efforts on campus.

“I feel I do my best when I’m busy juggling several projects at the same time. I’m a good time manager, and I always like to be involved and work on big projects,” said Hagan, who is a pastor’s son and credits his mom for his artistic abilities.

His interest in dentistry did not emerge until college. During his senior year at the University of Kentucky, several friends encouraged him to consider dentistry. They knew Hagan loved science, and they helped him arrange to shadow with local dentists, oral surgeons and other dental specialists.

But Hagan was not ready to make that level of a commitment.

Instead, he took time off and contributed to the Lexington musical theater scene for two years. A classically trained singer who performed throughout high school and college, Hagan worked in community theater, sang in local Broadway productions and performed with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra. He wanted time to think while exploring his creative ambitions before deciding about dental school.

“Theater and music is something I love and can always do. But I also wanted a career related to science that came with a salary that I can depend on,” Hagan said. He took the dental admissions test and scored well before applying to dental schools across the country and deciding on MUSC. Hagan’s best friend also happened to be starting a two-year orthodontics residency at MUSC around the same time. He said he knew he wanted to try something different and Charleston seemed ideal for that.

Hagan admitted to struggling a little to adjust to Lowcountry life: He moved from a busy, urban progressive Midwestern city like Louisville to Charleston’s slower pace and historical charm. He was on the verge of moving back home when a faculty member encouraged him to get involved with MUSC’s Student Government Association. Volunteering with SGA changed everything for Hagan.

“I met students from the other six colleges and programs. Today, I feel lucky to have so many different friends from all over campus,” he said.

Hagan rose through the ranks in SGA, first serving as a class representative and elected to academic vice president and president from 2012-2013. As SGA’s chief executive officer, he chaired the executive committee, presided over meetings and represented students at campuswide events and at board of trustees meetings and other activities. His leadership and commitment with SGA tested his executive control in tasks and coordination in implementing new policies such as the adoption of a tobacco-free campus policy and hospital district smoking ban initiated by students and implemented in March 2012.

He raised student interest and participation in various service projects like the 2012 Heart Walk, annual American Red Cross Blood Drive Challenge, Lowcountry Food Bank food drives and expansion of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event.

He credits SGA executive committee members for their creativeness and dedication where members work continually with Student Program advisors and support staff to plan and organize events.

“People are interested in the small things. When there are issues, people want answers, and that’s what matters most,” Hagan said.

As for other involvement, Hagan was a Presidential Scholar representing the dental school and working collaboratively with projects that explored health disparities and solutions among populations.

Hagan also served as president of the college’s chapter of the Student National Dental Association for three years and led his peers to introduce dentistry as a career and assist in the college’s diversity efforts within South Carolina public schools, colleges and institutions.

Hagan was a Student Ambassador in the dental school, a member of the American Student Dental

Association and Psi Omega National Dental Fraternity, a tutor and mentor to fellow students and sang with the MUSC Gospel Choir.

Among his many honors and awards, Hagan is the recipient of the 2013 Earl B. Higgins Student Leadership in Diversity Award. At the April 3 ceremony, Deborah Higgins, sister of the award’s namesake, summarized Hagan’s qualities in her introduction of him at the event.

“Brandon exceeds expectations with his willingness to get involved and serve. He’s a student scholar with a servant’s heart and has devoted countless hours improving the lives of current and prospective students and people in the community,” she said. 

Following graduation, Hagan plans to continue his dental education with a two-year orthodontics residency at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

Looking back, he has no regrets and feels comfortable and confident that he’s leaving the campus and SGA leadership in good hands.

“It’s a nice feeling as a senior to look back and reflect on the work that I’ve been involved in. I’m so proud to be leaving MUSC a better place, and I thank so many people for working together with me in accomplishing things,” Hagan said, smiling proudly.

May 15, 2013

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