Matt Firestone is a long way from home.

The Alabama-native left behind small-town life (his hometown had just one stop sign until recently when it became a stoplight) to study at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC in a sprawling city of millions.

“What sold me on USC was how much experience they said we would get. They told us Ostrow is all about handskills and clinical abilities,” said Firestone, who had his choice from among three dental schools.

This month, Firestone will toss his cap into the air and prepare to begin the next chapter in his life, pursuing an advanced education in general dentistry for a year and then serving in the U.S. Army for four more as part of the Health Professions Scholarship Program.

“Military was always in the plans somewhere,” Firestone said. “It’s a family tradition. Every male in my family has served. I got lucky that I could do both — serve and practice dentistry.”


Working with his hands

Firestone first became interested in dentistry as a college freshman. While shadowing his uncle at his dental practice, he saw the career was more than just “drilling and filling” and that it required use of his hands — important for Firestone, who had always enjoyed woodworking and carpentry.

“It encompassed everything I wanted to do — helping out, providing medical treatment and building with my hands,” he explained.

Firestone finished his bachelor’s degree at Jacksonville State University, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry, before joining the Trojan Dental Family in 2014.

As he reflected on his time in dental school, he said the school’s best asset is its faculty.

“USC has so many clinicians and they love to teach,” he said. “They don’t just give you a simple answer. They give you the answer you were looking for plus a lot more information to build on it. I feel like that has been more valuable than any lecture I have sat through.”

— John Hobbs