It was just another morning. Allison Dietze was getting ready for a job she didn’t enjoy when she experience a sudden epiphany: She wanted to changed directions entirely and pursue a dental career.

It wasn’t a completely capricious decision, given the career path of the soon-to-be-graduate of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC that has wended its way through the industries of fashion design, hairstyling, cosmetics, public relations and marketing.

“I realized out of all the professions I had tried, my favorite aspects of them involved working with my hands, creative problem solving, working with people and being challenged,” Dietze said. “I put all that together with my lifelong love of going to the dentist and began considering becoming a dental assistant or hygienist.”


A Renaissance woman

Dietze began her undergraduate studies at San Francisco State University, with an undeclared major. Although Dietze had always fared well academically in high school, she found herself paralyzed by career indecision during college. Floundering, she left college behind and began working full-time at a small clothing design shop in the Bay Area.

“I loved it because it was a really fun challenge, and I worked with some amazing people,” she said. “Over time, though, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do long-term.”

After four years, Dietze moved on to the cosmetology industry, working receptionist and stylist-assistant jobs at several hair salons and picking up work as a make-up artist with Estée Lauder to help make ends meet. Though these career paths would ultimately lead to dead ends for Dietze, they were helpful in getting her to come out of her shell.

“I had been fairly shy and not comfortable making conversations with new people,” she explained. “But this isn’t an option at salons, so learning to comfortably converse with a diverse array of people about anything and everything was an invaluable skill I picked up during this time that directly helps me with patient care now.”

Eventually, Dietze earned that bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State before moving to New York City, where she returned to the familiar (fashion design), while interning with a public relations and marketing company during Fashion Week. In 2009, she took a full-time position with a PR company that worked in the fashion, jewelry and interior design industries.

“It was such an amazing experience in that I was able to travel for Fashion Weeks; I worked with interesting, creative clients; and it was probably the most professional environment I had ever worked in, which provided me with a variety of skills,” Dietze said.


Dentistry’s calling

Despite the glitz and glamor of Fashion Week, Dietze still found herself unfulfilled. It was at this time that she had her early-morning dental epiphany. She began researching what it would take to make it into dental school, learning about pre-health post-baccalaureate programs at New York University and Stony Brook University for arts students who want to change paths and go into health care. Having applied to both program, Dietze began to bone up on basic math and science classes at a community college on Manhattan. 

“This was great because it was a way to get myself used to being back in school and test myself to see if I was actually up for the challenge,” Dietze said. “It turns out I loved being back in school.”

Shortly after, Dietze was accepted into the Stony Brook University program, where she completed all the prerequisites necessary to get into Ostrow’s DDS program. Dietze officially joined the Trojan Dental Family in 2017, putting on her white coat and taking her solemn oath as an oral health care professional with the Class of 2021. 

While at USC, she has made the Dean’s List nearly every trimester; served in a leadership position with Ayuda, a community service organization; and earned the Edna Hatcher Hughes Scholarship and the Charles L. Pincus Memorial Esthetic Dentistry Award.

Right after graduation, Dietze plans to complete a general practice residency at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

“I can’t wait to continue my dental education,” she says, “and gain more experience and confidence working with advanced cases and medically compromised patients.”

Looking back on her serpentine career path that sidewinds nearly as much as her hometown’s Lombard Street, Dietze admits it’s not been the most conventional, but it’s taught her so much. 

“While there are times I wish I had found dentistry when I was younger, I also really value all the experiences I’ve had,” she said. “I think it makes me more well-rounded, and each experience has either taught me something I can use in my future dental career or somehow led to it.” 

— John Hobbs