Erin Brodell, ’11, entered the University of Richmond with clear aspirations of going to medical school after graduation.

The medical humanities major jumped into research early on, looking for opportunities to learn more about the field. She spent the summer of 2009 at Case Western Reserve University, assisting with clinical trial reviews on the use of diphenhydramine as an anesthetic. In 2010, she worked at Caris Cohen Dermatopathology Laboratory in Newton, Mass., helping with research on genetic influences in dermatological diseases. The results of her earlier research experience were published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology — a feat for an undergraduate student.

“[Getting published] was awesome,” she says. “So many students strive to get published and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and to have time to work on the project that summer.”

However, a series of illnesses the summer before her senior year had Brodell in and out of the doctor’s office, preventing her from taking the MCAT exam she needed for medical school. She instead spent time shadowing her orthodontist and dentist and discovered a different path.

“The average person doesn’t want to go to the dentist’s office, but I was watching my dentist interact, and saw how she develops close, personal relationships with her patients,” she says. “You have to get to know your patients, because you’re working extra hard to get beyond that initial feeling of not wanting to be there. I realized that was what I wanted to do.”

By December of her senior year, Brodell had switched gears. After graduation in May, she plans to spend the next year getting hands-on experience working in a dental lab before enrolling in dental school in the fall of 2012.

While Brodell’s focus has always involved a future in the medical field, she knew that she still needed a creative outlet. She was a member of her high school’s competitive dance team and wanted to continue to dance in college, but she felt the University Dancers, UR’s dance company, was too much of a time commitment on top of her pre-med courses.

Brodell instead found D-Squad, the University’s hip-hop dance club, to be in step with her schedule, and she served for two years as the team’s president. The team played an important role in her college experience.

“It was hectic, but dancing is fun and it’s such a great stress reliever,” she says. “I’ve been heavily involved in the sciences and it’s great to be able to leave Gottwald [Science Center] and have something to do that’s fun and makes me feel good.”