Elise Hurrell

A Chance To See The World
LT Elise Hurrell

When You Know You’re Not Just Any Other Dentist

“When I was in Bahrain, I got to take tours of a submarine and a carrier, right on the pier. I met some of the personnel. When I think of those kinds of experiences and the combination of being on the ocean, at a pier, in an operational tempo in the gulf where you have ships coming in and going out — those kind of moments put it all into perspective. It makes me say, ‘This is why I’m a dentist in the Navy!’ It’s not like I’m a regular dentist working in a normal clinic. I love having more of that operational, forward-deployed experience where I get to see the subs, see the carriers, meet the people and see where they’re coming from each and every day. That’s really the most incredible experience, and it’s unique to the Navy.”
— LT Elise Hurrell

Dr. Elise Hurrell was looking for a way to pay for dental school when she received yet another email from her school, Indiana University. It was a message for pre-med and pre-dental students, informing them that the Navy was coming to campus to talk about scholarship opportunities.

“I was looking for ways to pay for school, so, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I made an appointment and went to talk with the Navy Recruiters. I had a few questions here and there, but I was pretty skeptical at first. I went in there and felt like they answered all of my questions. It turned out that it was something that I was more and more interested in doing after all. One thing led to another, and that’s how I ended up joining the military. That’s the story. It’s funny how one little email can change your whole life.”

It turns out that the opportunities to both pay for $200,000 in dental school tuition and the ability to see the world while she practiced dentistry was too much for LT Hurrell to pass up.

“When I started to get into dental schools, the financial realities hit me and I wondered how I was going to pay for school. I thought about the different kinds of lifestyles you could have as a dentist, and I realized that you have to take into consideration that you’ll have to buy a practice. And I did want to travel on top of that. I wanted to see the world. I felt like the financial benefits with the Navy were wonderful. And when I realized that I would have opportunities to do something different and see the world, well that made the Navy even more appealing.”

Once in the Navy, LT Hurrell decided to embrace her newfound ability to travel. She volunteered to be deployed to the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, the naval base that is responsible for Naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean.

“I was at a smaller clinic with the Navy Fifth Fleet. I worked with two captains and one other lieutenant, and we ran the clinic. Our patients included people who were stationed there, and we also saw patients who were on ships coming in and out of the Gulf. But usually those ships have their own clinics, their own dentists and their own doctors. But if there were emergencies or if they were on smaller ships that didn’t have a dentist, we would treat them as well.”

In addition to the excitement of leading a clinic in such an unusual place, LT Hurrell was also excited to live in a completely new environment, in a country she’d never imagined she would visit let alone reside in.

“It was wonderful living there. At first it was a bit of an adjustment living in the desert, but you live close to base and everything is nearby. The base has its own little community. And it was also interesting to experience the many cultures in Bahrain. It was amazing because you were exposed to different cultural experiences; you got to know the different people there, and you could gain a better understanding of cultures that differ from your own. It’s a pretty international community so there were people from all over the world, including India, the Philippines and many other places.

“In addition to living and working in Bahrain, we also traveled to different countries on the weekends, if approved. For example, if you had a longer weekend, you could go over to Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Moscow. I went to Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Oman and the UAE. I got to travel to parts of the world I’d never dreamed I’d see, so that was an awesome opportunity. An opportunity I’d never imagined I’d have as a dentist.”

Enjoying the perks of working in a new country. Traveling to many other countries during her free time. Those were just a few of the experiences that LT Hurrell reveled in as a Navy Dentist. The other involved her greater ability to provide care for her patients. The discovery that she was able to provide the best of care for her patients regardless of their ability to pay was an eye-opener for LT Hurrell. And it resonated with her as a caregiver.

“You always want to provide the best care possible, and you always want to do the right thing for patients. In the Navy, you don’t have to worry about patients paying for anything. You don’t have to worry about the finances or having that whole conversation. In the military, if a patient requires care and it needs to be taken care of, we’ll take care of it. As a dentist, you don’t have the pressure and the worry of where your paycheck is coming from or collecting insurance. You can just provide the best care possible.”

LT Hurrell made all of her professional dreams happen. She has no debt from dental school. She’s gotten to see the world. And she’s begun a dental career unlike any she’d ever imagined. Taking advantage of the many opportunities that the Navy has to offer has made LT Hurrell a professional and a leader with a wealth of incredible experiences behind her. And it all started with one little email in her university inbox.

Being a Leader in the Navy

“When you’re in the military you obviously have to lead – and by that I mean lead by example. You have corpsmen, you have assistants and other people who are working for you. They’re going to come to you with issues not always related to work. You always want to lead by example in helping and training them, because a lot of times they come right out of school and they don’t have a lot of experience in the dental world. You need to have leadership abilities in order to guide them, teach them about what is expected, and to lead by example. I think that leadership skills are particularly important for dentists in the Navy. You get to develop and use those skills, and that’s what will help you to guide and mentor those who work for you and around you.”

— LT Elise Hurrell