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Graduate commencement speaker found calling at student-led clinic

Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University.  Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University. When Mikki Jaramillo takes the podium at the IUPUI 2023 Spring Graduate Commencement May 12 at Carroll Stadium, it will be the first time a student speaker is featured in the ceremony.

Leaders at the Indiana University School of Dentistry said they nominated her for the honor because she is a rare student who has achieved the highest ranks in coursework, clinical skills, research, leadership, mentoring and giving back to the community.

Jaramillo describes the journey that led her to the School of Dentistry as a “different kind of trajectory.”

The Washington state native first moved to Indiana to attend the University of Notre Dame, where she earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering.

“Almost everyone in my major went into car or drug manufacturing, working behind the scenes in food processing or at chemical plants,” she said. “I knew that I wanted to do something a little bit more hands on.”

After graduating from Notre Dame, Jaramillo moved to Wisconsin to work at a software company that specializes in electronic health records. That experience piqued her interest in dentistry.

“I was interested previously, but I hadn’t done a ton of prep work for dental school,” she said. “While working at the software company, I was able to interact with dentists who used the software. That gave me added perspective about what the day-to-day is like for dentists.”

The fondness for Indiana that she developed while at Notre Dame, combined with her fiancé’s enrollment at the IU School of Medicine, brought Jaramillo to the IU School of Dentistry in 2019.

While studying to earn her D.D.S., she became involved with the campus’s Student Outreach Clinic, a free clinic that provides medical, dental, social, legal and other services for the uninsured and under-served in the Indianapolis community.

Jaramillo said working with the clinic was a defining part of her dental school experience.

Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University.“You have a lot of patients who come in with acute issues. They’re in a lot of pain, and they truly have nowhere else to go,” she said. “It’s a very vulnerable population that really may not be finding their needs met by other community groups.

“Not too many schools have an organization where the students get to work so closely with the faculty, regularly treat patients, and really participate in the running and management of a clinic.”

Jaramillo served on the clinic’s board for several years, including a tenure as chair.

“I loved it so much. It kind of helps everyone feel more passionate about the community, and that’s really important for health care in general.”

Her experience with the Student Outreach Clinic made such a lasting impact, it influenced her career path. She has accepted a dentist position at a community clinic in Chicago, where she will begin working after graduation.

Jaramillo’s work at the clinic was one of many leadership roles she took on while in dental school, which also included a stint as president of the American Association of Women Dentists.

“Mikki led the organization’s executive team and their 88 student members with passion and dedication,” said Neetha Santosh, a faculty advisor for the association’s IU School of Dentistry chapter. “She strove to empower women in the dental field to feel more confident and supported in their educational journey. As a leader, Mikki is focused on encouraging her peers through the strenuous demands of dental school and recognizing their individual successes.”

Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University.  Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University. She also excelled in the classroom, earning Dean’s List recognition in fall 2019 and spring 2021, and consistently demonstrated exceptional clinical skills.

“Mikki’s approach to daily patient care is among the very best in her class,” Dr. Tim Treat said. “She is always well-prepared and consistently works more independently than many others.”

Jaramillo said it will be difficult to reflect on four “action-packed” years at IUPUI in her commencement speech, but there is one message she will definitely share: “How grateful I am for this community, IUPUI and the dental school. I wouldn’t be here today without all the help along the way — you know, someone giving me advice or someone helping me with a lab project.

“There are so many little interactions that make a huge difference. I think it’s important to say, ‘Thank you’.”

Tia Broz is a communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.