Gardner woman pursued dental career because her father believed in her. – Shaw Local

Chelsea Schultz, 27, of Gardner will never forget the 6 a.m. phone call the day after her 19th birthday.

That’s how she and her sister Kailyn Schultz, students at the University of Illinois at the time, learned their father Peter Schultz, 52, had died from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In a flash, Chelsea had lost a most significant person in her life. But she persevered in her goals and she received her Doctor of Dental Medicine on May 5 from the University of Illinois Chicago College of Dentistry. Kailyn, also a dentist, “hooded” her, Cindy Schultz, Chelsea and Kailyn’s mother said in an email.

According to BestAccredited Colleges, this means “placing a doctoral hood, on the head of a doctoral graduate,” typically by the faculty member at a university.

Chelsea also received two awards. One was the Dr. Stanley Tylman Awarded, a faculty-selected award that recognizes a student who “provided high quality of oral treatment to their patients,” Chelsea said.

The other was The Academy of General Dentistry Award for serving as the AGD representative for her class all four years of dental school and president in the last year, Chelsea said.

In July, Chelsea began her residency at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago where she is occasioinally “on call” in the emergency department for patients with emergencies, such as substantial mouth swelling or having the teeth knocked out, she said.

Cindy is proud Chelsea “has overcome some difficult times” to obtain her goals: her father’s death and college during the pandemic.

“He [Peter] always knew Chelsea would accomplish great things in her life and being a dentist was one of them,” Cindy wrote.

Chelsea said Cindy, a nurse, fostered Chelsea’s love for health care. Chelsea even shadowed doctors and physical therapists before realizing dentistry was her “calling,” she said.

“I just love the artistic nature of the profession,” Chelsea said. “And, honestly, I just love being able to help people create their smiles.”

Chelsea said she was in her sophomore year at Gardner-South Wilmington High School when her father began “having trouble” with his arm. Chelsea didn’t think much of it at the time, figuring surgery would fix it.

It didn’t.

“One day my parents came home and said he said ALS,” Chelsea said. “And from there my life changed forever. I mean, my dad was one, if not the most important, person in my life. Just knowing he might not be there forever – that was just something that stuck with me. I knew I had to enjoy the time I had with him.”

Chelsea graduated from Gardner-South Wilmington in 2013 and the University of Illinois in 2017. She said Peter’s unwavering belief in her future sucess motivated her, even after the pandemic turned her hands-on classes to remote learning in the spring of 2020.

So she temporarily returned to Gardner and “pretty much brought a lab home” with her, she said.

“I had a torch – I use a lot of heat – and I’m setting denture teeth at my kitchen table,” Chelsea said.

Chelsea started clinicals on July 1, 2020, in full personal protective equipment: N95 respirator, surgical mask, glasses with magnifying lenses and a face shield, she said. Today Chelsea only adds an N95, and maybe a shield, if she’s working with aerosols and/or a drill, such as filling a cavity, she said.

Her ultimate goal is to practice dentistry in Gardner, where her family and friends live.

“I really just think dentistry is such a rewarding career,” Chelsea said. “How someone can come in with pain and they leave without that pain – you can immediately make their day better. I think that’s such a rewarding thing to do for people.”

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