By Genni Burkhart
Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson was an All-Star baseball and football player who played semi-professional basketball. Having retired from basketball, Michael Jordan, arguably the Greatest of All Time, joined the Chicago White Sox's minor league team before returning to the NBA. The most talked-about coach in the NCAA right now, Deion Sanders, is a two-time Super Bowl champion who has played in eight Pro Bowls and nine seasons in Major League Baseball.
In addition to these famous multi-sport professional athletes, did you know there are also accomplished athletes who moonlight as dentists?
Like anyone else in the medical field, these athletes have put in long hours of hard work and dedication to their profession. They sacrifice their time and personal lives to provide essential healthcare services to their communities while simultaneously pursuing their sport to the highest level.
While there's much less fanfare, these athletes deserve the spotlight for their hard work and dedication to one of the oldest medical professions, dentistry.
Yared Nuguse, Record-Breaking Middle-Distance Runner, United States Track & Field
Recently featured in The New York Times about his record-breaking running career and goal of becoming an orthodontist, Yared Nuguse just broke the record for the fastest mile in the U.S. at the Prefontaine Classic. He's now the third-fastest miler in history with a time of 3:43.73.
In his pursuit of specializing in orthodontics, Nuguse stated in his NY Times interview that he plans to run professionally until 2029 at the latest. After that, he has six more years of school planned, with four in dental school and two specializing in orthodontics. In the meantime, you'll find him running with the On Athletics Club (OAC) all-star team in Boulder, CO, and preparing for the Summer 2024 Paris Olympics.
Dr. Britt Baker graduated from The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine (2018) and Pennsylvania State University (2013). Proclaiming dentistry as her "forever dream job," Britt Baker, DMD, made her professional wrestling debut in 2015.
Since then, she's been on WWE Raw and has a contract with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) as their first female wrestler. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a professional wrestler and a DMD, you can "be" Britt Baker, DMD, as a video game character in AEW Fight Forever. (Ka-pow!)
Dr. Britt Baker is a practicing dentist at Woodland Lakes Dental in Orlando, Florida. Her typical week consists of full days on Monday and Tuesday, heading out of town on Wednesday to film for Dynamite on TNT and TBS, and returning to Florida to see her dental patients on Thursday.
While she realizes this schedule is hectic, Dr. Baker wouldn't have it any other way. She's doing her dream jobs simultaneously, a true balancing act!
2019 Olympic bronze medal winner in windsurfing, two-time world champion, and practicing dentist in his hometown of Saint Brieuc in Brittany, France, Pierre le Coq epitomizes "ultrachic" dentist. (We think there is such a thing!)
Pierre comes from a family of windsurfers and feels most at home when he's on the water. Luckily for Pierre, his parents are dentists who guided his career choice while supporting his windsurfing passion.
Serving in the Royal Air Force as a Squadron Leader, Wendy Houvenaghel is a dentist who specializes in anxiety control, sedation, oral surgery, and facial rejuvenation. She has also completed implantology courses at the University of Cambridge.
2005 saw her win her first British rack pursuit crown, and 2005-06 won the UCI's World Cup series in that event. During the 2007 and 2008 World Championships, Wendy placed fourth in the individual pursuit and won the team pursuit title.
In addition to winning the 2009 and 2011 World Championships with the British pursuit teams, she was a silver medalist in 2010. Her other accomplishments include gold medals in individual pursuit at the 2009 and 2010 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, representing Northern Ireland.
Now a practicing dentist at Bupa Dental Care Launceston, Tasmania in Australia, Wendy retired from competitive cycling in 2014 on the eve of her Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Players of the Past
Other notable athletes who pursued dental careers include:
- "Gentleman Jim" James Lonborg, 1976 Cy Young Award Winner and Graduate of Tufts Dental School in 1983, went into private practice soon after.
- Les Horvath, Heisman Trophy winner and practicing Los Angeles, CA dentist for 41 years.
- Bill Lenkaitis, NFL player and NFL team dentist.
- John Brallier, one of the first-ever American professional football players and orthodontist, retired in 1931.
From cyclists to runners, NFL players to windsurfers and professional wrestlers, dentistry and competitive sports never seemed so compatible. In pursuing dual ambitions, these athletes demonstrate how passion and dedication can lead to the most prominent success, including Olympic medals and chairside, as dentists in their communities.
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Author: With over 13 years as a published journalist, editor, and writer, Genni Burkhart's career has spanned politics, healthcare, law, business finance, technology, and news. She resides in Northern Colorado, where she works as the Editor in Chief of the Incisor at DOCS Education.