Alumnus Puts Progress and Service Into (Dental) Practice
As a Georgia Tech graduate, Andrew Kokabi, D.M.D. knows the Institute’s motto, Progress and Service, well — and also incorporates that ethos in life and work at his Atlanta dental practice, Brookhaven Family Dentistry.
Kokabi, who graduated with a B.S. in Biology in 2000, credits his time on campus and in the College of Sciences for preparing him to advance in his dentistry career. “The habits I developed during my undergraduate studies enabled me to thrive in dental school,” he said. “I specifically remember thinking biochemistry in dental school was a breeze compared to biochem classes at Tech.” Georgia Tech’s pre-health classes can better prepare medical students for advanced studies at a specialized medical school, he added.
Kokabi and his business partner, Joon Koh, D.M.D., a fellow Georgia Tech graduate with a B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, also enjoy working together on campaigns to help local schools and charities.
The College of Sciences recently talked with Kokabi about his time at Georgia Tech, the ethos of the Institute, generosity and business values, and advice for pre-health students and those interested in a career in health and medical fields.
What was your experience at Tech like? How did it prepare you for your career as a dentist?
My academic experience was top-notch. It was hard and demanding, but looking back at it, that is exactly what my 18-year-old self needed at the time. It was a great introduction into what the real world expects of professionals. Socially, it was wonderful as well. I met people from all around the country. I became friends with people of various backgrounds, and everyone got along. It was right after the Olympics so it was an exciting time.
My time at Georgia Tech also gave me great time management skills. The academic workload of dental school was a breeze compared to Georgia Tech. Meeting people from around the world enabled me to carry on a conversation with just about anyone — this is an important trait that still serves me well today. I meet lots of patients at my dental practice from all over, and I can usually carry on a conversation about their place of origin relatively easily. This helps them feel more comfortable with me, and strengthens the doctor-patient relationship.
What made you want to be a dentist?
My parents are from Iran. As I'm sure most Persian and Asian children will tell you, from birth your parents are pressuring you to be a doctor. I did not want to be around sick people all day and did not want to be on call weekends. So dentistry offers the perfect balance of being a doctor, but having a more normal schedule and not having to treat serious life-threatening illnesses. I am very happy with my decision and cannot think of myself doing anything else.
Georgia Tech's motto, “Progress and Service” — what did that mean to you as a student, and what does it mean as an alumnus?
It meant and still means a great deal. I think people have to start at a young age thinking about how they can serve others. That is where true fulfillment comes from. One reason we have so much depression in our country is our self-absorbed "me, me, me" culture. There is a lot of happiness and joy that comes from helping and serving others.
It's also great for business as well. People want to buy from companies that are doing more than just selling goods and services. They want companies that care about making a difference in the world. Of course, we do quality dentistry, and care about our patients' oral health. But we take it a step further and have a community mission. We strive to be active members of our community and help our local schools and charities. Our Brookhaven community has given us so much, the least we can do is give back.
Tell me about the "Brighten Your Smile, Better the World" campaign and how effective it has been so far.
The "Brighten Your Smile, Better the World'' campaign is one of our two main initiatives. Each month we partner with a different school or charity. Any patient of ours that makes a donation to that month's chosen partner gets a set of custom teeth whitening trays for free. It's a win-win for all parties involved.
In its first year, we have been able to raise more than $15,000 for numerous schools and organizations. Featured partners have included Ashford Park Elementary School, Huntley Hills Elementary School, Montgomery Elementary School, Chamblee Middle School, the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Giving Grace, and The Kyle Pease Foundation.
You said you talk to many pre-dental students. What advice do you give them about whether or not they should get a degree at Georgia Tech before heading off to dental school?
A science degree from Georgia Tech is extremely valuable. It sets you apart from other candidates applying for the same spot in a specialty program. The healthcare school knows that if someone was able to get a Tech degree, they will be able to handle the academic workload of dental or medical school.
Also, know what you are getting into. Being a healthcare professional means a lifelong pursuit of learning. It is not just a job, but a career. It takes a lot of effort and time even after you have left work for the day (being on call, continuing education, representing your profession in the community, etc).
You should also know that it's worth it. There are not too many jobs that allow you to make as big of an impact in people's lives as being a healthcare professional. I feel truly blessed and honored that I am in my field of work.
Renay San Miguel