Military Scholarship Provides New Way to Serve
Former Soldier Earning Dental Degree
By Teri Speece
Jeff Marrs, a fourth-year dental student at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, gained intense military experience quickly after graduating from West Point in 2002 and being commissioned in the United States Army. Marrs served two deployments in his first three years, first as a platoon leader in Mosul, then as a battle captain in Kirkuk, a region in Northern Iraq marked with intense enemy engagements.
But it was in Afghanistan, to which Marrs was later deployed with the Texas National Guard, where he first considered dentistry. A dentist stationed at a hospital in Kabul told him that his schooling, ranger training and “great teeth” would make him a great dentist.
“I chuckled it off at first, but then he told me about the HPSP (Health Professions Scholarship Program) offered by the military,” Marrs said. Upon returning to the United States, Marrs shadowed more than a dozen dentists at Fort Hood and decided it was what he wanted to do.
Marrs applied and was accepted to all three dental schools in Texas. But the School of Dentistry at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio stood out to him as the clear choice.
“I chose the Health Science Center because of the premier leadership and experience the faculty have, particularly the military faculty,” said Marrs. “They have life experiences that transcend what you’ll find at the other schools. To me, that was absolutely critical in my decision to attend school in San Antonio.”
While attending dental school, Marrs is a captain in the Individual Ready Reserve, which is part of the Reserve Component of the U.S. Armed Forces. He is attending dental school on a four-year scholarship from the U.S. Army that is designated to the HPSP.
After completing his dental education, Marrs will return to active duty where he aspires to “provide orthodontic services to soldiers, their spouses and their children to help improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Mark LittleStar, D.D.S., assistant dean for Predoctoral Clinics, describes Marrs as a great student who is humble and genuine.
“His military experience has prepared him well for his dental career. He knows how to manage unforeseen circumstances—whether it involves people or a procedure,” Dr. LittleStar said. “We are proud to have him here. And, I am thankful to know him.”