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Dental school couple gives back in senior year with award for first-year students

Melissa Varner
March 01, 2019
Craig and Suzanne
Craig and Suzanne Bisschops

Craig Anderson and Suzanne Bisschops fell in love over dates in the gross anatomy lab their first year at the MUSC James B. Edwards School of Dental Medicine. The two are now seniors and recently engaged.

They’re already making decisions as a couple – including what to do with the money Craig made investing in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual form of currency that is encrypted for security and can be exchanged for money.

“We just kind of decided to put it towards something that’s going to make us both feel good.” Craig said.

The couple splurged on a nice dinner and put the rest, which came to $750, toward creating an award that would help a first-year dental student pay for dental loupes.

“I just can’t imagine what it would have been like to have had that help for something as important as loupes,” Suzanne said. “You can’t live without them and they’re so expensive.”

Loupes are like magnifying glasses. Dentists wear them to see fine details without putting additional strain on their necks or backs. Loupes can cost more than $1,000, making it a big investment for a student.

The average dental student in the U.S. will graduate with $290,000 in debt. Multiply that times two and you’ll understand why the couple faced questions about their decision not to keep the money for themselves.

“People would say, ‘Why don’t you just take that money and put it back toward your loan?’ Craig said. “I say, yeah, okay, that’s a gift for me but I’m already happy enough. Loans are just going to be part of our lives.”

The couple was also determined to give their award to someone who, like Craig, was inspired to go to dental school because of a personal experience.

Craig before reconstructive surgery, side view
Craig before reconstructive surgery

“I was diagnosed with a class-three skeletal discrepancy when I was 14 or 15,” Craig said. “Basically my lower jaw was jutting out really far and I had an open bite in front of my teeth. So when I bit down my teeth didn't close all the way.” The dentist who diagnosed him called it “bologna syndrome.”

“I said, ‘What the heck is bologna syndrome?’ and she said, “Where you bite the sandwich and don’t get any of the meat.’ That is totally not a real thing – but I knew what she meant.”

In October, Craig and Suzanne presented the first loupe award to first-year dental student Sydney Fain. Sydney was inspired to become a dentist by her aunt, Beth Fain, who has Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS). Sydney says while the 2017 movie “Wonder” spread awareness about TCS recently, her aunt faced a lot of ignorance growing up.

“It just really impacted her access to education, because people would make assumptions about her intellect based on her appearance, which the two aren’t correlated,” Sydney explained. “She has accomplished so, so much. She's the first to ever in our family to have a doctorate degree.”

Sydney is excited to become the second “Dr. Fain” in her family.

“I want to be a general dentist, mostly so I have the capacity to work in free clinics or missions,” Sydney said. “I came from a rural community that needed a lot of dental care. So I’m hoping to contribute to a community like that.”

Adjusting to the first year of dental school and how to pay for everything has been overwhelming and stressful for Sydney. She doesn’t think she could have afforded loupes without help from Craig and Suzanne. “I’m super grateful. I hope that one day I'll be in their position and be able to help someone else.”

In January, Craig matched to the oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program at the University of Minnesota. While he and Suzanne will leave MUSC in June, they plan to support their loupe award forever and even increase their gift in the future.

“The goal for us after we get out of residency and start paying off our loans is to fully fund loupes for a student,” Craig said. “To help someone out gives me more joy, honestly, than doing anything, really.”

About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: Dentistry