Dental student pursuing childhood dream of becoming doctor

Melissa Varner
February 10, 2023
Olivia Jabber, Class of 2025
Olivia Jabber, Class of 2025

Olivia Jabber loves Grey’s Anatomy. She was hooked from the very first episode, where a group of young doctors arrive at the fictional Seattle Grace Mercy West Hospital to begin their careers as interns. Watching Grey’s with her mom and sister inspired Olivia to dream of becoming a doctor.

“That show was the spark for me to know I wanted to become a doctor,” Olivia said. That passion stayed with her from elementary school all the way through college at the University of South Carolina, where she really began to explore the kind of doctor she wanted to be.

Ultimately, Olivia chose dentistry over medicine because of its potential for a better work-life balance. But that will have to wait until she graduates from the Medical University of South Carolina in 2025. As a second-year Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) student at the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine, she’s expected to complete 26.5 hours over spring semester. During the week, she’s either in class, studying or at the Dental Student Clinics, where she sees patients a few times a week with faculty supervision.

On weekends, Olivia works part-time in retail. Working takes time away from her studies, but is necessary to help pay for dental school. She also takes out loans to pay her tuition and fees: for the spring 2023 semester, she will pay close to $40,000.

“I will have almost half a million dollars in loans by the time I graduate,” Olivia estimates.

She says scholarships are a blessing because she doesn’t have to worry about paying them back. For the 2022-23 school year, Olivia received the George C. McTeer Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship is named for the late George C. McTeer Sr., D.M.D., a 1974 alumnus of the College of Dental Medicine and the first African-American dentist to graduate from MUSC.

As a Black woman and aspiring dentist, Olivia is honored to be a recipient of the McTeer scholarship. “Receiving a scholarship, on top of it being one to honor such an amazing man, it truly is a blessing,” she said.

Olivia Jabber poses with her bicycle in front of a Lowvelo sign as part of the Lowvelo cycling fundraising event.
Olivia is an avid cyclist. In November, she rode 10 miles in LOWVELO to raise money for cancer research at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

While she’s still a couple of years away from becoming Dr. Olivia Jabber, Olivia knows she’s on the right path. That spark she felt all those years ago, watching Grey’s? She feels it every time a patient smiles.

“Being able to talk to patients, to touch patients, to see the emotional impact of being able to fix someone’s smile,” she said. “Being able to actually see the impact I’ve made on someone’s everyday life is so major. It’s amazing.”