He hadn’t planned on attending Brandon University. He didn’t even plan on working in Brandon.
Today, Dr. Paul Chen (BSc ’01) is the co-owner of the largest dental practice in Manitoba outside of Winnipeg— the West-Man Dental Group serving 10,000 patients in Brandon and area.
And he has high praise for his undergraduate years at BU.
“Going to BU helped me prepare for and get accepted into dental school,” he says, relaxing in a quiet office at West-Man Dental Group.
The son of a pharmacist, Dr. Chen emigrated from Taipei to Brandon with his family at the age of 8. Here, he found a quieter lifestyle. “Schooling in Taiwan, kindergarten to Grade 12, is really intense. A lot more material is covered, more homework, more exams. To do well,” he says, “you have to study at lot more.”
Intent on becoming a dentist, Dr. Chen applied to Queens University during his Grade 12 year in Brandon. He had already picked courses and arranged for on-campus residence. Then, a letter arrived from BU.
“In August, three or four weeks before school started, BU offered me a scholarship. Half of the tuition.” He says in hindsight, “without the scholarship I would have probably gone to Queens.”
Entering the Faculty of Science in 1997, Dr. Chen applied himself to a major in chemistry, benefitting from the smaller class sizes at BU.
“The professors knew you by name, knew who you are,” he says. “You had a lot more one-on-one time. Whereas, say at the U of M, they don’t know who you are. They don’t even know if you show up one day of the year.”
Dr. Chen credits BU first-year chemistry lab instructor Dave Ford in particular with helping prepare him for Dentistry School at the University of Manitoba, into which he was accepted in 2003 with a 3.84 GPA.
“He was really strict in the lab,” says Dr. Chen. “When we were doing experiments, everything had to be to the third decimal—accurate and precise—or it wasn’t good enough. I learned a lot from that instructor and that course.”
Never expecting to return to Brandon after graduation, Dr. Chen was urged by colleagues and newly graduated dentists to practice in his home community. He recalls being told, “If you go to a larger centre you won’t be as busy. There are more patients but also more doctors. As a new grad, you wouldn’t get the experience as quickly or even the income.”
He joined West-Man Dental Group in 2007 as an associate and, with a partner, purchased the operation in November 2012 from the three founding partners.
Despite owning a thriving practice with a staff of 30, Dr. Chen remains modest about his accomplishments.
“I’m just coming in to work every day like normal,” he shrugs. “Nothing has really changed. I’m still the same person.”
This article first ran in the Winter 2012 issue of Alumni News, a bi-annual publication produced by the Department of Institutional Advancement.