In 2010, Dan McFarland was a fly fishing guide in his hometown of Missoula, Montana. Today, he’s more than halfway through his first year at the dental school. So how did a fisherman from a small town in Montana end up in a big city on the path towards dentistry?
It turns out the healthcare field was always of interest to him. While at the University of Montana, Dan studied health and human performance with an emphasis in exercise science. He had every intention of attending physical therapy school. However, after completing a couple of internships, he knew that wasn’t the route for him.
Unsure of what career he wanted to pursue after graduation, Dan took a job as a guide for a fly fishing company. The sport has been a passion and hobby for him for more than 15 years, so the job was attractive. As a guide, Dan encountered tourists from all over the United States, and it just so happened that many of them were dentists. Intrigued by his background, a few of them suggested he look into the field of dentistry. “They thought that with my healthcare background, dentistry might be a good fit and something I’d be interested in,” explained Dan. “And job shadowing made me realize it was perfect for me.”
So how did a fisherman from a small town in Montana end up in a big city on the path towards dentistry?
When it came to deciding on a school, Pacific was a huge draw for him not only because it was a three-year program, but also because of the humanistic approach. Dan’s favorite aspect of the school is its supportive environment. He feels as though he can approach anyone, from fellow students and faculty to the administrative staff. If he has an issue, everybody is willing to help. “I think there are a lot of schools across the country that are really set in their ways and they’re not able or willing to adapt,” commented Dan. “At Pacific, it’s incredible that professors and heads of departments will sit down and listen to your issues and make a conscious effort to change something that is negatively affecting the school.”
His desire to make positive changes helped motivate him to become involved in student government, and he has embraced his role as vice president for his class. According to Dan, he has always had the mindset that if he is going to do something, he wants to get the most out of it that he possibly can. He sees an opportunity to build up his leadership skills too. “I have some strong qualities that I can utilize to benefit our class,” said Dan. “I want to become a better, more well-rounded person.”
“I definitely want to end up in Montana.”
Although Dan is keeping busy with his studies and extracurricular activities, he is also finding time to experience everything he can living in a big city. He enjoys that there’s so much to do, but at the same time, this makes him appreciate where he came from—the fact that there’s less commotion and fewer people back home.
As for his love of fly fishing, it hasn’t weakened one bit, but alas, the fish will have to wait for him. “I’ve only been able to go three times since school started,” Dan exclaimed. “That’s a big change from the four to five days a week I used to go.”
Still, this is a sacrifice he is willing to make for now, recognizing the tradeoff is the supportive Dugoni School of Dentistry environment, and knowing that his new career is waiting for him upon graduation. “I want to own a private practice and hopefully have a couple of associates as well,” said Dan. “And I definitely want to eventually end up in Montana.”