The right moves: How alumnus Cameron Quayle learned the importance of planning ahead
“When I think about it, it’s the combination of science, arts and interacting with people that made dentistry the perfect fit for me,” Cameron Quayle, D.D.S. (D.D.S.’04/D) says.
Quayle, who grew up in Ogden, Utah, was recruited by nearby Weber State University to play college football though the sport was more of a diversion for him than a potential career. In high school, he decided to go into dentistry, and in the classroom, that’s where he focused his attention. At Weber, his junior year on the football field was a standout year and scouts started showing up to see him in practices and in games, but he never intended to play professionally.
Instead, he focused his efforts on applying to dental schools. Knowing the reputation that Virginia Commonwealth University had among Weber graduates who had attended the school, he knew that it would be a great fit for him.
While he was still making the final decision on which dental school to attend, he received correspondence from Marshall Brownstein, D.D.S., former admissions dean at the VCU School of Dentistry, with more information about the university and the D.D.S. program. That solidified Quayle’s choice.
“I was just some kid halfway across the country applying to dental school,” Quayle says. “Dr. Brownstein got to know me at a personal level, and that made a difference for me.”
He was accepted into VCU’s dental program, but five months before graduating from Weber with a bachelor’s in integrative studies focusing on chemistry, zoology and marketing, Quayle received news that the Baltimore Ravens wanted to recruit him. He deferred his acceptance to VCU to play in the NFL.
“When the opportunity to play professionally fell into my lap, I just sort of jumped at the chance,” he says. “I always figured I’d run a small business, but life threw me a curveball, and I went with it.”
After a year with the Ravens, Quayle was drafted by the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe and played for one year before returning to the U.S. to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He injured his neck while playing for the Jaguars and that’s when he decided to hang up his cleats and go back to school.
“[Football] was good detour away from normal life for a few years,” he says. “When it all ended, I was luckily able to pick up right where I left off and came to Richmond.”
Back to Plan A
At VCU, Quayle specialized in pediatric dentistry and spent time as class president. What he loved the most about his education at VCU were the clinical hours he logged with the faculty and staff at the School of Dentistry.
“I got to know so many of the people within the [School of Dentistry] that it was difficult emotionally for me when I had to leave,” Quayle says. “On one hand I was excited to go on and complete my residency, but it was difficult to leave the people and friends that I made there.”
Quayle graduated magna cum laude from VCU in 2004 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery and returned to his home state of Utah to complete his residency at the Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Today, Quayle oversees sedation training for pediatric dental residents at the hospital and runs his own practice in nearby Pleasant View, Mountain View Pediatric Dentistry, dubbed locally as the “Moose Dentist” because of the practice’s memorable smiling moose logo.
“When I was doing research on logos, I asked friends and family their opinions on some options we were thinking about,” Quayle says. “Whether they liked it the best or not, they would always mention how funny the moose with the big, sparkling white smile was. So we ran with it.”
The practice’s mascot, Mason the Moose, is now an integral part of the Mountain View team and attends school assemblies and other community events as part of the bigger goal to treat each patient as they would treat their children, with patience, compassion and understanding.
“I’ll get down on my knees, just to make myself a little bit shorter, and explain to [our patients] what’s going on and that they’ll be OK,” he says. “I’m their coach, and I’m going to get them through it. Every high five I get on the way out of the office keeps me going, day in and day out.”
Sharing lessons learned
While playing in the NFL was a detour from his intended path, Quayle knows that without having the foresight to pursue his degree, things could have turned out differently. Through a partnership with his former junior high school, Highland Junior High School in Ogden, he’s helping teach students the importance of having options.
“One day this teacher walks in with her two kids, and I instantly recognized her as one of my first junior high school teachers,” Quayle says. “She was teaching a career prep course at the time and wanted to see if I’d come and talk to the seventh-graders about my career path.”
What started as a one-time talk turned into a yearly engagement, and when his former teacher retired, school staff members worked with Quayle to turn it into a project for the entire seventh grade.
“It means a lot more [to the students] to hear from someone who’s been there, than it does from their teachers,” said Feliciana Lopez, a seventh-grade English teacher at Highland Junior High School, who was interviewed by local news station KSL 5 for a story they aired about Quayle and the contest.
Students write an essay about the careers they hope to have when they grow up, and they include a backup plan in case they, too, detour from their goal.
“It’s interesting. I want to say 70 percent of the kids want to be professional athletes when they grow up,” Quayle says. “I tell them to shoot for it, but just in case, have your fallback plan ready.”
The now annual writing contest promises the winner a gift basket from his practice and a $100 Visa gift card.
“I’ve heard from teachers that the students really get into it,” he says. “For a grownup, $100 isn’t all that much, but when you tell a seventh-grader that they have a chance at it? It gets them motivated.”