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    A Navy Dentist's Journey(3:48)

    Lt. Thu Luu talks about her unique path to becoming a Navy dental officer and the humanitarian work she’s done through service. Luu’s family immigrated to the United States when she was young, and she used the educational opportunities the Navy offered her to completely pay for her dental school. Luu says giving back to her country by serving makes her proud.

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Lt. Thu Luu: I was able to grow up here [and] become an American citizen when I was nine. We couldn't afford for me to go to dental school, you know, take on $100,000, $200,000 debt. The recruiter was very excited to hear from me, because he saw my grades, and he's like "yeah, she was a good candidate."

My scholarship literally paid for everything. They paid for four years of any dental school of my choice. When I was in school, I was given a monthly stipend, at the time it was around $1,100, just to live. In addition to that, they paid for all my books. It definitely made my dental school less stressful, because I didn't have to worry about "can I afford lunch today?"

When the opportunity came for me to join the Navy, it was an easy answer, you know? I said yes, it was a great way for me to pay back the country that accepted us so graciously.

If you can't bite, you can't fight. (laughter) So, here we are. (To a patient) I'm Dr. Luu, good to see you again.

My typical day, I just come in, and I get dressed. I wear scrubs, that's my daily uniform. And I see patients.

Being in the Navy has made me a better and different dentist than my civilian counterparts. For example, I've been to Haiti for a humanitarian trip. We went up to a little hill called Pygnon, there's no dental access there. For seven days, we just extracted teeth. It was just an extraction marathon. That was a neat experience, because that's something none of my colleagues have done.

I got to go on the range with the Marines, and shot a pistol, a nine millimeter, and I qualified. I've served as a division officer in Hawaii. I got to learn to run a large clinic, and I was the mediator between the officer and enlisted community, and got to help them solve these issues. So it's made me a better leader. These are skills I don't think I would have been able to learn in a normal civilian life.

If it wasn't for the Navy, I never would have met my husband. Clay and I just, we just lived the great single life. I mean we're on the island, we used to go -- he taught me to golf. I learned to love running with him, because where we lived, we were just half a mile from the beach, and every Saturday morning our routine was to jog up the Lanikai Loop, and we would just run along the beach for five miles until we got back.

Like any parent, I look at Jaden and I just think you could do anything. He's luckier than me, because he's born in the States, and he got to learn about the Military probably from a different perspective than what I got to growing up. I hope we instill the same work ethics to him, so that he doesn't think he's just a little spoiled Navy brat. (laughter)

This morning, I got to work early, I had my uniform in my office, and I was putting it on, and to myself in the mirror, in kind of an embarrassing way, I'll say it out loud, I was like "Dang, you look good." (laughter)

I do look back, and I think it's almost like an American dream story fairytale. If my parents didn't take the risk, I never would end up here, and now that I'm here, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to repay the country through my service, and I'm pretty proud of that. My dad has a picture of me in actually my whites uniform in his office. (laughter) And he just kind of displays it, and tells everyone his daughter's a Navy officer. My name is Thu Luu, I am a Lieutenant Commander Select in the Navy, serving as a dental officer.

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