Meet the Doctor
Dr. Mark WhitlockDDS
As a non-traditional student, my journey to dentistry has been an unlikely one. I spent much of my twenties resisting conventional societal roles, being responsible only for myself. Adventurous with an insatiable zest for life, but with no real calling, I dropped out of college at nineteen and sold all of my belongings to buy a ticket around the world. I felt compelled to experience life outside of the United States and explore communities of varying socio-economic statuses, religions and cultures. Living in eighteen countries over six years, I quickly built relationships with locals and found myself welcomed into homes and communities everywhere I went.
My time submerged in third world countries taught me to appreciate many things: good hygiene, access to quality medical and dental care, community relationships, and the power of personal interactions.
I returned to the United States at 26, and my life unexpectedly changed overnight: I found myself in love for the first time. But, within six months of dating, my then-girlfriend was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Suddenly, I was no longer responsible for only myself. I was a caregiver: taking my future-wife to appointments, nursing her back to health after surgery, keeping her company, and caring for her through chemotherapy and radiation. I asked questions, listened carefully to her needs, and realized a yearning to make a difference.
In the midst of my wife’s battle with cancer, I established my business here in Memphis. I built, marketed, and operated a successful and profitable carpet cleaning business for over seven years, amassing more than 5,000 loyal clients. Servicing their homes and seeing the smiles on their faces was rewarding. As clients learned of my wife’s fight and asked questions, I found myself sharing our story and discussing HPV and its link to cancer. I also found a great sense of accomplishment in informing others about the need for preventive care. Through these conversations, and my experiences with my wife’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery, I knew I had more to give my community than clean carpets. I discovered that I wanted to be a part of the medical community.
My research to discover precisely what I wanted to do began. As dentists have been a part of my wife’s family for generations, I took advantage of my familial contacts and shadowed several practitioners with varying focuses. After my first week of seeing cavities filled, chipped teeth fixed, and dentures placed, followed by the smiles on the newly confident faces, I knew that I wanted to be a part of the dental community.
My first experience shadowing took me back to my time on the island of Gili Meno in South Indonesia. Each morning I got up, ate banana pancakes, and played in the ocean with the local kids. There were two young, adorable sisters who were both very shy. They religiously covered their mouths when they ate or talked, shielding their crooked and decaying teeth from sight. I wanted so much to help them, but I had no dental skills. So instead, I learned words to express beauty in their language.
When I engaged them, I used these words to build their confidence. Eventually, they put their hands down and showed me their smiles. It was tremendous to watch the transformation in these girls and to see how much more outgoing they became from our interactions and their newfound confidence.
I imagine a similar and perhaps even more profound impact as a dentist. Thus, I realized, albeit later than some, that dentistry is my calling.
With a never before felt drive and a passion for a profession that I one day hoped to call my own, I returned home from my shadowing experiences, sold my company, and immersed myself into life as a full-time student. My desire to better my life and the lives of my family members, including my four beautiful children; my desire to serve my community and improve the lives of my neighbors, peers, and friends; my desire to make a positive impact on my small corner of the world; and my passion for the field of dentistry have led me to the dental profession.
- University of Memphis – Bachelor’s degree in biology
- University of Tennessee Dental School – Doctor of Dental Surgery
- I love the Tennessee Vols!
- I met my wife while waiting on her table in South Beach, Florida. Ask me the story on your next visit!
- We have lived in the Memphis area for 18 years.