Pirate Profile: Jonathan Nowlin

The second-year student in the ECU School of Dental Medicine doesn’t take for granted any of the time he spends in the school’s home facility in Greenville. Nowlin graduated from ECU with a BS in public health studies; while he was working toward that degree, his ultimate goal was being accepted to the dental school.

Jonathan Nowlin, a second-year dental student, wants to help others through providing oral health care.

Jonathan Nowlin, a second-year dental student, wants to help others through providing oral health care. Photo by Rhett Butler

“One thing that motivates me is something that a faculty member said at the start of my first year of dental school,” Nowlin said. “They said, ‘You guys are here for a reason. Out of all of the hundreds of applicants that applied for these 52 seats, we chose you.’ That has always stuck with me. Dental school is definitely not easy, but the fact that the admissions committee at the school saw something in me that made them believe I was capable of being successful in their program continues to keep me going.”

Nowlin also stays motivated because the school’s fourth-year curriculum sends students to rural communities across the state to serve patients in the school’s community service learning centers. That opportunity for exposure to real-world experience through the school excited Nowlin from the start and lends itself to his penchant for helping others.

“As a longtime resident of this state, I was excited about attending a dental school that recognizes the needs of our state’s underserved citizens since I’ve spent much of my life volunteering and trying to help others,” he said. “The community service learning centers are a great example of the school’s commitment to providing care to communities in need.”

It was a conversation with his orthodontist that originally placed Nowlin on the path toward dental school. During a routine visit, Nowlin asked the doctor what he enjoyed most about his career; his answer passed a proverbial torch on to Nowlin.

Jonathan Nowlin, a second-year dental student from Jacksonville, presents his research at the Student National Dental Association National Convention in Washington, D.C. in July 2019

Jonathan Nowlin, a second-year dental student from Jacksonville, presents his research at the Student National Dental Association National Convention in Washington, D.C. in July 2019

“My orthodontist helped me realize that my enjoyment of using my hands, my desire to challenge myself and my passion for helping others are all qualities of a good dentist,” he said. “After becoming a dental student, my decision to pursue this career has only solidified as I continue to learn everything this field has to offer and all of the different ways that I will be able to help improve people’s smiles in the future.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic altered some parts of dental school for Nowlin and his classmates, he is keeping his eye on the course and cementing plans for the future. After earning his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree, he hopes to complete an Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency to give him extra experience and training to be able to provide even better care for future patients.

As for other future dentists, Nowlin recommends that undergraduates considering a career in the health field shadow a dentist to learn more about the profession.

“Shadowing is a great way for you to really see what this profession is all about, from the various surgical procedures, to the doctor-patient interactions and the overall workflow at a dental office,” Nowlin said. “If after shadowing a few dentists you still think that drilling into teeth is cool, then I think that you are well on your way to becoming a future dentist yourself.”


Name: Jonathan Nowlin
College: School of Dental Medicine
Major: Doctor of Dental Medicine
Age: 25
Classification/Year: Second year
Hometown: Jacksonville
Hobbies/interests: Going to the movies, eating at local restaurants, playing board games with my family and friends and listening to audio books on my way to school
Clubs and Organizations: Student National Dental Association


Favorite hangout: Home. A relaxing weekend at my house is my favorite kind of vacation.

Favorite place on campus: The dental school. I spent so much of my time during undergrad trying to make it into the ECU SODM, that finally being here is a dream come true. Being able to spend the last two years here has been so amazing and exciting.

Favorite place to eat: I Love Pho in Winterville

Favorite class: The endodontic course at the end of my first year of dental school. I grew up hearing about how “scary” root canals were. Once the faculty sat us down and went over the entire process, step-by-step, it actually became very fascinating. It was as if the magician revealed what was behind the curtain. I hope to be able to help provide that same kind of comfort to future patients, in order to alleviate any confusion or fears they might have towards root canal treatments.

Professor who influenced you the most: I can’t say that there has been one professor that has influenced me more than the others. There are so many different disciplines in dentistry and I am very fortunate to be able to work with such a diverse group of faculty who are experts in each of their own respective fields. This has allowed me the chance to learn about dentistry from multiple different perspectives and each one of the faculty have already had such an impact not only on my dental education, but on my future dental career as well.

Favorite TV show: “Breaking Bad”

Favorite band/musician: I don’t have a particular favorite band. If I listen to music, then it is simply whatever is on the radio at the time.

Favorite movie: “The Martian,” “The Departed,” all of the Marvel movies

Favorite website: YouTube


Dream job: General Dentist

Role model: My dad, Robert Nowlin

Your words to live by: Consistency is key.

What advice do you have for other students? Don’t let a single bad test or day keep you down. Learn from your stumbles and keep moving forward towards your dreams.

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? I didn’t find out about Sup Dogs until my junior year of undergrad at ECU, right after I moved away from my dorm that was right next to downtown Greenville. So many missed opportunities for a delicious meal.

By Spaine Stephens