By Carjamin Scott
Dr. Kerwin Scott, DDS, is the first Black male Periodontist Resident at the University of Florida. Dr. Keith Taylor, DDS, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon at Mid-South Dental Implant and Dental Surgery Center, describes his mentee as “Kerwin has to be one of the
most respectful but disrespectful people I know. He is headstrong. He is going to do what he wants to do.” Raised by his parents and alongside an older sister and two younger sisters, Kerwin spent his young adult years in Milwaukee, WI, with his immediate family and teenage years in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, with his uncle. “My son was a curious child. He was always exploring and has always been a risk-taker. His best attribute is that he can take bad situations and turn them into good ones. He doesn’t let anything break him,” said his mom.
After high school, Kerwin enlisted in the US Marine Corps. He wanted to play basketball
and was sold a dream by the recruiter that he would play basketball for the Marine Corps. That did not work out. Instead, he had to learn how to thrive in a strict environment and become more organized and strategic. Although it was a challenging experience, Kerwin was able to implement what he learned. While serving, Kerwin began to dream about life outside of the military. He had a love for animals and science and figured that he should become a Marine Biologist.
Kerwin’s path to attend college started after visiting Lane College, an HBCU in Jackson, TN, with his late cousin Edwin Marcel Jones. Kerwin says that the first thing he saw on campus was “the greeks strolling on the yard,” and at that moment, he knew that he was going to enroll. At Lane, Kerwin studied Biology, worked with the Basketball team, and was mentored by Dr. Taylor. “I remember working in Dr. Taylor’s Office and Michi, his surgical assistant, asked me to wash the instruments, and I replied, I’m not washing any instruments, I am here to become a doctor.” Kerwin loves to tell people that story. He continued, “Dr. Taylor waited until the end of the day; he pulled me to the side and said, Did you tell Michi that you aren’t going to wash any instruments? Kerwin, you have to know everything about what goes on in this office. Don’t you know that I wash instruments?” said Dr. Taylor.
After graduating from Lane College Magna Cum Laude with a Biology degree, Kerwin was rejected from several dental schools. He had a hard time getting a competitive score on the DAT exam. Every year, he tried a new study strategy, Kerwin says, “I remember recording a
message on my voicemail that said, Hey this is Kerwin, and I’m studying. I can’t talk right now.” That’s how focused he was. After four years of rejection letters, Kerwin received an acceptance letter for the Master of Health Science program at Meharry Medical College. Enrolling in the program meant that he would have to leave his job as a Representative for the Social Security department, relocate from Memphis to Nashville with his newlywed wife and small child without the guarantee of Dental school.
The family decided to take a risk, and they moved from their new home in Memphis to a tiny apartment in Nashville. He had the weight of his new family on his shoulders while enrolled in the full-time program. Most of his classmates were young and had entered the program immediately after undergrad. Kerwin already had experience from the Marine Corps, working a career job, and interning at an Oral Surgery office. However, Kerwin hadn’t been in college in a while and had to learn how to study with younger people.
After Kerwin completed the Master of Health Sciences degree, he was not immediately offered admission into the Doctor of Dental Surgery program. He was devastated. After letter writing, several meetings, and fervent prayer, the admissions committee reviewed his application again; he was admitted into the dental program. His dream was delayed, not deferred.
While enrolled as a Doctor of Dental Surgery at Meharry Medical College, Kerwin soared. Scott was determined to prove why he belonged in the program. He became an active member of the American Student Dental Association, Oral Surgery Club, and held a
leadership position in the Salt Wagon Dental Clinic. He maintained a 3.0 GPA and formed a study group with Kami’Lah Brown, who is now a Dental Resident in the Department of Otolaryngology in the Division of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery at Johns Hopkins, and Se’quon Scott, who will begin as a Periodontist Resident at the University of Texas at Austin in Fall 2021.
He also had fun. He was the star player on the Platinum Collection intramural basketball team and was a mentor to incoming members of his fraternal organization, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He and his wife also bore a son, Kerwin Scott, Jr. He was committed to his profession and personal life and made sure that his family was involved in his collegiate experience. Initially, Scott wanted to follow in his mentor’s footsteps to become an Oral Surgeon; however, he decided to pivot to Periodontology. He felt this career would allow him the ability to spend more time with his family.
He completed Oral Surgery and Periodontist internships at Vanderbilt University, and the University of Florida during his senior year. “I had to stay with a current UF Pediatric Resident and Meharry Medical College grad; because it was a week-long internship, and I only had enough money to get there and come back.” Kerwin continued. “My family and I were on a tight budget, with two small children and one salary; we did not want to spend the money on a hotel,” said Kerwin.
While at the University of Florida, Kerwin says, “I feel in love with the experience, the people, and the city. I could picture myself here.” During the matching process, Kerwin ranked the University of Florida as his number one pick. They ranked Kerwin as well. Kerwin and his family purchased a home and moved to Gainesville, FL. Kerwin became the first Black male Periodontist residency at the University of Florida.