CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– Getting patients to open wide has been in her plans most of her life. Dr Vicki Tatum recalls when she sank her teeth into the idea of becoming a dentist. She was about 12 years old.
“We were sitting in the office of the orthodontist office and my dad said ‘Vicki, I think this would be a good job for you’ and I said ‘I think it would be a good job for me'”, Dr. Tatum said.
She is a graduate of Wofford College and the Medical University of South Carolina School of Dentistry
“I love dentistry. I’ve done it for 26 years now and i still love it”, Dr Tatum said.
She is also skilled at creating smiles in a different way. Dr Tatum has introduced hundreds of students to life beyond the borders of the United States.
Dr. Tatum is a member of the St. Andrews Rotary Club 7770.
During the past 13 years, she has led the charge of sending dozens of students all around the world.
“You learn how to problem solve, you learn how to make decisions, you make mistakes but you learn from them because you have to.”
Dr. Tatum has sent students to nearly continent.
“Japan and Taiwan, in Europe Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Demark, Mexico, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru.”
While studying abroad, students live with a host family, learn a new language, go to school, travel to other countries and immerse themselves in the country’s culture.
Legare Sinkler said Dr. Tatum planted the idea of studying abroad.
“Studying abroad when I was 15 hadnt really crossed my mind and then I thought this is definitely for me”, Sinkler said.
15 year old Piper Carter will study in France for 10 months. She leaves next month.
“A lot of people probably wouldn’t want to pursue this on their own you should do this you will learn so much its a valuable experience. (Dr. Tatum) said dont be scared”
Carter said these students are part of a mutual admiration society.
“I definitely think she is a hero for that”, Carter said.
“She was amazing she is so community minded”, Sinkler said.
They are grateful for the path they say Dr. Tatum created for them.
“She really watched out for me throughout the process,”Sinkler said.
“All of our exchange students are going to be more marketable in the job market they are going to be accepted into colleges. They are proven commodities as far as living away from home”, Dr. Tatum said.
Dr. Tatum said it is the mission of the rotary and a personal passion that drives her to push students to their potential.
“It is all about pooling resources and serving others making the world a better place”, Dr. Tatum said.
Dr Tatum and her family have hosted dozens of students in their home through rotary exchange. She is no longer chairperson of the St. Andrews Rotary Exchange program but continues to support students and their families.