Amazing Students

Emily Johnson

Emily Johnson in front of the Chapel bell. (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

From studying abroad to performing research to cheerleading, Emily Johnson has paved a path toward her goal of serving the underserved as a compassionate dentist.



High school:

Mount Paran Christian School

Family ties to UGA:

I am the first person in my family to attend UGA. However, after making the UGA cheerleading squad my freshman year, my parents quickly became huge Georgia Bulldog fans. They have attended every home game and most away games these past three years to support me and cheer on the Dawgs!

Expected graduation:

Spring 2019

Degree objective:

B.S. in Biology, B.S. in Psychology

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

From my very first week in Creswell 722, I knew that the four years I spent at this University would be special. Since I enjoy staying busy, I decided to get involved in a number of organizations across campus. The past three years, I have represented UGA by cheering at football, basketball, gymnastics and volleyball sporting events. I also act as an ambassador for the university at numerous alumni, charity and fundraising events and appearances. I was honored to receive a UGA Cheerleading Academic Excellence Award for the 2017-2018 season. I have really enjoyed traveling around the country cheering on our football team. This past season, I was fortunate to travel with the team to South Bend, Indiana, for the Notre Dame game and to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. I look forward to seeing where this upcoming year takes us.

I have taken advantage of UGA’s study abroad and serve abroad opportunities. The summer after my freshman year, I studied abroad in the Cortona Science and Art History Program. In addition to learning about the advances in cancer treatment and the overuse of antibiotics, I enjoyed studying art history in Rome, Florence and Siena, Italy. The summer following my sophomore year, I participated in a two-week program sponsored by Volunteers Around the World, where I assisted local dentists with patient care in Jarabocoa, an impoverished community in the Dominican Republic.

I am a member of Zeta Tau Alpha. Zeta has led me to some of my closest friends, who push me to be my absolute best and never let me settle. I have held various leadership roles in Zeta including: New Member Council member, Pink Picnic Philanthropy Committee member, and New Member college ambassador. In addition to Greek life, I am an active member in the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honor Society, Order of Omega Greek Honor Society, and the UGA Pre-Dental Society. Throughout my junior and senior years, I have held an executive position in the Christian Medical and Dental Association. As the director of recruitment for CMDA, I am responsible for generating interest in the organization and ensuring its continued growth through new membership. Additionally, I have been a dental assistant volunteer at Mercy Health Center in Athens since the summer of my sophomore year.

Last semester I had the pleasure of doing undergraduate research in the Exercise Muscle Physiology Lab under the supervision of Kevin McCully. As a research assistant, I studied the effects of adipose tissue on the endurance index of the forearm muscles. As one of the team leaders on our research project, I enjoy meeting and interacting with our research participants. I have gained a greater knowledge of research protocols and muscle physiology, and am in the process of publishing our research results in a scientific journal.

I chose to attend UGA because …

While on the UGA campus tour, I felt so welcomed and comfortable. I could picture my college life in Athens, and no other colleges I visited could compete. Graduating from a small private school, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t find my place at such a large university. However, UGA’s numerous organizations and opportunities for involvement unite diverse students across campus making our large campus feel like home. With the incredible atmosphere of Athens, the Zell Miller Scholarship, and the opportunity to cheer on the Dawgs between the hedges, I would have been crazy to think of attending another college.

My favorite things to do on campus are …

Spending Saturdays during the fall cheering on the Dawgs in Sanford Stadium. There is no feeling that compares to hearing the lone trumpeter blast the “Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation” as the entire stadium stands at attention pointing to the southwest corner of the field. Larry Munson said it best when he said, “There is no tradition more worthy of envy, no institution worthy of such loyalty, as the University of Georgia.”

When I have free time, I like …

Free time? I don’t really have much free time. However, I enjoy staying busy by spending my Fridays volunteering at Mercy Health Center. Mercy is a nonprofit Christian medical and dental facility that benefits low-income, uninsured patients in the Athens area. I have volunteered as a dental assistant since the summer of my sophomore year. Since then, I have had the opportunity to serve some incredible patients and assist numerous dental professionals. I also enjoy hanging out with my friends and ZTA sorority sisters trying new restaurants around Athens.

The craziest thing I’ve done is …

It’s a tie between riding an elephant in Africa or paragliding off a mountain in the Dominican Republic. While on a trip to Zimbabwe, I got the opportunity to feed and ride an elephant. It was an incredible experience where I got to marvel at the beauty of the African countryside while sitting on top of such an enormous and amazing creature. My other crazy adventure occurred during the summer of my sophomore year when I traveled to the Dominican Republic to volunteer at free dental clinics with Volunteers Around the World. After clinics ended, we had a few days to explore the country. We decided to go paragliding, and the next thing I knew I was standing on the edge of a cliff strapped to a parachute. The guide’s only instructions were to “Run as fast as you can!”, so I ran. I will never forget the distinct contrast of emotions I felt in the first few minutes of paragliding, from the rush of adrenaline to the calm serenity I experienced flying above the beautiful Dominican Republic landscape.

My favorite place to study is …

The Science Library!!! On a busy test week, I will probably spend more time at the Science Library than I do at my house. While studying for the Dental Admission Test this past May, I spent every day for two straight weeks in the third floor cubicles. I am also a coffee addict, and spend way too much time and money studying at Starbucks.

My favorite professor is …

… Karl Espelie. Dr. Espelie took me under his wing as my advisor during my freshman year, and I could not be more grateful. He truly cares for his advisees, helping them every step of their college career. He encouraged me to study abroad and helped me find the perfect program. In addition to academics, he has constantly supported me as a student athlete, attending multiple gymnastics meets and basketball games. He unites his pre-health advisees by inviting them to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner celebrations. His Honors class, “Seminar in Modern Biology,” was one of the most future-oriented and useful classes I have taken in college. Without Dr. Espelie’s guidance, I would not feel as prepared during the dental school application process, or as confident as I approach the next stage of my life.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …

… New York Times best-selling author Bob Goff. After reading both of Goff’s books, “Love Does” and “Everybody Always,” this past summer, I was inspired. Each chapter in his books is filled with interesting stories that detail Bob’s life and the incredible impact he has made on the world. Bob’s first book, “Love Does,” encourages readers to truly love others by taking action. He says, “Don’t wait to join a movement. A movement is just a bunch of people making moves. Be a movement. Figure out what your next move is going to be, then make it. No one is remembered for what they only planned to do.” All of the proceeds from the book fund Love Does, a charitable organization founded by Mr. Goff, which strives to educate and protect children living in conflict zones around the world. He spent the early years of his adult life as a practicing lawyer, but then became the diplomatic consul to the Republic of Uganda. Currently, he travels around the world leading motivational conferences and sharing his faith. I would love to spend an afternoon with Bob Goff, listening to his crazy stories and gaining wisdom from his unique insight on life.

If I knew I could not fail, I would …

… resolve the opioid crisis. The widespread misuse and addiction to opioids is a huge, often overlooked epidemic in the United States. This issue has impacted me and my family personally. Growing up, I always looked up to my older cousin Sam. He was genuinely kind and incredibly smart, graduating from CU Boulder with degrees in physics and math. After having surgery for a shoulder injury in college, he was prescribed opioids to alleviate the pain. Like tens of thousands of other people prescribed opioids each year, this prescription led to addiction, which later took his life. Sam left us far too soon. If I knew I could not fail, I would travel around the country educating medical professionals on the devastating effects of over-prescribing opioids. I would also help solve this issue by raising funds for addiction recovery centers around the United States. I would like to develop a new drug that alleviates pain as well as opioids, but without their addictive properties. As a pre-dental student, this issue hits home. Dentists often unnecessarily prescribe large doses of painkillers for minor oral surgeries or extractions. I hope to one day be a responsible practitioner, who only writes prescriptions that are absolutely necessary for my patients’ well-being.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to …

… travel the world with my friends and family. I have a passion for traveling and am fortunate to have visited 20 incredible countries already. I love getting immersed in different cultures and seeing diverse lifestyles. This past summer, I visited the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. Each trip has given me a new perspective on life and fueled my desire to travel and explore more of the world.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

I have a passion for serving others. I have been on three mission trips thus far, one to the Dominican Republic and two to Guatemala. I have realized how blessed we are to have available and quality health and dental care in the United States. Throughout dental school and after I become a dentist, I hope to provide free dental care to financially burdened members in my local community as well as those living abroad.

After graduation, I plan to …

… attend dental school! I have wanted to be a dentist since the beginning of my sophomore year, and have worked hard these past two years to become a competitive dental school applicant. I am currently in the middle of the admissions process, one step closer to achieving my goal. I applied to dental schools across the South and have no idea where I will end up, but I am excited to further challenge myself by continuing my education.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …

… representing UGA during the 2018 Rose Bowl. It was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever been a part of. It was thrilling traveling to Pasadena on the top floor of a 747, walking beside the UGA float in the Rose Bowl parade, and performing for the UGA fans in Disneyland. I will never forget walking onto the field and looking around the stadium at the sea of Georgia red. Usually I prefer an easy Georgia win, but I would not change a single thing about that game. The excitement and energy that rushed through the stadium when Lorenzo Carter blocked the field goal in the second overtime to help seal the win for Georgia was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. I am so grateful to UGA cheerleading for the unique and incredible opportunities and friendships that I’ve made and experienced these past three years.