By Peggy Reisser Winburne
Dentist Christina Rosenthal (HSC ’05) helps young students realize their dreams through her Determined to be a Doctor Someday program in Memphis. Photo by Troy Glasgow
Dr. Christina Rosenthal looks back to move forward. A graduate of the College of Dentistry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, she was born in North Memphis in an area called Smokey City that she readily describes as inner city and poor.
Since June 2014, the 36-year-old wife and mother of three boys ages 14, 8 and 1 has temporarily left her successful southeast Memphis dental practice in the hands of her team while she works toward a master’s degree in public health at Harvard University.
The remarkable trajectory of her life has been fueled with big dreams, hard work, unshakable faith and much help from mentors who saw her potential. And she’s made it her mission to help others achieve, particularly those who come from circumstances like she did.
“I know my purpose is to help as many people as possible,” Rosenthal says. “I’m very transparent about my life, about my story, because I want people to know I went through some of the very same things. I worked hard, and look what became of it.”
She grew up in a single-parent home where money was scarce and the roof so porous that, when it rained outside, it rained inside. She recalls having to travel alone on two city buses to get to elementary school.
She also recalls the angels in her life—the principal who encouraged her to study, the family friends who helped take care of her when her mother could not, the people at church who kept her strong in her faith.
Valedictorian of her class at Northside High School, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Memphis and went on to graduate from UTHSC in 2005. She owns Paradigm Dental Center near the Hickory Hill area of Memphis.
Several years ago, Rosenthal, with the help of UTHSC, created an initiative called D.D.S., or Determined to be a Doctor Someday, to introduce promising low-income students to opportunities for careers in health care. It’s on hiatus while she is at Harvard, but she’s committed to “helping people to be better than they were,” so the program for young people is part of her plan for the future.
“I would tell any young person who is like the Christina Rosenthal of my youth, you have to focus on the big picture,” she says. “I know short-term circumstances may not permit you to think big, but you have to continue to maintain that vision, maintain that picture in your mind and just recognize that you have to make it. You have to do better so that you can reach down and help somebody else and make it a continuous cycle.” For more information about D.D.S., visit determinedtobeadoctor.com.