Tara Peterson, D.D.S., is a 2018 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and member the U.S. curling team that competed at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. Her sister also made the team.
She spoke at SmileCon 2022 in Houston and allowed the New Dentist blog to publish her speech.
The speech, which has been slightly edited, follows:
Hi all, thanks so much for coming. Thanks to the ADA and SmileCon for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
My dad is a retired dentist and my mom, a retired hygienist. So obviously, they instilled the importance of dental hygiene to usat an early age.
Naturally, for Halloween every year, we were that house. Instead of handing out candy, we handed out toothbrushes and floss.There were lots of parents that loved our house and a lot of kids that weren’t our biggest fans.
I remember one year some kids were looking to stir up some trouble, or bored, and looking for something to do. They rang our doorbell. When my dad answered the door, he found this old greasy pizza box sitting on the stoop. Much to his surprise, written in ketchup, it read, “Stop with the toothbrushes.” And my dad was livid.
This little “Billy Madison” moment didn’t stop my parents from continuing to give out toothbrushes for many more years. After my dad retired, he didn’t have access to easily getting toothbrushes anymore, but still refused to give out candy because he always said, “It was against everything he believes in.” So, the first year of his retirement, he gave out dollar bills. Suddenly, we became the most loved house on the block at Halloween.
My siblings and I always say that our parents brain-washed us into the health care field. My mom always said, “You will always have job security in health care.” My sister went on to become a pharmacist, and my brother a nurse anesthetist. And obviously, I chose dentistry.
I loved dental school. There were obviously some very stressful and hard times, but when I look back on it, I remember all the fun times and good memories that I had.
I graduated from dental school four years ago and found a great job in a private practice in White Bear Lake, Minnesota,a suburb of Saint Paul two years ago.
I am fortunate that I have learned a vast amount from my two colleagues during this time. When I interviewed for this job, I discussed my little problem — called curling — with the owner. He stated he fully supported my Olympic ambitions and would be happy to add me on as an associate three days a week. This schedule worked perfectly so I could continue to balance dentistry with curling.
My grandpa had grown up curling, as he was originally from Canada. In 2000, my parents decided we should all give the sport a try and signed my siblings up for junior curling on Saturday mornings. And we hated it.
I don’t remember why we disliked it so much, but two possible reasons are: We didn’t want to get out of bed that early, and we didn’t have any friends at the club yet. We thought the best part about junior curling was the snacks that we’d get to eat during the break.
My sister and I stuck with the sport and eventually got kind of good. We continued to travel and compete throughout the states and the world. My team won our first Junior Nationals, that led us to our first Junior Worlds that was being held in Vancouver in 2009. It was the year before the Olympics and therefore was a trial run for the 2010 Olympics. Standing in the Olympic venue and being treated like an Olympian, was my first glimpse that my Olympic dream could become a reality. I just needed to stick with it and work hard.
Flash forward 13 years and here we are. I had made it on the 2022 Olympic Curling Team.
The opening ceremony was my favorite part of the Olympics.Dressing up. Walking down the entrance ramp into the bird’s nest seeing the Olympic rings, seeing all the countries’ athletes walking inside the arena. It was that jaw-dropping experience. It still gives me goose bumps.
The closing ceremony was also super cool.
The team is slightly different moving forward. Two girls did retire.
But my sister and I are going to make another run, because why not?