When Brannon Myrick's first child was born, he felt that something was not exactly “typical.” Although the delivery was uneventful, the doctors and nurses whisked little Leighton Olivia away, leaving Myrick torn between making sure his wife, Lisa, was okay and checking on his new daughter.
Myrick had spent the first few years of his career as a nurse, but he wasn't prepared for the diagnosis of Down syndrome. He and his wife were not quite 30 years old, making the risk of having a child with Down syndrome less than one in 1,000, according to the March of Dimes.
“The hardest thing is that [the doctor] walked in and just said it in front of all the family and friends in the room,” said Myrick. “When you look around at your parents and all the people you've looked to for security and see in their eyes the same fear you are feeling, you know it's you and you alone to deal with it.”
Myrick said that when facing unexpected circumstances in life, a person can “fold in and run or say this is what you've got and get out there,” living life to the fullest despite the difficulties.
“And that's what we did,” said Myrick. “We've done it ever since.”
The first step was to move back home. Myrick had changed careers from nursing to construction manager of multi-million dollar projects and was managing a military construction project at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Being a construction manager meant moving frequently to where the jobs were located. He knew that another career change was in his future.
“We knew we needed the support of family,” said Myrick. “We realized early intervention is a big thing, which is one of the main reasons you want a home base. You can't just go moving all around and having to re-establish those services.”
He and his wife moved back to Mississippi and started Leighton on multiple therapies, including physical and occupational therapy, so that she could meet her developmental milestones. It was during one of Leighton's therapy visits that Myrick was inspired to consider dentistry as his new career.
Seeing a Smile Train advertisement in a magazine while attending therapy with his daughter, Leighton, left, led Myrick to consider a career in dentistry.
“I was flipping through a magazine when I saw an advertisement for a cleft lip and cleft palate repair team called Smile Train,” said Myrick. “I saw there was an oral and maxillofacial surgeon among the team of professionals. I don't know why, but that caught my eye.”
Myrick then shadowed an oral surgeon to find out if it was a good fit for him. The first step to becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a dental degree, so he reached out to dentists in Jackson and surrounding areas for information.
“I shadowed all the specialties and general dentists to get a feel for what was out there. I liked it,” said Myrick. “After my first day of shadowing, I realized that the profession has everything I was looking for in a career.”
Myrick has been an exceptional student in the School of Dentistry. He took home multiple awards from senior honors night, including the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons Dental Student Award, the Pierre Fauchard Academy Senior Award, the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor and the Dean's Scholastic Achievement Award. He was also inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
“Brannon brings the qualities of maturity and commitment to family,” said Dr. Wayne Caswell, associate professor of dentistry. “He also has incredible skills needed to be a dentist and the positive personality to succeed in everything he does. Brannon will be a great credit to the profession of dentistry.”
Leighton is now big sister to 5-year-old Laurel Rae and 1-year-old Lincoln Gregory Cranford. Myrick said that he would not change a thing about his daughter.
“The future for Leighton is as bright as any other child's future,” said Myrick. “She's brought my family closer together. Without her I would never have this career. I would never have thumbed through that magazine."