Editor’s note: To mark the 30th anniversary of PennLive’s and The Patriot-News’ Best and Brightest awards, PennLive took some time to catch up with past recipients to see where they are today. This is the first in a series of five profiles.
Growing up the son of a nurse, Dr. Corey Black and his siblings were exposed early to the idea of a career in medicine and dealing directly with people who needed care — and to the idea of medicine as a path to success.
“I think the big thing for us was not wanting to struggle, like we did most of our lives,” said Black, who graduated from Harrisburg SciTech and was honored as one of The Patriot-News’ Best and Brightest in 2007. “And so when we’re together, we have conversations about this, and we’ll motivate each other. We feed off of each other’s energy, and I think we’ve done that our entire lives, to get ourselves out of, I guess, what would be considered a low income situation.”
After high school, he earned both his undergraduate degree and his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.
“In 2007 I think I wanted to be a medical doctor, a physician,” Black said. “But at some point over the next few years, in undergrad, I did some searching and some shadowing. And I decided that dentistry was the thing for me.”
Today, Black owns his own dental practice, Smile Space, in Brooklyn, N.Y. But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Black described several rounds of “culture shock,” first with the transition from high school to the demands of college.
“The first few years of undergrad, I really had to actually learn the proper way to study, while competing with classmates who were at the tops of their classes from all over the world,” Black said. “So that was a struggle, but I, you know, kind of figured it out. And then dental school was even more of a struggle, because there were less students, but overall, less diversity as well. And so I had to struggle with the rigors of academia but also, the social aspect was kind of challenging as well.”
The final bit of culture shock – but one that helped Black “really adapt to different people, different cultures, and different environments” – came when he spent a semester abroad.
“I lived in three different countries; Argentina, South Africa, and China,” he said. “We studied global health. It was amazing because I’d never been on a plane before, never left the country. For the first time, when I was on a plane to Argentina, I was just like, ‘wow, I’m actually a foreigner.’ I didn’t know what that meant at the time. So I learned to adapt.”
Black did his medical residency in New York, and then was hired by a dental office. But “within my first two months of working, I got fired from what I thought was my dream job doing surgery all day,” he said.
After that setback, Black worked for several different dental offices. At one point, he worked for five different offices at once. But after being let go again, he decided to make a change and open his own practice.
“That was the wake up call that I needed,” he said. “That was the catalyst to speed up this practice ownership process. I believed in myself, my patients love me. I knew I was doing quality work. So I took a leap of faith.”
Black has long-terms goals: he hopes to teach or join the World Health Organization. But in the meantime, he has discovered that he loves running his own business.
“I don’t know if I can imagine myself doing clinical dentistry for the rest of my life,” he said. “I love business more than dentistry, which is interesting. I don’t know if I ever expected that I’d be a practice owner.
“But yeah, I think I’ve kind of exceeded my own expectations.”