We are very proud to announce Dr. Erica has been selected to the prestigious Billings Gazette "40 Under Forty!" Please click the link
to read her article listed at number 30.
Hometown: Laurel/Billings, Montana
Erica Stokke graduated from Billings
West High in 2006. Since then, she went from being a standout athlete
to college student to being accepted to the University of California
Los Angeles' School of Dentistry. She has received national and state
awards for her work and accomplishments.
How did you decide to become a dentist?
I didn’t know what I wanted to be
when I grew up, but I knew that I did not want to be a dentist. In
high school, I participated in Medical Careers where I explored
careers in the medical field, but disappointingly there was nothing
that I loved. I knew that I was meant to help people, but didn’t
know how. In college, I met with multiple career counselors and they
all said the same thing: You are going to be a dentist.
Throughout college I started to notice
that during my school breaks I was spending the majority of my time
at my dad’s dental office. I saw how he was combining the science
that I was learning in college and art to help others while building
relationships along the way. I admired the craft of working with your
hands and the tremendous attention to detail it took to design smiles
or take someone out of pain. At that point I knew I was meant to be a
Why did you choose to come back home to
Being young and unattached after high
school, I wanted to explore other parts of the country, develop into
my own person, and see what I was made of. I moved to three different
states without knowing a single person and had to make my own way. I
was immersed in different cultures, beliefs and lifestyles and was
able to create long lasting friendships and persevere through trying
circumstances. But I always knew that I would return to Montana. We
still have pristine wilderness, a strong and kind local community,
and a great simplified lifestyle focusing on people rather than
things. In the 10 years of living outside of Montana and pursuing my
career, I never faltered with my decision to return home. There is
truly something magical about Montana.
Why would you tell someone to relocate
to the Billings area?
I would tell someone to relocate to the
Billings area because we have a flourishing economy with a strong
local community and small-town mentality. The area has everything a
larger city has to offer while being accessible to any outdoor
activity -- backpacking, hiking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking,
and skiing. Whether you are looking for a quick river float after
work or a weekend getaway, it is all available right here. Besides
the city having multiple opportunities, we are less than an hour away
from almost a million acres of true wilderness. The adventure
possibilities are endless and offer a fulfilling, relaxed and simple
Did you ever think you would fail?
Growing up, I was taught that failure
is not an option. My parents raised me to think positively, to think
for myself, and to problem solve. My mother has been a teacher at
Elder Grove School for more than 30 years and instilled resilience,
perseverance and the importance of steady, hard work. She gave me the
freedom to think independently, solve problems creatively, and stick
to a task until I achieved it. This made me believe in myself.
This is not to say that daunting and
trying moments did not arise; however, my lessons as a child allowed
me to stay positive and resilient. I was fortunate enough to be one
of 10 out-of-state students accepted into the UCLA School of
Dentistry. My classmates came from private schools and schools for
the gifted in California while I came from a country school. I had my
mom as a teacher twice, my aunt once, and my grandfather was
commissioned to come into the school to teach four of us algebra in
the school office as it was not offered at the time. Needless to say,
when I arrived at UCLA, I wondered how I would stack up against the
other students. Through discipline and diligence, I systematically
studied and practiced every day. I did this for myself, but more so
because I wanted to be a great dentist that helped others to the
absolute best of my ability. I loved every minute of it and soaked up
every tidbit of knowledge so I could be an impactful, honest and
helpful dentist for the people I would serve. At the end of my four
years, I realized that through my discipline and passion, I graduated
at the top of my class of more than 100 students and was inducted
into a national dental honor society.
What is the most rewarding aspect of
The most rewarding aspect of my job is
helping others, creating relationships, planning comprehensive cases,
and educating patients to prevent future dental needs. I chose
general dentistry because I am able to help people of all ages in a
variety of ways. I can help patients by relieving pain, by helping
someone chew again, or by improving self-confidence with a new smile.
I enjoy working with patients to put together the pieces of the
puzzle for individualized treatment and educating patients on their
risk factors to prevent them from needing major dental work down the
One of your nominations mentions that
you have training in medically complex patients. To some, that would
sound scary. Why have you chosen to train for complex cases?
I chose to train for complex cases
because I believe that everyone deserves competent dental care. If
something is scary, I believe you should learn more about it. The
more you understand the less scary something becomes.
What is one thing still on your list of
goals to complete in the future?
One thing that is on my list of goals
that I would like to complete in the future is to volunteer for
dental missions abroad. In dental school I did free dental work in
Guatemala during one of my breaks, and I’d like to continue to give
back in the future. I am fortunate to be trained with a specific
skill set and believe it is my responsibility to share it and help