Published September 20, 2017
When Leonard Binns’ oldest son told him he had been accepted into dental school at UB, Binns knew the achievement was the result of an extraordinary commitment of time and effort.
“Marshall had been working full time here at the dental school for the last nine years,” says Binns, a longtime senior programmer and analyst in the School of Dental Medicine. “He had given a lot of thought to graduate school for chemistry before realizing that wasn’t the right choice for him.
Meanwhile, Binns’ middle son, Jon, had accepted a position as a chemist with a firm on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “After conversations with our youngest son, Chris, who was planning on going to medical school, he (Jon) decided becoming a doctor also made sense for him,” says Binns, who holds a computer science degree from UB.
Jon Binns received his acceptance letter from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences this past summer.
Binns says he and his wife, Carol, were thrilled that two of their three sons had been accepted at the dental and medical schools at UB.
“Then a few weeks after that, Chris came into my office,” Binns says. “At the time we knew his brothers were going to UB. And he just said, ‘I made it. I got in!’”
Binns was immediately happy for him, and asked: “Great! Where did you get in?
“He said, ‘Here. I got in here!’”
“You know, I didn’t know I was going to be doing this,” Chris told UBNow in an interview a few weeks ago. “I wasn’t planning on medical school until partway through my sophomore year of college, and by that point, it went from, like, no one thinking about this seriously to all three of us studying for entrance exams for medical and dental school.
“I’m sure they didn’t see it coming at all,” he says of his parents.
Jon agrees: “I’m sure all of this came as a surprise to both of our parents.”
Like his brothers, Jon had graduated from Canisius College with a degree in chemistry.
“I started working as a chemist in 2015 for a company that is now called Athenex Pharmaceuticals,” he says. “It was a great opportunity … I worked there two years, until this past July when I received my acceptance letter.
“I had already started the planning process for medical school, and Chris’ opinion played into my deciding this was a good idea for me as well. I made the decision to go maybe, three-quarters through 2016.”
“It’s something I had been thinking about for a long time,” Chris says. “Our mother is a nurse and the first experience I had with health care. But my first big exposure with patients was through UB.”
Working in the UB dental school part time — in patient records and occasionally at the reception desk during high school — provided Chris with an opportunity to watch student dentists interacting with patients.
“It was the first time I had interacted with patients. I thought … that’s something I could do, that I would want to do. I wanted to be a part of that,” he says.
“After that I talked to my mom, who, being a nurse, was very supportive.”
Carol Binns, a trauma and ICU nurse at Erie County Medical Center, recalls that through the years she had told her three sons that, no matter how stressful or difficult a situation, “we keep going, moving forward and moving people toward caring.”
“You are seeing people at what can often be the worst time in their lives and you are provided with opportunities to have a positive effect on someone’s life every day,” she says. “One small moment can have a huge impact.”
Carol arranged for Chris to shadow surgeons at ECMC. He quickly developed a deep interest in the specialty.
“And that is what really turned it for me, Chris explains. “That’s when I started applying, getting on the pre-med tracks, started taking all my prerequisites at Canisius.”
Marshall began working at the dental school while he was in high school, working full time during the summers setting up laptops for dental students, then continuing part time while attending Canisius.
“When I graduated, they (UB) offered me a full-time position,” he says. “I took the job, which turned out to go for the next four years.”
Over that time, Marshall says, a number of students suggested dental school would be a good fit for him.
“Two of them helped me set up places to shadow dentists and observe clinical practice here,” he says. “Which was, in fact, a great help to me in learning about dentistry. All of it got me thinking, and I decided that was what I wanted.”
Marshall realized that having been out of college for several years, he needed to be prepared to take the admissions test.
“So I would come home and watch YouTube videos and courses online, during that time period when I was shadowing dentists,” he says. “It was a bit of a struggle, but I had a commitment to doing this.”
Marshall passed the admissions test in 2015, but was not accepted anywhere that fall. Staying with it during the next year, he re-applied and was accepted at UB.
“I was very excited about that,” he says. “Having spent nine years working here, and with my dad being here, there really wasn’t anywhere else where I wanted to go.
“I really like this place a lot. I very much like the faculty, and as I started thinking about going to dental school, this is where I always wanted to be.”
Adds Chris: “That is how we all feel.”
Jon says it is exciting to be able to attend medical school in the new building. “Athenex is in the Conventus building … literally next door,” he says. “I was watching this being built every day while I was working there.”
Jon notes there was always a chance some of the brothers could have ended up at different schools in different parts of the state.
“So we feel blessed about being able to be here to offer support, whether it’s a meal at home or just being there for all that is to come,” Carol says. “I know the time constraints that are placed on medical school students because I see it all the time.”
Leonard says that one of the hardest things about being a parent “is realizing they are on this path by themselves.”
“They did it on their own,” he points out “We didn’t think it up for them, didn’t research which schools they should apply to and we held back from saying, ‘Hey, don’t forget this and don’t forget that.’”
Both parents agreed that once the applications were submitted it came down to waiting and hoping.
“There was a little bit of nail-biting there. Times three, actually,” Leonard says.
“You are silently asking yourself the question: Is it going to be two out of three … or will they go three-for-three? You have to wait to find out.”