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Meet one of the Science Cheerleaders: Heather Crockett-Washington, DDS

Issue 10

Before Heather Crockett-Washington was a dentist, she was a professional cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team. 

Before Heather Crockett-Washington was a dentist, she was a professional cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals NFL team. 

Today, the Connecticut-based dentist has not entirely retired her pom poms. Crockett-Washington is a member of a group comprised of current and former NFL and NBA called the Science Cheerleader. The group is working to promote interest in science by challenging the stereotypes associated with the mutual exclusivity of brains and beauty.

“It’s meant to challenge the stereotypes and show young women it’s okay to love science,” said Crockett-Washington, who cheered for the Bengals from 2001 to 2003.

Being an NFL cheerleader allowed Crockett-Washington to pursue an interest in dance that she developed as a child and has maintained throughout her life.

“It was an amazing experience," said Crockett-Washington. "I just loved being on the field in front of 60,000 fans and doing something I love,” she said.

Crockett-Washington earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology at Whitman College in Washington State. While exploring possible topics for a research paper she decided to study dental anxiety, which fueled her interest in becoming a dentist.  

After graduating from Whitman she moved to the East. She completed her dental studies at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry and did her general practice residency at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. 

Crockett-Washington later received her master’s degree in public health at the Yale School of Public Health. Her experience included stints working with underserved populations as a prison dentist, on an Indian reservation in Minnesota, and in a hospital’s emergency department.

The Science Cheerleader was featured recently on the TODAY Show.

“Working with the prison population was interesting because they did have a lot of needs,” said Crockett-Washington. “They did have meth mouth.”

Those experiences helped her better define the role she wants to have in dentistry.

“It piqued my interest in how I can help people on an aggregate level,” she said.

Most recently, Crockett-Washington worked for one year in a private practice, but this month she will begin a new role at the Community Health Center in Middleton, Conn., where she will treat patients, oversee residents, and do oral health research.

In her spare time, Crockett-Washington continues to combine her interests in dance and science. The Science Cheerleader is made up of 200 current and former professional cheerleaders from the NFL, NBA, and other professional sports leagues who are pursuing science and engineering careers.

The group performs at professional games and meets young people at schools and other events. Crockett-Washington said the group’s members want to alter misperceptions on two fronts.

“The stereotype is that scientists are nerdy and cheerleaders aren’t that smart,” she said. “If we can make it cool to be a scientist maybe more will pursue it as a career.”

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