magazine-category: Alumni

Delivering Smiles

Dr. Trey Miller with patient

Trey Miller, ’08 Sinks his Teeth Into New Dental Practice

When Trey Miller graduated from Gardner-Webb University in 2008, the thought of becoming a dentist hadn’t entered his mind. The Kannapolis, N.C., resident certainly had no idea that in the middle of a pandemic he would open his own practice, Smile Solutions Dentistry in Harrisburg, N.C.

Despite the uncertainty, Miller said people called to schedule appointments every day. “People are happy. They love the practice, and they are leaving Google reviews,” Miller observed. “It’s not the blast off I wanted, but this isn’t a normal time, so considering the situation, I think we’re doing well. I’m optimistic.”

Not only is each new patient special to him, but every patient contributes to a cause that is near to his heart. Miller partnered with an organization in Harrisburg called the Dream on 3 Foundation. This nonprofit is much like The Make-a-Wish Foundation, but instead, it focuses on making sports-based dreams come true for children with chronic illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and life-altering conditions. With each new patient, he donates money to the foundation to help make a child’s wish come true.

“For me, it was a great opportunity because sports were the foundation of my life, from baseball to cycling, for 25 years of my life,” Miller asserted. “To be able to give somebody else those same opportunities, just a little piece of what has made me what I am today, that’s why I chose them (the Dream on 3 Foundation).”

Miller, a native of Hickory, N.C., was recruited to play baseball at Gardner-Webb, but that wasn’t the only reason he accepted the scholarship. “There was something about Gardner-Webb—it just felt like it was home,” Miller reflected. “I remember leaving and saying, ‘This is it; this is the place for me.’ It had that hometown feel. It was the feeling I got when I walked around campus and the sense of community it had.”

However, he experienced a knee injury during his first semester as catcher. Despite the injury, former baseball coach Rusty Stroupe kept him on the team for three years giving him some playing time. After two knee surgeries, Miller left the team and focused his energies on academics. He graduated with a 3.8 grade point average and was inducted into the Tri-Beta Honor Society.

He was a biology major with a minor in chemistry and concentration in psychology. He intended to go to medical school, but after completing several internships he decided against a career in medicine.

Trey Miller with a patientMiller was given the opportunity to work as a lab assistant at Gardner-Webb and that experience led to his first job. “I’m a big outdoorsman – big into fly fishing – I just got really big into conservation,” Miller related. “I did an internship that led to a job with Mecklenburg County (N.C.). I ended up working in downtown Charlotte (N.C.) for five years, before going to dental school.”

While working in Charlotte, he started racing all over the country as a professional cyclist. He met his wife, who was also racing bikes. His in-laws, including his brother-in-law, who is a dentist, made an interesting observation during a holiday meal. “We were all sitting around at Thanksgiving dinner and my in-laws decided that I would be a really great pediatric dentist,” Miller explained. “It was really uncomfortable, but then I started thinking about it. I love working with my hands, I love making relationships with people. I love helping people, and I feel like I am physically doing something to help someone in another way. It kind of all came together.”

He needed a reference for his application to dental school. He called Dr. Tom Jones, professor of biology and Dr. Don Olive, associate professor of physics and astronomy, and was reminded again why Gardner-Webb is a special place. “I still had professors’ phone numbers,” Miller said. “Tom Jones answered the phone in the middle of his lecture and said, ‘Hey Trey, what is going on?’ He and I were buddies. We had traveled together—we went on Katrina relief trips and we played golf. He said, ‘I will write you a letter of recommendation and get it to you this week.’”

Miller continued, “Dr. Olive was also glad to write me a letter. That was almost five years after I graduated. If I had gone to a big university, they would have been like, who, what number are you? I was so thankful to have gone to Gardner-Webb, a small university so that I had those types of relationships.”

In addition to the references, he also had all the prerequisites he needed and the grades to get into dental school at West Virginia University. He graduated in 2017 with his Doctor of Dental Surgery, and after three years of experience opened his own practice in April 2020.

“I knew from the start of dental school that I wanted to have my own practice,” Miller affirmed. “Life is about being fulfilled and fulfillment for me is growth, the ability to help others and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”

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