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 Dani Howell ’10 is keeping it all in the family

The 2010 Elon graduate is the sixth member of her family to graduate from Elon and the fourth to practice dentistry.

Leroy Howell ’51, Dani Howell ’10 & Ralph Howell make up three generations of their family working together in their dental practice. (Photo courtesy of the Suffolk News-Herald)

By Morgan Collins ’20

Like many Elon students, Dani Howell ’10 comes from a proud family of Elon graduates. She often visited campus as a child with her grandfather, Leroy Howell ’51, whose two brothers also graduated from Elon. Two of her cousins are Elon alumni as well, making her the sixth member of her family to graduate from the university. But the Howell family has another legacy. Four of the six members of the family who graduated from Elon practice dentistry. 

Despite her family’s tradition, Howell did not come to Elon with intentions of becoming a dentist. As a political science and business administration double major, she planned to pursue law school. “I had intended to go to law school, but pretty early on I decided I didn’t want to,” Howell says. “But I really enjoyed studying political science and I enjoyed all the professors, so I stuck with it.”

Howell toyed with the idea of becoming a lobbyist, but she realized the only thing she was passionate enough to lobby for was oral health care. It wasn’t until her senior year that she decided to go into dentistry after volunteering at a Mission of Mercy project. Sponsored by the Virginia Dental Association Foundation, these projects are conducted in underserved areas of the state where there are not enough dental practitioners to meet the oral health needs of the community.

“I had grown up going on mission projects, but it had always been in a clerical setting,” Howell says. “In between my junior and senior years, though, I went in a clinical capacity. Seeing the clinical aspect and how much I could really impact patients’ lives, I decided to go ahead and jump to dentistry. I grew up in the dental world, so I think it had always been in the back of my mind.”

Howell graduated from Elon in 2010 and continued on to receive a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011. After spending a few years managing the business aspect of her father’s and grandfather’s dental practice, Howell decided to pursue her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. In May 2017, Howell began practicing alongside her grandfather and father, Ralph, in Suffolk.

While many children of dentists follow in their parents’ footsteps, Howell is grateful to have the rare opportunity to practice with two of her family members. “I know there are a lot of multigenerational families in dentistry, but it’s pretty unique that we get to practice together,” Howell says. “The days where it’s dad, granddad and I—those are the best days.”

Keren Rivas,
5/1/2018 4:25 PM