Destination Career is a series profiling recent Purdue Agriculture graduates.
For more alumni stories, visit our Destination Career archive.

Alum sinks his teeth into global projects

By Susan Goley

Ian Barnard sits outside the Harmandir Sahib, a temple in Amristar, India.

Photo provided by Ian Barnard

​Ian Barnard sits outside the Harmandir Sahib, a temple in Amristar, India. Barnard, who earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Purdue in 2011, is now studying dentistry at Indiana University. While at Purdue, he traveled extensively around the world and was inspired to go on dental missions abroad. ​Full-size image (4189 KB)


Find out more

​By the time he was 16, Ian Barnard was certain he wanted to become a veterinarian. But before he even earned his bachelor's degree in animal sciences from Purdue in 2011, he knew he wanted to pursue a different dream — one he could really sink his teeth into.

​When he came to Purdue, Barnard had high hopes of following in his father's footsteps and becoming a veterinarian. Purdue was the only college he applied to. But after five Purdue-sponsored study-abroad trips and several more on his own, Barnard became less interested in veterinary medicine.

​"I sat back and thought, ‘Do I really want to do one of my hobbies for the rest of my life and possibly get sick of it?'" Barnard said. "Specialized equine veterinary medicine is a tough area to get into, so I started thinking human medicine. I started job shadowing some family friends."

​So where did all the soul-searching ultimately lead?

​"I'm studying dentistry at Indiana University," Barnard said. "I'm really interested in doing dental missions abroad."

​Barnard is a fourth-year dental student and is looking forward to his first dental mission in Haiti. He hopes to start his career by doing his residency in a hospital for a year or two, and then pursuing other missions. He said he would love to make mission trips his full-time job, but he said he will most likely have a private practice and travel for missions periodically. Barnard wants to travel to an underserved area at least once per year.

​"I'll be able to travel, but I'll also experience different people and help them — and see the world," Barnard said.

​He became interested in oral surgery while job shadowing family friends.

​"I was debating between medical school and dental school, and I really just liked the hands-on aspect, in addition to still getting to do some surgeries," he said. "The hours and lifestyle are good, too. I just love the field."

​Being willing to recognize when your dreams change and to pursue them is important to Barnard, and something the spontaneity of travel has helped him with — particularly for such a radical career change.

​"I think traveling, overall, just makes you a little more confident and up for new things — more adventurous," he said. "And when an opportunity comes up, you take it instead of being apprehensive or fearful."

​Barnard's travels helped him establish contacts all over the world. After experiencing different cultures and their lifestyles he feels pulled to help them in some way. For him, the best way to do that is through dentistry.

​"Travel opened up doors and allowed me to meet people along the way and instilled in me that drive to want to help people and see the world," Barnard said.

​He has put his global connections and Purdue experiences to good use. One of his contacts in Kenya works through medical missions groups to bring children to the United States for medical procedures. Barnard communicates with his Kenyan contacts and helps them connect with representatives in the organization.

​It also helps to know what you want to do and have the courage to do it. That's advice he offers to everybody.

​"College is not a cookie cutter template you have to follow," he said. "If you're excited about something or have an interest in something, go for it. You have to be excited about it, otherwise you're going to lead a boring and sad life." ​

​​​​​