People of the U: Lauren ThamesPublished on Tuesday, September 6, 2022By: Ruth CumminsWhen Lauren Thames puts the icing on her whimsical cookie creations, in a way she’s putting the icing on her career.“Squeezing an icing piping bag is like pulling a tooth. You have to use a lot more forearm strength than you would think,” said Thames, a fourth-year student in the School of Dentistry on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus.“This keeps my arm skills up. In order to extract a tooth, there are tissues hugging the tooth onto the bone, and it takes a great deal of force to wiggle the tooth out with an instrument.”A cookie baker since her college days at Mississippi State University, Thames embraced an idea presented to her by School of Dentistry Dean Sree Koka: Let’s give UMMC faculty and staff going to and from work a thank-you from the School of Dentistry for a job well done.“He wanted to spread the love with other UMMC staff members, and of course I said yes,” said Thames, who grew up in Flowood and lives there still. “He asked if I could make 250 cookies to pass out on the catwalk outside the School of Dentistry.”Thames, left, offers one of her home-baked cookies to Latasha Jones, a unit secretary in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.The tooth-shaped cookies, iced in white and bearing a blue UMMC School of Dentistry message, went swiftly the morning of August 23 on the catwalk next to the school.Thames said her original cookie-making lessons came from her mom, but “over the years, I’ve watched YouTube videos and figured out the tricks to make the icing set up right. It’s kept my hand skills up, especially for dental school.”As a volunteer with her mom at the Sunnybrook Children’s Home in Ridgeland, Thames discovered the service learning aspect of sharing her talent with others.“We would go twice a month and teach the girls some craft ideas – how to sew a button on if you lose one, or how to make a bracelet,” she said. “Once we figured out how to make cookies, we taught the girls.“I never really thought making cookies would go anywhere for me, but it’s a little side job for me to help pay for gas. I’m hoping it can be a side job for some of those girls if they need a little help.”Dr. Bill Boteler, an associate professor in the Department of Care Planning and Restorative Sciences, said Thames is a meticulous student who can think on her feet.Boteler“She is on my clinical problem-solving (CPS) team,” he said. “The School of Dentistry divides students into teams, and I was her CPS advisor. When she was a D1, I thrust a clipboard into her hands with the attendance roll, and I asked her if she would do that for me for the next four years.“It’s been fun seeing her progress from a D1 to a D4. When you ask her to do something, you know it will be done well and on time. She’s very precise with her patients. The school is always looking for students who can think critically. She can think things out, connect the dots and go with it.”Thames said she enjoyed her time as a student in Starkville, where her husband is completing his PhD at MSU.“After I graduate, I’m looking for some type general dentistry job. I went to college in Starkville, so I’m excited to be able to put some smiles on some freshmen. I want to be a friendly face!”Do you know a student, staff, volunteer or faculty member at the University of Mississippi Medical Center whose story would make an interesting feature or deserves to be recognized? Think about someone with outstanding job commitment, fascinating hobby or amazing accomplishment.To nominate someone to be considered for a Front and Center feature, just complete and submit this short form. If that person is picked for a feature, a member of the Communications and Marketing staff will contact him or her to learn more about his or her personal story.