Laura Wade (23), who has just qualified as a dentist, is the only person out of 68 students in her year at Newcastle University to graduate with honours on her course.
Her academic success has seen her land the British Dental Association (BDA) Prize for the best performance in the final BDS examinations. The star student has also won both the 1969 Year Medal for the best overall performance in the stage one to five examinations and the Coltene Prize for the best example of composite work for restorative dentistry.
Laura said: "To be honest I didn't believe it when I got my results. It was on a noticeboard and I had to look at it a million times to make sure it was true.
"I burst into tears and called my mum but I couldn't get my words out and she couldn't hear me because I was crying that much. That was the best bit, telling my mum."
Laura was inspired to go into the field after receiving top-class support from her own dentist as a teenager.
"My teeth were a mess but braces changed my smile and made me smile more," she said.
"I had an inspirational dentist who helped me so much and I wanted to do the same for other people.
"I used to smile with my hand over my mouth but after treatment I felt proud and liked going out socialising and taking pictures with friends.
"So around Year 10 when I was 15 I'd been to see my dentist and I thought, 'I could do that'."
The journey towards her dream career was tough, she added, as she lived three hours away from home, worked part-time during her third and fourth year and found that university life was full of deadlines and exam stress.
"There were multiple times when I thought, 'I can't do this' but it was worth every second and I'm over the moon that all the work I've done over the five years has paid off," she said.
"I strove to be as good a student as I could be and I wanted it so much.
"But it was also important to me to have a balance and still have a social life and make lots of friends."
Laura, who's now starting a new job as a dentist at a practice, added: "I'd say to any young person with an ambition to just go for it and give it their all. Get advice from people who've done it, enjoy yourself and have a good balance but also remain focused."
The talented student credits her success to her mum, Susan Wade, who she said offered "amazing" support which made all the difference.
Susan said: "Laura's just absolutely amazing. She's worked hard over the years and I think she's just phenomenal.
"Dentistry is something she's always wanted to do, ever since she was in primary school. I know it sounds funny but she always looked forward to going to the dentist and asked loads of questions. She always wanted to know as much as she could."
And, Susan added: "When I heard the news I just cried. She rang me at work to tell me the results and I didn't know if she'd passed or not because we were both crying that much. I'm very, very proud of her."