so what are you even learning anyways?

Dental school I think is sometimes very misunderstood by the general public and even other health professional students. People really wonder what could we possibly be learning and doing for four whole years just to “fix teeth.” You guys take anatomy? AND do cadaver dissection? Why do you have to know biochemistry (still currently wrestling with figuring that one out but I know it’s important somehow)? What does embryology have to do with cavities? Also, the confusion between us and hygiene school is common, especially for people who have generally healthy teeth and only see their dentist when they go for a cleaning anyways. So it makes sense that those folks don’t really understand what we’re actually trained to do, which is just a tiny bit more than clean teeth.

That being said, I thought I’d give you guys a look into the courses we’re taking currently and what a typical “course load” or “week in the life” looks life for dental students. Courses (or more generally, subjects – it’s easier to explain that way) that we’ve already finished up include an intro to oral medicine, embryology (development) and some histology (study of tissues, introduction of some pathology) of epithelium. For instance, our exam today (they have a weird thing for Monday exams here that’s just unfortunate) covered all topics of bone biology: histology, formation, endocrinology, some physiology, and an overview of radiological anatomy. The next chunk of this course that starts tomorrow will go more explicitly into anatomy of bone. Our “Foundational Sciences” course is currently going through biochemistry and metabolism, and will later reach topics like immunology and an intro to pharmacology I think. We started a new course today that is basically microbiology and it’s relation to dental science. So for these “Biological Systems” and “Foundational Sciences” courses, we typically have each of these lectures three to four times per week depending on the schedule.

We also have our Dental Development/Anatomy course which correlates to our lab time spent waxing all the different types of teeth. We’ve finally made it to the molar (five cusps and a insanely intricate occlusal table definitely make for some fun…) to finish up this first lab course, ending with the lovely written final next week. This one’s pass/fail PTL. The lectures for that course are typically only once a week and our four hour lab time is also only on Wednesdays. Wednesdays are also when we have our four our block of time in clinic assisting 3rd and 4th years. We’ve really just started this part of our curriculum, but it’s already such a nice change from sitting our butts in a lecture hall 8-5. Actually getting to interact with patients and see the flow of how things run in clinic is a nice look into the far off but fast approaching futures we have as [student] doctors.

The last portion of our curriculum currently would be occasional small group seminars (usually one per module) and our rotations through the advanced sim lab that I talked about a while ago. Typically, we have very lecture-heavy Mondays and Tuesdays 10-5 usually (also start at 8 sometimes), Lab/Clinic Wednesday 8-5, one or two lectures Thursday or Friday with most of the rotation times fit in later in the week as well.

I hope that helps give you guys an idea of what we actually do here in dental school, and especially gives you something to look forward to (?) for any of my pre-dental readers out there. Obviously more than teeth. Dental-specific things actually make up a very small percentage of our course-load in first year. We do start a new lab course, Occlusion, soon and next semester will get into the trenches of Operative (i.e. drilling, restorations, etc).

fallExams are roughly once a week, give or take. They cover a LOT of material, though. Every week in itself pretty much mentally feels like the roller coaster of finals hell/post-finals heaven of undergrad. The test today was over 14 separate lectures (our lectures are two hours mostly…). So when everyone thinks my new life in Philly is the glamorous colorful display you only see on Instagram, think again. Most days are hard, long, and monotonous, but I just make it a point to stop and smell the roses. Or stop and see the trees you could say. Or stop and buy the donuts. I want to constantly live in a place of gratitude. It is so easy to quickly forget how hard we worked our butts off for four years in undergrad and even longer for others to get to this point. I really strive to keep at the forefront of my mind the faithfulness of God to have carried me this far, and that I really am only here by his grace and goodness. When people only complain all the time about school – any kind but especially grad school – I just want to look at them and say, “But you wanted this remember? Thousands of people would give anything to be in our place right now.” Try to remember how you felt this time last year desperately awaiting that December 1st acceptance day, friends. Education is a GIFT, y’all. A gift that we’re paying hundreds of K for, but still 🙂

You all know how much of a proponent of self-therapy I am (shout out to Yesle and JJ, you two constantly remind me that it’s ok and good to make me and health a priority some days), and today was chock full of it. On top of the immediate post-exam Federal Donuts run to share sweet warm goodness with some of my classmates, Sarah and I went out and about after class ended at an earlier three o clock today. By the way, I miss those days when getting out at three felt so late. I indulged and bought my favorite magazine (how could I NOT with that cover title that is basically my life motto?) and purchased some new business-y digs for ASDA’s NLC THIS weekend! I hate that retail therapy is such a real thing, even when it’s something as simple as a pencil skirt. To top it all off we won these adorable and sassy Sweetgreen totes. magPost-exam nights are my favorite. I had to laugh when I asked Sarah if she wanted to look in Urban Outfitters, too, while we were walking around. I told her I didn’t need to spend anymore money and she said, “Yeah me neither, but I love just going in places and not feeling like a student for a little bit.” Preach, sister, preach. The epitome of dental school feels like just that. One night you’re cramming until 2 am, hyped up on double shot espressos, locked away in the Sky lounge, and questioning your decision to choose this long and narrow road (and maybe when you last washed your hair). Fast forward to the next day, when things as simple as trying on cozy scarves, dipping hearty bread in a hot bowl of chili, and reading the covers of all the glorious books in the bookstore you want to read make you feel a little more human.


one sixteenth a doctor. basically.

It’s pretty much the halfway point of the semester, give or take a few days. We’ve got two whole finished courses, five exams, three tooth wax-ups, and our first time in clinic under our belts. It sounds pretty pathetic in comparison to the gigantic hurdles we have ahead of us for the next four+ years, but at the same time it’s incredible how much we’ve learned and done in just eight weeks of dental school. The fact that we already have real grades on our transcript already is crazy (don’t worry Mom, they’re good ones).
journalMy journal I started mid-summer reached full capacity – I guess you can imagine how much has been on my mind in the past few months and the rambling prayers and dreams that covered those pages – and there’s something so refreshing about opening a crisp new one and writing on that first page. I love how it correlated with the shift of seasons here in Philly, too. Turning over a new leaf and page, literally. This week lows are already in the 30s and 40s and some days the highs only get to the 50s. I don’t miss the still-90-in-October part of Texas, sorry.

Since my last post we had our initiation dinner for the dental fraternity I joined, Psi
galsOmega. It was an excuse to dress up (and let me just say again – all my classmates are dang attractive), enjoy a great dinner, and have a fun Friday night out with my new sistas and bros, both new members and upperclassmen. For people wondering what on earth a dental school fraternity is about (I realize it sounds more geek than Greek), it’s basically another way to make connections with your class and classes above you, network with alumni (shout out to homegirl Dr. Maggio), get involved with more service opportunities, have fun socials to look forward to, and receive academic help along the way. We have three equally great ones here at Penn, and I have friends that joined each of them but there’s also no pressure to join any of them. To a lot of people’s surprise, there are a million things to get involved with during your time in dental school.

Speaking of, I haven’t had the chance to update you guys that I did in fact get offered a board position on our chapter of the American Student Dental Association. I will be a contributing editor this year, and I’m so pumped for all that’s in store for Penn ASDA. My position is basically responsible for writing occasional articles and posts for our newsletter and website as well as just help out in general with publishing those or gathering ads. Being on the board at all gives a lot of options for other ways to get involved, too, and definitely opens up doors for ways to serve in the future. One thing that I am privileged to have the chance to do is travel to Chicago at the end of this month with nine other board members for ASDA’s National Leadership Conference. I’m one of two D1s going, and I can’t wait for a weekend of meeting dental students from around the country, hearing awesome speakers, and learning even more about my role as a leader in ASDA and in my future career in general. I’ve also never actually been to Chicago, so I’m so thankful to have the chance to go finally! I’ll be sure and write some highlights post-NLC. Deep dish pizza better be involved too, just saying. 🙂

This week after our tough chunk of exams that were pretty close together, I’ve definitely enjoyed some down time and getting caught up on life-things instead of school-things: the ever-growing stack of letters that need responding to, buying my first real winter coat, that thing called laundry, stocking up on fall baking supplies (pumpkin errthing happening soon), Saturday morning FaceTime coffee catchup dates, oh yeah and sleep. I also spontaneously traveled outside the city on Wednesday after a long day of clinic (our first time assisting!) and lab to hang with my Philly fam away from home, the Clarks. The fall harvest dinner spread was worth the trip alone. Butternut squash soup, smashed sweet and purple potatoes, seasonal salad, roasted rosemary salmon, a creamy bourbon maple cocktail, and did I mention apple crumble?! Geez so much better than my normal weeknight concoctions. We actually didn’t have lecture until three on Thursday, so I even made a sleepover out of it. I’m so thankful to have such a fun and supportive family right up the road from me, and I will definitely keep them in the back of my mind when I need a city/school escape. clarksIt’s one of those really cool full circle stories how we’re connected again. Ian and Susan were my parents’ best friends back in the early 90s, and even though I didn’t really remember them much, I always knew how much they meant to my family from the way Mom or Dad would talk about the Clarks. The last time I saw them I think I was two years old, and since then they’ve moved frequently all over the East Coast. When I finally decided to come to Penn, Mom and Dad realized that they were going to be only 10 miles away from me, along with their daughter and son in law, Hannah and Greg! I just can’t help but thank God for crossing our paths once again. He knew I’d need some times of good foodie meals, laughing, and family music time with every one on a different instrument – much like my old times back home with Mom, Dad, and Megan in the window-lined music room.

These days, I feel like God is teaching me more and more about rest, contentment, and that whatever I have in my head about what the future might hold will never compare to the good he actually has for me. I love looking back and seeing how He works in the big and small and in ways that we were so blind to at the time. I’m constantly asking for clarity for things that confuse, distract, or overwhelm me (there’s plenty currently) and peace and strength for the days at hand. your love

I’m leaving you with the lyrics that have been playing again and again through my headphones since Amanda Cook’s new album was released a few weeks ago. This one is called The Voyage, and I feel like it relates entirely too well for me as well as several of my friends in this season of graduating/post-grad/20-something adventure that we find ourselves on. I find it ironic that I titled this post before I rambled up to this point, and now it really seems to actually relate to this very song in a way. We get so caught up in exactly how much further we have until that next thing is checked off – grad school, a serious relationship, big move, that dream job…when in the end, the pressure’s off and God is continually with us. I don’t think He’s really one for destinations. He wants us to walk beside Him in the journey.

Speak, even if your voice is trembling
Please, you’ve been quiet for so long
Believe, it’ll be worth the risk you’re taking

You’re afraid, but you can hear adventure calling
There’s a rush of adrenaline to your bones
What you make of this moment changes everything

What if the path you choose becomes a road
The ground you take becomes a home
The wind is high, but the pressure’s off
I’ll send the rain wherever we end up
Wherever we end up

Set your sights, sailing far beyond familiar
In the rising tide, you’ll find the rhythm of your heart
And lift your head, now the wind and waves don’t matter

What if the path you choose becomes a road
The ground you take becomes a home
The wind is high, but the pressure’s off
I’ll send the rain wherever we end up
Wherever we end up

I am the wind in your sails

ASDA Mouthing Off post – I guess I’m a real blogger now!

In the craziness of the last couple of weeks, I forgot to update all my pre-dental / dental student readers out there that my article I wrote for the American Student Dental Association’s blog, Mouthing Off, was published recently. It was also a fun fact to share in my last interview. If you’ve followed my blog the past few months, it was basically a revision of my original post on here about my dental mission trip to Panama last spring break. If you’ve always wondered what those trips are really like, read my post to get a first-hand look at the incredible experience.

“A smile is the same in any language”

Interviews, SDN, and other nerdy things

Is this real life? All this time leading up to this next phase of interviews (and then ultimately/hopefully acceptances!) and now it’s finally here. I’m so grateful because I’ve already heard back from each of the Texas schools for interview invites! All of them are happening in August though (as soon as the 11th), and with it now being the 2nd, I’m getting slightly nervous since it’s so soon. I’m trying to be patient about the other out of state schools I applied to because according to Student Doctor Network (basically the type-A future doctor’s bible on all things admission tests/interviews/applications – and where I go to get a good laugh in at how ridiculous and stressed these guys are sometimes), they haven’t started to send out invites yet.

I quit working at Gap a couple weeks ago (freeeeedom), and I recently informed The Shack that this would be my last two weeks there – seriously so hard to do, and I’m not looking forward to whenever I have my last shift there. I hope if any of them are reading this they understand how much I loved and appreciated that job this summer. They let me fulfill my lifelong hope of working in a restaurant, and I have nothing but great memories to take with me.

I’ve spent some time (in between lots of spontaneous nights with friends, old and new) at one of my favorite spots in town to tackle projects with bottomless coffee and sweet morning treats in hand.10348360_750482198336353_6367950917821525942_n

First on the to-do list was to finish writing my blog post discussing my dental mission trip to Panama for the American Student Dental Association’s “Mouthing Off” blog (to be published this coming Friday!).  I have actually started to look into potential interview questions and tried to do some more research on each of the schools to somehow think up some all-too-important questions for my interviewers (without looking stupid by asking something I could easily find on their website). I’m confident on the talking about me part, so I’m hoping the interviews just turn into conversations elaborating on my application, discussing the latest books I’ve read, or what I do in my spare time to handle stress like blogging. Hey, it could happen.

Another task was crossed off this week when I purchased my first big girl professional suit. Now I’ve just got to find some “conservative” shoes to accompany it because for some reason admission committees don’t think dentists can be professional and stylish at the same time. I beg to differ.

To top off this post about the past busy few weeks, I think a picture of this Etsy purchase I bought for myself, just because, is in order. 10313654_751601114891128_1427569048264042981_n

It’s Saturday, friends. SMILE.

A smile is the same in any language

Nine days that I will never forget. After months of anticipating, stressing over deadlines, struggling to coordinate with everyone, and praying for financial provision, last Saturday the eight of us boarded a flight to Panama for a spring break like no other.

Our group was made up of only pre-dental students, freshman through juniors, all members of our student organization Baylor ASDA. We planned the dental mission trip through International Service Learning, and despite some miscommunication early on while coordinating, we absolutely loved our actual experience in Panama with our leader, Sol, and dentist, Dra. Cruz. When we arrived, we were greeted by Sol, who would end up becoming our biggest blessing and friend. One other pre-optometry student from Ohio State, Magnolia, joined us at the airport, and like Sol, by the end of the week she was one of us and made it painful to say goodbye.

IMG_3963If I had to describe the country of Panama, I’d say colorful, both urban and primitive, joyful, friendly, sweaty, slow (as in not impatient and hurried like America), and underappreciated. The people there love their families and neighbors, delicious passion-fruit and other juices, fried everything (we seriously only ate carbs, meat, and more plantains than I could imagine at every meal), soccer, and apparently massive shopping malls.

We stayed at a retreat center-hostel of sorts with no A/C or hot water. There were fans in each room, and I promise no one missed the hot water after being out in mid-90s temps all day. There was a kitchen with a sweet little lady that cooked our meals when we didn’t go out as well as a few other people that stayed there and made Spanish small talk with us every day.

IMG_3943The first full day there was dedicated to a crash course in dental Spanish and also a workshop of learning what it was we would actually be doing in clinic. Dra. Cruz was so sweet and helpful, with just a perfect amount of sass and desire to challenge us. She explained to us that their dental school education there is five years – total! No undergrad, no entrance exam…just saying right out of high school, “I think I want to be a dentist,” and boom – five years later you’re done. If they only knew how much stress we go through here about our GPA ,DAT, and getting a coveted acceptance letter after years of blood, sweat, and tears. After just one afternoon and serious bonding over getting all in each others’ mouths and practicing using explorers, mirrors, and scalers, we were proficient in diagnosing and determining types of caries, the typical timeline of dentition based on a kid’s age, loading and prepping the anesthesia injection, and how to set up the tray for general procedures.  We also got to have some fun later that night learning some traditional Panamanian folk music and dancing.

IMG_3983Before starting up the clinic, we spent a day walking around the surrounding villages (which we found out later were significantly sketchy and supposedly dangerous areas) doing house visits and conducting dental health surveys. Our clinic would be focused on ages 4-13, so we took turns asking the kids questions in Spanish – things like if they brushed their teeth or had been to the dentist before. Several answered no to each. The thought that I would be some of these kids’ first experience ever with dentistry was a huge responsibility that seemed nerve-racking but also a chance to show them that it didn’t have to be a scary thing. Not only would I be doing dental exams for the first time, but I would have to calm the fears of only Spanish-speaking four year olds. No big deal, right?

Many of the homes we were welcomed into lacked real floors, ceilings, or furniture of any kind, and yet the families all seemed so content and focused on what really mattered – being together. I thought how I would react in their situation to a bunch of wealthy American college kids in scrubs wanting to come in to my dirty home and ask me questions about my lack of dental care. Uh, no thanks. I know here at home, I am quick to make excuses about how I’m too busy or even ignore the couple of Mormons with backpacks knocking on my door or the girl scout trying to sell me her last box of cookies to reach her fundraising goal. We were not turned away by one Panamanian family.

IMG_4051I was so excited for the first day of clinic. We set up all the equipment in a small room of a local church and immediately entered business mode. We each had partners and would take turns doing the actual exam while the other person charted the cavities and treatment and held the flashlight. My first partner, Sam, and I were mostly efficient but quick to laugh at our frequent mistakes at first and moments of doubting if we actually knew what were doing. After checking for cavities, cleaning with the scaler, flossing, and mouthwashing, Dra. Cruz would come double-check and quiz us on the patient’s condition and possible treatment. Even if they had maybe seven cavities, most only received one or two fillings or extractions due to limits on time and resources. It was so neat to watch everyone and be able to see each others’ strengths while getting a glimpse at how great of dentists we all will be. Some with steadier hands, others playful and kid-loving, some intrigued by the clinical science, others able to comfort in another language, and those who loved the intense, bloody stuff. We would stay with our patient as they went to the chair for their procedure and were responsible for setting up the tray with the appropriate instruments and materials as well as assisting. There were ample criers and squirmers because of the needle or drill, and as cute as their little smiles were, some of the difficult cases confirmed my long-ago decision to not specialize in pediatrics. They were still sweet for the most part, and their parent would be so appreciative of the care we provided them. At the end of each day, knowing all the joy we were able to give just through cleaning teeth or providing preventative treatment for free solidified why I want to do this with my life. A smile is the same in any language.


IMG_4111On the last day of clinic, Kathy and I were partnered up, and the pace of the day seemed a lot quicker than the other days. We saw about six patients between the two of us, and we each ended up doing all the steps for an entire filling except for the drilling part obviously, and (even though I shouldn’t really say it) basically an extraction each, too! It technically wasn’t a whole tooth, just a buried root tip left behind from a primary tooth, so Dra. Cruz simply looked at me and said, “Do you want to do it?” After shadowing an oral surgeon all summer and seeing endless complicated extractions, I was pretty confident that just an elevator would have that thing out in no time. Also with ISL, we as students are not liable for anything. If something were to go wrong (which nothing ever did), they are responsible. It’s up to them to just trust that we wouldn’t ever do anything we weren’t comfortable doing.

IMG_4052We were able to go out for dinner several nights to authentic restaurants to unwind from a long day and have some fun. Most places offered various fried carbs like yucca, cheesy potatoes, or tamales (not like the Tex Mex item you’re thinking of – more like a cornbread), and an abundance of meats and seafood. Their local beers and other drinks were also a popular thing to try. I enjoyed genuine and deep conversations as well as never-ending laughs with this group that had become like family for a week.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOn Friday, we toured Panama City’s Children’s Hospital, and we learned a lot about their health care system in general. They are the only major hospital and ER in the entire country, and they also provide treatment for everyone even if they’re unable to pay. The building was very old, in poor condition, and obviously lacking in funds, but we could tell the doctors we spoke with were in their profession for the right reason. We wrapped up the rest of the day with a visit to the canal, souvenir shopping, and another authentic dinner out.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetSaturday was our last full day in Panama, and we left at 6:20 to catch an early ferry ride to the island of Taboga for some relaxing on the beach. It was absolutely gorgeous. It definitely had a tropical Caribbean vibe, but it was mixed with an old European coastal village charm. We lounged, read, napped, and swam the bulk of the day. Despite staying in the shade of our umbrella for 90% of the time and liberally reapplying sunscreen, I still managed to get an embarrassingly random and intense sunburn on my shins and outer thighs. Before heading back we enjoyed one last meal at a beachfront bar, complete with ice cold pina coladas.

1557716_681646661886574_88545275_nWe said our reluctant goodbyes to Dra. Cruz, Sol, and Magnolia, and before we knew it, we were back in Texas on Sunday afternoon. Thinking back on how God moved in and through us throughout the week, I know that we were able to be such a witness by our acts of service to the people of Panama. We were not the only ones making a difference, though. I believe our patients and their families, Sol, Dra. Cruz, and everyone we came across  deeply impacted each and every one of us in a powerful way. Another incredible blessing was simply the friendships among us that grew richer each day, and how we are all now connected by this shared experience. God gave me such a clear confirmation that I’m following his incredible plans for my life by continuing on this journey to becoming a dentist and how global missions can play a part in that. The fact that I will get to do this for the rest of my life makes me so excited for the future. I’m extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to go to Panama, and I’ll always have the memories of this trip to carry with me.1012879_681900428527864_867512245_n

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” – Proverbs 11:25.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset