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.

[brought to you by post-exam jello brain]

We are definitely reaching the thick of the semester, and time for blogging sadly got put on the back burner this past week. Today we had a monstrous Foundational Sciences exam. I won’t dare tell you how many pages my typed study guide ended up being or how many Spotify playlists I burned through in the past 5 days. Oh joy, we’ve got another one coming right back at us for Biological Systems on Monday. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of just seeing the mundane of studying and going to lecture and lab day in and day out, and I’m still really trying to maintain healthy balance and perspective constantly.

scrubs

We finally got our classy navy scrubs in (am I a chief surgical resident on Grey’s yet??), so that’s at least one step closer in the “Dr. Price” direction. Let’s be real, I’m so glad I chose a career where professional pjs are the norm everyday. GRD lab is also off and running at a quick pace and we’ve already finished our central incisor and canine wax-ups, and now we’re working on the premolar. For those of you that don’t know what that means, it’s basically where we build an entire tooth out of nothing but wax and have to create all the details of the anatomy of that specific tooth. It’s feels very archaic with our Bunsen burners flaming as we heat our waxing instruments, melt and pick up a drop of wax, and try oh try to place and “flow” it where we want to build that marginal ridge or distal contact point before it solidifies. Fun? Surprisingly, sort of. Frustrating at times? Definitely. Hilarious b/c of the people I sit around and what we talk about for four hours? You know it, Novin, Ash, and Marisa 🙂 The faculty are pretty helpful with constructive criticism along the way, but when it comes time for grading our finished product, a non-dental person wouldn’t believe how many details go into what makes a #12 a #12 aesthetically, how it articulates in occlusion, where the height of contour is placed, how it’s aligned in the arch, and every other thing they can take off points for. wax

The morning temps are dropping (glory glory #fallelujah), the Bean boots have made their debut, and I’m getting more and more excited to experience my first real fall living on the East Coast. Jenna, one of my BEST friends from Baylor got to come visit last Thursday through Sunday and we had an absolute blast together. Even though it was dreary, windy, and rainy all weekend due to the hurricane, we loved it and enjoyed adventuring around Philly with plenty of studying and coffee shops thrown in, just like old times together. She’s at Boston U for a Master’s in Public Health, so she definitely understands the grad school grind and how weekends unfortunately can’t always be all play and no work. The main reason she came was to go see our boy Ben Rector in concert with me, and we later realized when we saw him in Waco last was an exact year ago so of course we had to take another pic with yet another Ben T shirt together. It was such a refreshing time getting to catch up on East Coast life that we’re both new to, church, school, family, and relationships with Jenna. jennaben

I definitely wish sometimes that I had more time in the day for things like my latest Don Miller read, Scary Close, experimenting with seasonal dishes in the kitchen, lifting more weights, writing more letters (the stack for correspondence in my metal envelope hung on the wall is growing quickly…), but at the same time I’m learning to cherish the small moments here and there, even if it’s in the midst of the business. Things like lunchtime Bible study with classmates, walks through the gorgeous Penn campus, solid heart to heart text novels/convos (during collagen synthesis lecture oops) with friends back home, a conversation with the barista, attending a local “black church” last Sunday with my church-hopping buds and having a sweet time of worship, and the never-ending Spotify music sharing and discovery with friends here and home. philly

Sometimes I walk down the street or through campus, and I think to myself, “Do I really live here? Am I actually in grad/dental school?” Oftentimes we get so caught up in the negative – i.e. “all of the above except” exam questions, if we got an 8 or a 9 on our tooth waxing, how many hours of sleep we’ll get tonight – when there is so so much around us to be grateful for. I pray that I never take for granted the opportunity I’ve been given to be here and to be learning so much every day to one day be able to use these gifts and this knowledge to really make a difference in peoples’ lives.

A verse that I’ve always hung onto for a long time and especially in times of transition is Habakkuk 1:5 – “…be utterly amazed. For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” God always has some crazy exciting things up his sleeve, and I am constantly asking for an increase in patience and trust that His ways are higher than mine. Let us be filled with expectancy and hope, always. Those things you’re believing for? Keep believing.

Until next time, I’m studying epithelium and the thrills of saliva, adding pumpkin pie spice to my coffee grounds, biking and running more in the cool of the day, and falling more in love with my favorite season.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Here I am sitting on the other side of my first week as a grad student feeling full (in heart and mind), thankful, and challenged – just the way it should be.

class

I am not going to say that it’s been a breeze of a week by any means, and the days have honestly dragged by. There is definitely an already noticeable difference from college. For instance, lecturers referring to us each individually as “Dr. ______” when we ask or answer a question. Also, two hour lectures are a straight up struggle compared to 50 or 75 minute college classes. It is sort of fun being all together all day long, almost like high school AP classes with your same 20 friends. It’s at least been nice starting at 10 am for a few days this week with ample time for my morning rituals of Chemex pour over, worship jams, and reading, but soon we will move into more of a demanding 8-5 schedule, depending on our lab or clinic rotation times. I have this idea that I’m going to become a morning workout person, but we’ll see how that really goes.

The "free" iPad that we definitely paid for in our tech fee

The “free” iPad that we definitely paid for in our tech fee

With Penn’s new curriculum, the way our courses are set up is a little hard to explain. Basically, their goal is to have our classes much more integrated across subjects with a more seamless didactic/clinical flow and minimize the chance of us learning about the same topic multiple different times throughout the first or second year. For instance, instead of taking separate anatomy, biochemistry, or histology courses, those topics might all be included in our “Biological Systems” or “Foundational Sciences” courses. When we begin our hard tissue module (i.e. bone), that will cover bone histo/physio/biochem/anatomy, etc. In theory I’m a fan, and it makes a lot of sense. Each course is split into two or three modules, and each module has its own comprehensive exam (no pressure right). Once we really get going, we will average about an exam per week but they’ll be split across the courses (allowing you to really focus on each exam for that week when it comes), and there will be a few weeks here and there that are exam-free. The only bad thing is that we’re the guinea pigs so we’ll just have to have an open line of communication between us and the faculty to make sure it’s as effective as we’re all hoping. We also are starting the clinical science portion of our curriculum much earlier than last year’s class, so we start our advanced simulation, general restorative dentistry lab, and assisting upperclassmen in the clinic as soon as September!

I really love this campus

I really love this campus

This first week we’ve covered things like embryology, molecular cell bio/genetics, dental development, and a general intro to oral medicine. “Intro to Patient Evaluation/Oral Medicine” was our very first class, and it’s honestly probably everyone’s favorite so far just because the doctor who teaches it is passionate, engaging, inspiring, and full of stories of his own experience in practicing. Multiple times, he’s explained to us that we can in fact save lives by being a dentist when we find things like oral cancer or a mass in someone’s thyroid or salivary gland. Penn does a really good job of teaching us that we are not just here to fix peoples’ teeth, we are ultimately health care providers in charge of our patients’ well being as a whole. A lot of people don’t realize why I have to take things like gross anatomy of the entire body or master the details of DNA alpha helix binding and gene transcription, but it really is to give us a broad understanding of medicine, not just learning to drill, fill, and bill. Penn also likes to brag that they do that better than anyone (a little school pride never hurt anyone), while still highlighting the dentistry-specific aspects as opposed to some schools where the dental students take their first two years with medical students and might miss some of those dental emphases. This class I guess is also considered “easier” or more straight forward than something like our lightning fast embryo lecture that only maybe three people have taken in undergrad. The first day we all walked out feeling about like this. You’d be surprised how much they can teach in two hours, and now I understand the drinking from a fire hydrant analogy of dental/med school difficulty.

bike

post-overwhelming-first-day bike ride was a must

It’s also cool knowing that our lecturers are some of the world’s leading researchers on their area of expertise. We have multiple lecturers for a given course, so they really are bringing in the authorities for each given lecture topic. The doctor who taught us about dentin and pulp formation as well as dental pulp stem cells is seriously like THE boss of dental stem cell research. He’s done all kinds of really cool trials here and in China and worked for the NIH as well. Even when he’s really hard to understand or so cutely says “tooths” instead of teeth, it’s definitely a privilege to be here at Penn taught by the best of the best. 

Our first quiz is this week over genes (how many times do we really have to learn protein synthesis), and people are definitely starting to get anxious since nobody really knows what to expect. I am really striving to maintain the balance of school with everything else that I don’t want to let fall to the wayside – something that honestly took me until senior year to master. For example, taking the time to check out a different church with friends this morning and hit up another local fave food spot for breakfast tacos afterward. Not to mention putting down the studies for the night to cook a good meal, write a few letters to my friends far away, and write this post.

dinner

In other unrelated news, Ben Rector’s album Brand New came out on Friday, and I am already obsessed. I think my favorite track might be More Like Love, and it really captures my heart for how I want to impact my new community and classmates here at Penn. When all is said and done, simply loving people is really what matters.

I used to think I wanted to be famous

I’d be recognized out in a crowd

But the funny thing is every time I’ve gotten what I want it lets me down

I used to think I needed all the answers

I used to need to know that I was right 

I used to be afraid of things I couldn’t cover up in black and white

I find the farther that I climb there’s always another line 

A mountain top, it’s never gonna stop

And the more of anything I do, the thing that always ends up true

is getting what I want will never be enough 

Now I just wanna look more like love

I just wanna look more like love

This whole world is spinning crazy and I can’t quite keep up

It’s the one thing around here that we don’t have quite enough of

So I just wanna look a little more like love

And then it was here

Since I’ve last posted, so much has happened. Okay, understatement of the year. The majority of my summer was entirely low-key and uneventful while I longed for that moving day that seemed impossibly far away.  August hit fast, and life is flashing by like it does all too well.

On July 30th, I became an aunt again to the newest, most perfect, chunk of a ginger nephew, Grayson Lee, and then quickly had to say a tearful “See you later” to him and his older brother. My sis let me be in the room this time for the birth, and I will never forget that incredible moment our family shared. This summer has been the epitome of bittersweet and overwhelming change with Dad being gone, and that day was no exception. IMG_8108

IMG_8160

I packed up my entire life in TX and drove (I really should say rode) across the country with my mom, who I’m convinced is the best road trip partner on the planet – not to mention a beast at driving that massive truck that I hated driving after a good five miles. I was much better qualified for playlist DJ-ing, local restaurant Yelp-ing, map navigating, and updating our progress via social media and ample photo uploads.IMG_8893

We enjoyed our day pit stop in Nashville seeing some great music sites including the historic Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The best part for sure, though, was meeting up with my old roomie Chels for local drinks and eats and one last hug goodbye. After 4 days total and 3 days on the road, we finally parked and unloaded our U-Haul with the help of old family friends (who are local!), Ian and Susan, in front of my new home (which I LOVE and pics will come soon) for at least the next year and hopefully longer.

apartment on the right, dental school in the back!

apartment on the right, dental school in the back!

All last weekend, Mom and I set up my place and had ample time for all the touristy must-do’s in Philly. Falling in love with this place is so easy. The incredibly rich history combined with the modern and diverse vibe makes for such a cool melting pot of people and cultures, not to mention food and art. I’ll have plenty of time to write about all that over the next four years, though – like mastering Septa so much that my classmates think I’m from the area or successfully grocery shopping without a car. I still can’t believe I’m actually here. Now when I think about that entire decision process I wrestled with for weeks, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I already have such a peace and confidence that I am exactly where I need to be, and have hope that that will only continue to be stronger as the weeks and months go by.

#tourist

#tourist

At Penn Dental, our orientation lasts an entire week and is full of riveting informational lectures, presentations (read: librarians putting us to sleep and Penn Police scaring the you know what out of us about the realities of West Philly), and of course abundant opportunities for “social activities” (pretty much all night happy hours) getting to know the people that we’ll live life with for the next challenging four years. Every night we’ve gone out as a class to fun local bars/restaurants with our orientation leaders and some of the D2s and had a few scavenger hunts along the way to get to know our new city and ultimately each other. Basically that means living it up before reality hits and our lives are consumed with things like microbiology, embryology, and dental morphology all too soon.
IMG_9533        IMG_9637                                                                 Monday we had our white coat ceremony, which is a really cool milestone in any future doc’s life that marks the induction into the profession. Penn Dental faculty has definitely made it clear that we are no longer students, but we are professionals, student dentists, and ultimately their colleagues. I already feel such a tremendous pride and honor from being at such world-class institution surrounded by so many driven and diverse people that all share the passion for dentistry. Each day I’ve gotten to know my classmates better, and I just can’t believe how well the admissions committee does at just picking 120 straight up COOL people from thousands of applicants. We’ve made it past the first couple of awkward small talks, and I’m slowly starting to know most faces and names and have definitely started to have realer and deeper conversations with some. This morning I even church-hopped with a few friends, and I can’t thank God enough for already showing me that he’s providing me with a new spiritual community even if it might take awhile to find a new church home.

IMG_9644There’s just such a camaraderie between us that can’t be compared to high school or college classmates. Then it was always about being friends with people who you grew up with for 18 years, look or act just like you, or happen to be involved in the same extracurriculars as you. Here I feel like everyone genuinely wants to get to know and be friends with everyone, and nobody cares if we maybe never would’ve been friends in undergrad. Nobody wants to be competitive or cutthroat (which Penn sometimes gets that reputation – very hard to believe now that I’m here), and at the end of the day we all just want to be kick-a** dentists and we’re going to support each other in getting there.

IMG_9502Tomorrow’s my first day of 17th grade (WHATTT?), and I couldn’t be more pumped to start this journey with my 119 new friends and future fellow docs. Penntists 2019, LET’S DO THIS.

“You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural. You are more than dust and bones. You are spirit and power and image of God. And you have been given Today.” – SN

“Crushed it.” – How to rock The Interview

terrifyingI cannot believe it’s almost been almost a YEAR since I started my interviewing journey for dental school applications. I still remember my first one was to San Antonio on August 10th (with my former roommate – who also aced her interviews and was accepted to all 3 TX schools!), and now this year on that same date I’m loading up a UHaul truck and heading off on my road trip to move to my far-away new home – to actually be a student! I promise time really does fly, and to all of you pre-dentals (and pre-meds! a lot of this will be similar to your interviews) who will be awaiting those glorious emails and phone calls this fall, take heart. You definitely could be in my shoes starting dental school and seeing all of your hard work in college finally come to fruition in one year’s time! This is an entirely different nerve-racking experience (how will I go grocery shopping in the city without a car?), but the best kind.

dentalSince a lot of my younger friends are going to be going through that entirely new and sometimes overwhelming process very soon (so proud!), I thought I’d put together a little list of do’s and don’ts from my experience and provide some general outline of what to expect. “How do I just talk about myself for an hour?”

I was very fortunate to have been invited to interview at five dental schools, all with very different interview day styles and atmospheres (click here to check out some of my initial thoughts about each school), so I do feel like I have a good idea of the spectrum of things to expect. I will not say I actually aced every single one of them by any means, and I definitely have some funny stories of my adventures (like waking up about 40 minutes before I needed to be AT the school – and still had to catch a cab in the city – and it rained ALL day – and they only really asked me if I had grown up on a farm – and somehow that’s where I’m going. HA!), but somehow they all liked me enough to offer me a seat in their class! The bottom line – and I know you’ll hear this from anyone – is to really BE YOURSELF. Admissions people do not want a rehearsed robot, someone overly cocky (or someone under-confident for that matter), and they don’t want you to be uber nervous like you might fear you’ll be. Relax, have FUN, and just have a normal conversation with your interviewers.

Here’s a breakdown on some of the things I did (or wish I did better) and things I tried to avoid.

  • Dress to impress (but not distract). Buy a nice suit and rock it. Girls, knee length pencil skirt and pants are both equally great. Not too flashy or low of a top (but you can still show a little personality with color or a subtle pattern). Closed-toe pumped are great, just keep in mind you will be walking A LOT on the tour of the school and throughout the day, so break those babies in. Guys – I can’t really help you as much, but just be on the conservative side, and make sure it’s ironed. I’d say stick to black or navy. Bring some kind of file folder/portfolio to collect papers or contact info they hand out and have paper to take notes on throughout the day and write down your questions for them. I had a slim, professional-looking, off-white leather shoulder bag that was the perfect size for my folder and minimal things I might need – phone, chapstick, makeup, bandaids in case of blisters, mints, floss for after lunch (this is a dental school interview after all), a mini water bottle.
  • Fix your hair/accessories in whatever way that will bother/distract you least. Keep jewelry to a minimum. If you typically wear glasses, don’t all of a sudden decide to wear your contacts. Or if you never wear glasses, don’t buy fake ones to look smarter. Please. I am normally about 60/40 glasses/contacts, so some interviews I wore my glasses and some I didn’t.. Girls, for hair I’d advise just something that keeps the front out of your face. I curled mine and wore it half up for some, low pony for some, and maybe just my front layers pinned to the side for one.
  • Get there earlier than you think you need to. Period. Always allow time for traffic/parking/walking/finding where you are actually supposed to be in the building. (Houston traffic = from Satan). You do NOT want to be late. This is kind of important.
  • Eat a good breakfast! Drink coffee if you normally do, but don’t overdo it (frequent bathroom breaks and the shakes are just inconvenient in a time like this). You know they always tell you that for standardized testing, finals, etc. Well this interview is the whole reason you had to take all of those standardized tests (aka MORE crucial to fuel up). You don’t want your stomach to speak louder than your confidence.
  • Be friendly towards your fellow interviewees. Getting to know everyone was one of my favorite parts of interview days! I guess I’m an extrovert from Texas, what can I say? It’s fun to see where everyone’s from, what dreadful undergrad exams they’re skipping to be there that day (or “Woah they’re married and have kids?”), and just to automatically have a lot in common with these folks that also are weird (I mean smart, compassionate, and driven) enough to want to be tooth docs, too. I remember at my Penn interview where we had a sheet of who everyone was and where they were from, a guy said, “Oh who’s from Baylor? That’s awesome!” Thank you, football, for that one. I also loved seeing some familiar faces that I’d shared interview days with at other schools and insisted we all add each other on Facebook to see where we would end up.
  • Know AS MUCH as you can about each school BEFORE you interview. Research! It’s pretty much a fact that there will be a time in the interview for YOU to ask THEM any questions about the program. Another FANTASTIC time to ask questions is when you’re with the current students maybe on the tour or at lunch. In my opinion, this is when you can find the MOST about a school. I carried a folder in with me with written questions on the inside panel that I wanted to ask each school. Some were the same, but some were specific to that school. Also they definitely might ask you why do you even want to go there? Be ready to schmooze talk em up. Seriously, show that you’ve done your homework. At one of my interviews, the FIRST thing she asked me was “What questions do you have for me?” Nothing about me or my application. We talked about the school and just about life in the city, what I liked about the program, and what her experience had been like on faculty for probably 95% of the interview time.
  • On the same lines, know if the interview will be “open file” or “closed file.” This means some schools’ interviewers will have read your entire application, all your essays, and all your letters of rec before talking to you. Other times, they might only be given your essays or letters of rec (without knowing your GPA, DAT, involvement in organizations). These give two very different scenarios because in an open file interview, it’s usually more about what might not be on your application or asking you to expand on something you wrote. For a closed file, I think it’s more just about your personality and ability to engage in the conversation. They’ll look at your numbers later. Also, some schools you’ll have just one interviewer and other places you might have multiple. The curveball I got thrown at Columbia was that it’s a one-on-one interview, but you’re all in one big room with your respective interviewers, so it kind of has a restaurant atmosphere of other people’s conversations. They did definitely have the best food, hands down. They treated us like royalty, and make it hard to turn down. Don’t choose your school based on the catered meal, though. There are more pressing issues.
  • Realize that your interviewers are real people, and oftentimes, actually dentists. They understand what we’re going through and maybe why we want to be in the fascinating field (and that they’ll all say is the best job in the world). They also probably have some things in common with you. I’m not kidding when I say that the vast majority of my interviewers were extremely friendly and easy to talk to. After the first 30 seconds, all nerves left! I talked about everything from Baylor football to religion classes/papers to cooking to triathlons to Panama to mission trips to city living to “growing up on a farm.” Some are more structured than others. You might get someone who has an actual list of questions they’re going through, or you might get someone that just wants to talk to you and let the conversation go wherever it will. Be prepared for both.
  • Have a clear, concise, and convincing answer to THE question, “So why do you want to be a dentist?” No-brainer, right? Even though it’s actually hard to exactly articulate sometimes, you need to have some serious thinking time before hand of how you will answer this one. Again, be honest and be yourself! It’s a good idea to have a friend or family member mock interview you with some typical questions you might could expect (Google dental school/med school interview questions and you’ll get plenty of ideas), but just don’t memorize exact answers. Have rough bullet points maybe, but be in the moment and talk naturally.
  • After you leave the interview day (maybe on the plane ride home or a post-interview coffee shop stop), take some time to sit down and maybe write down your raw, initial thoughts on the particular school. What did you love? What did you not like so much? How were the students and faculty? How were the facilities? Do you like the city it’s in (spend some time if you’ve never visited)? How scary are the tuition costs? Does it offer interesting opportunities for what you’re interested in (externships, research, community service, specialty exposure/encouragement, honors programs, etc)? It’s hard to describe, but you will have a clear feeling about each school right then and there before you have too much time to analyze everything months later (and trust me did I ever). Pen+paper+pros+cons are a sure way to get an idea of where you’re at. I truly loved all of my interview days and everyone I met throughout those months, but I still remember texting my mom right after my Penn interview as I was walking around THE quintessential college brochure campus in the cool drizzle struggling with my umbrella. All I said was “Mom. I realllllllllllly like Penn.” Why did I make it more complicated than it was? 😉

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Good luck to all of you, and if you have any more questions about the interview process, I’d be happy to help!

The Monday Mission Project, Part 3: Dr. Jason Beck

So far I’ve really enjoyed this interview series and getting to hear additional insight from so many of the incredible people I know about how they serve God through their career, day in and day out. Today’s post in The Monday Mission Project (if you’re just joining us check out the intro here) is featuring Dr. Jason Beck, DDS, MD, and it is an especially relevant one to include since he’s my main professional mentor in the world of dentistry (and fellow doctor colleague in about four to ten years). What he does every day is basically what I want to do one day! First things first: four years of dental school. Then if I’m crazy enough (let’s face it, we all know I am) and do decide down the road to specialize I’m looking at another four to six years of postdoc training. I am going in with an open mind regarding specializing or not, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love surgery or couldn’t see myself doing this everyday. He is a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon here in Waco, and I first met him two summers ago when I was getting some more shadowing hours in with another general dentist in town. I had actually called his office asking the receptionist if I could come observe with no real guaranteed set up before I ran into him having lunch with the dentists I was originally shadowing. He told me to immediately call back and say that he personally had met me and would love for me to come observe at his office for a few days. Needless to say those few days turned into once or twice every week and then eventually the same thing for the entire next summer. I have written a couple times on my experiences working with him (click here or here to read about it), but long story short, he’s great and I have so much respect for him. I consider him, his wife, and his three adorable boys basically my Waco family. He’s not only an exceptional and compassionate doctor, Dr. Beck is a successful and humble business owner, a godly leader for his family and staff, and a sincere voice of wisdom in my life. I can ask him anything about dental school, residency, running a practice, etc, and know he’s going to give me a genuinely honest answer and not sugar coat anything. He also is constantly encouraging me to lean not on my own understanding but to trust in the Lord with his plan for my life. He understands my big dreams and affirms I really do have what it takes. Seeing how Dr. Beck has surrendered his career to God and how in turn God has been faithful to keep his promises, I can only become more excited to see how my career as a dentist will be used for God’s glory.

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1. Describe the process of ultimately choosing to pursue dentistry and oral surgery for your career. How did God lead you into this profession along the way and when did you know you were really walking in his calling on your life?

As a child, I have always felt like I would have a job that would be highly respected and financially lucrative as well. I didn’t know what that would be, however, this had propelled me to excel in everything along the way to eventually make this a reality. Into college, I had always enjoyed the sciences more than anything else. I think because there was always a tangible product that came from scientific work and it is the scientists who I always admired more so than the great thinkers and writers. Scientists were doers and they made things happen. Eventually, I explored the health sciences from physical therapy, to medicine, and ultimately dentistry. Dentistry was particularly appealing to me because it was very hands on work that works well for us ADD individuals. I also felt that the verse in 1 Thess 4:11 was speaking to me about my career choice. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to work with your hands as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anyone.” Dentistry appeared rewarding, fun, and to provide an independence that other careers could not offer. In dental school, I had an even stronger desire to attain all these things in the greatest amount and oral surgery seemed to be the next great challenge for me. I knew that it was where I was supposed to be, because logic would say that general dentistry can provide everything I could possibly want. Nevertheless, there was a thrill I found in doing surgery, that’s it. God speaks to me in many ways, but at this point he simply wanted me to “enjoy life, and have it abundantly.”

2. How do you practically show the love of Jesus through your work and be a light to the people you interact with everyday? How do you see yourself serving God and others through your profession on a day-to-day basis?

I have had people tell me, “I know you’re a believer because I see Jesus in you.” There is no better complement. Providing a calmness before surgery and reflecting the Love of Jesus to a phobic patient has a profound effect on a person in a vulnerable state. I have prayed with patients, quoted scripture to them, and simply cared and showed compassion for them because that is what Jesus taught us as his children. As a business owner, though, I could be that for my patients and viewed as a hypocrite to my staff if I am not consistent. I see my staff as my ministry as much as my patients. They don’t know it, but they are prayed for all the time and I hope that when non-believing employees see something admirable in me, it will point them to Him.

3. What opportunities, big or small, has your career given you to partner with God and make an impact for his kingdom that you wouldn’t have had otherwise if you weren’t doing what you are.

Similar as the previous question. Patients are in a vulnerable, fearful state when undergoing a surgery, so they are looking for someone to put their trust in and lead them through this stressful situation. When things go well for them and they try to show gratitude, I can point to Jesus. My kids pray for my patients every night, so I can tell them that, which makes an impact on their kingdom experience. Additionally, on more global scale, I have been able to provide care to those in third world countries whose only encounter with a physician in life is the one who came delivering the good news of Jesus while tending to their physical needs. This could impact their beliefs for not only their life but generations of isolated families after them.

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4.Describe how your specific gifts and talents God’s given you correlate with your profession.

I have always been a confident person who can make decisions quickly and actually become energized during periods of elevated stress. These have proven to be advantageous to me during an arduous training period and continued profession with “high stress” that comes from putting a patient’s health and well-being in your hands.

5. What do you love most about your job?

I love being able to heal, whether from an ailment, a pathology, or a phobia. To have a patient walk out of the office with exceeded expectations.

6. How do you stay enthusiastic/passionate and find the motivation to continue to work diligently for his glory?

I count my blessings everyday. When I do, I am reminded that all I have comes from him anyway and therefore, not squander my talents that my Master gave to me. (Matt 25:14)

7.What advice would you give to college students who are wondering how they can serve God and be the hands and feet of Jesus through their careers even if it’s not directly in ministry, missions, the church, etc.?

God doesn’t call you to do what you are “good” at or what you love. He calls you to simply obey whatever it is and wherever it is that he has planned for you at the time. I do believe that he gives you certain desires in your heart and truly wants you to have everything your heart desires. But if you seek him in the little decisions along the way, you will have a deeper trust in Him for your future and true contentment will follow.IMG_2788

Another big thanks to Jason, and the next post will be the fourth and final feature!

Shameless plug – Any friends in Waco that need your wisdom teeth out or dental implants? Look no further than this guy. Plus, I might even be there to hear what you have to say post-anesthesia 🙂

Trust me, I’m (going to be) a doctor.

I’m currently seizing every opportunity to stay distracted from studying any more tonight for my last two (cumulative and far-from-easy) finals Monday and Tuesday, and I’ve got just a few things on my mind that I really need to get in writing. Ok, more like 732 things.

Yes, there was Thanksgiving, family time, and food galore.

HOME

HOME

Of course there were ample Elijah photo shoots

Of course there were ample Elijah photo shoots

I even completed my music/photography Psalms class project with these models

I even completed my music/photography Psalms class project with these models

There were also never-ending Sic Em’s, a little thing called College Gameday, tears shed at my last Baylor football game, and a depressed, bitter, nonstop Twitter feed about finishing at #5 (but still ahead of TCew).

Best way to end my college football experience

Best way to end my college football experience

Seniors (barely survived) ran the Line in McLane Stadium for our last game ever

Seniors (barely survived) ran the Line in McLane Stadium for our last game ever

Being down on the field with all the seniors was definitely something I'll never forget

Being down on the field with all the seniors was definitely something I’ll never forget

Started from the top, and oh yeah we're still here. #BacktoBack #Big12Champs

Started from the top, and oh yeah we’re still here. #BacktoBack #Big12Champs

Johnnyswim rocked around a Waco Hall Christmas on 5th tree, and of course Abner and Amanda serenaded all of Wacotown.

Sexy people making beautiful music >>>> studying for my last management exam

Sexy people making beautiful music >>>> studying for my last management exam

Finals have once again arrived and invaded the hearts of students, dueling it out with the Christmas spirit and holiday cheer all across campus.

Senioritis is REAL

Senioritis is REAL

The news that beats ALL of that, though, is that on the early morning of December 1st, the culmination of stressful nights studying, hours of shadowing, and countless sacrifices to achieve my academic and career goals came together and Galatians 6:9 became my reality: I’M GOING TO BE A DENTIST and you can call me Dr. in a few short (or long) years! Starting at midnight and throughout the day, I received acceptance offers for a seat in the Class of 2019 at each of the five schools where I interviewed: TAMU/Baylor (Dallas), UTSD (Houston), UTHSCSA (San Antonio), Columbia (NYC), and UPenn (Philly)! I am once again overwhelmed with God’s favor in my life and am beyond grateful for every single person who has supported me as family, friends, professors, and mentors through this journey (that is just really starting).

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And no, I don’t just want to go to Penn because of their brilliantly witty name for themselves…

Being offered one of the few coveted spots out of thousands of applicants was more humbling than I could have ever imagined it would be. They all chose little me from small town East Texas to represent their school and the future of the dental profession. That once-far-off, big dream I had busted it for the last three years for had finally turned into tangible emails, phone calls, and letters.

I’m also incredibly proud of my pre-dental friends and classmates that have been on this journey with me from the beginning. Almost all of the Baylor seniors that applied this cycle got into all three Texas schools and some out of state schools too! If this was like a professional sports draft day, we all swept it first round. Of course we tossed aside our studies (for the worst last exam week of the semester) for the night and went out to toast to our new student dentist status and the fact that we actually know what we’re doing after graduation and are no longer “just biology majors” hoping all that work wasn’t for nothing. Rest assured moms and dads, (one day) we will be financially secure.

Smiling's our favorite :)

Smiling’s our favorite 🙂

Cheers! Best group of future tooth docs

Cheers! Best group of future tooth docs

Speaking of finances, if you read my last post you know Penn Dental was my top choice, and I was desperately hoping to receive a substantial scholarship that would make my decision easy. Well, when they called, I was sadly not informed of that. This is not to say that all have been awarded necessarily, and if students that did receive one decline Penn’s offer due to committing to another school or receiving a full-ride military scholarship, those are immediately recycled to be given to other qualified (ahem, PICK ME) students. My heart did sink when I wasn’t one of those lucky first round award recipients. Here I am in this incredible and EXTREMELY fortunate situation of having to pick my school instead of praying for months that ONE picks me. However, now my decision is anything but easy. I have a full 30 days from when I heard for Texas schools (Houston or Baylor, I did go ahead and decline SA) and about 45 days for Penn until I have to inform the school (aka send a deposit check) to secure my golden ticket. That makes things a lot more complicated than I would have hoped due to the timing of things and not wanting to have to put down two deposits potentially to buy more time. My heart is really still set on Penn and I am believing for breakthrough. I also know that complete surrender of my dreams right now is all I can do. I’m praying that I would feel and hear God’s guidance in a fresh and powerful way in the coming days. I know He is the one that has brought me this far and opened door after door for me to walk in this calling on my life to serve people with joy and impact their lives in a very real way.

No matter what happens, this time next year I will be finishing up my first semester as a dental student, and I’m all smiles because of that.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will ACT.” – Psalm 37:4-5

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.

Another box checked

It feels incredible to cross off one more major milestone on the long road to becoming “Dr.” – actually submitting both my TMDSAS and AADSAS applications! Even though my original goal of submitting by July was still a few weeks away, my overachiever tendencies took hold once again and once I started, I wanted to knock them out for good. Speaking of type-A-perfectionist “gunners” (a term I’ve already been called by the doctor I shadow), if you need a laugh look no further than the ADEA AADSAS Facebook page and the string of freakout comments about the site crashing from server overload the first morning. I couldn’t help but comment and speak some sense to my fellow applicants that might be a little too stressed about all this.

“I love all these fellow type-A overachievers already freaking out about the website the first morning it’s opened… it will still be there tomorrow, friends :)”

I’m so relieved that I will never again have to sit for hours and enter in every single course I’ve taken, activity participated in, or come up with yet another convincing essay topic of why they should accept me over the other thousands of applicants (or so I thought). It turns out the secondary applications of a few schools I’m applying to (ahem, PENN) require additional essays – four to be exact. It looks like I’m not quite done with this whole thing after all. Honestly though, these will probably get put on the back burner for about a week so I can actually finish setting up my new apartment since applications and working have taken all my time since I’ve moved a couple weeks ago. Also, the pressing task of re-learning acoustic guitar (yeah, I’m picking the instrument back up just for fun after a ten year hiatus), celebrating friends’ 21st birthdays, cooking real dinners, and enjoying lovely brunches have been sources of some welcomed distraction.

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hello again, calloused hands – the plus side? Another activity to add to the manual dexterity section of dental school apps 🙂

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my fellow future dentist/roomie and I celebrating our whole house now being legal and both being done with apps!

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first night wining and dining in my new place – bruschetta and arugula pesto shrimp pasta

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I’m pretty sure heaven will feel a little like Sunday brunch

I’ve spent a couple mornings back up at my mentor/oral surgeon’s office to shadow and volunteer if I didn’t have work during the day or if he had a particularly interesting case – for example, the other day I saw the full process of “Teeth in a day/All-on-4,” and it was incredible to see such an immediate gratification in just one visit after extractions, multiple implant placements, and having the permanent replacement arches fitted and secured. Seeing procedures like this while shadowing never fails to bring my focus back to why I’m doing all this in the first place. Also, I still can’t help but think about wanting to specialize in OMFS. I have a pre-med friend doing an internship at the TX Medical Center all summer, and she’s getting to scrub in on all kinds of surgical specialties and get shadowing experience in several different hospital rotations. Obviously my first passion is dentistry, but I’ve always been interested in medicine and surgery in general (in high school I did think about neuro or cardio – I blame Grey’s). If I did end up pursuing OMFS, I would want go the crazy long (and awesome) M.D. route and have a surgical residency that would expose me to so much more than working on teeth. I know for now, though, I need to focus on the dream at hand – getting accepted to the best dental school for me. Applications are in, so now we wait…

Good luck to any other pre-dent/pre-med readers out there applying this cycle! I’d love to know where you are applying! Just as I was perusing the AADSAS Facebook page comments, I couldn’t help but think these could be my classmates next year – so cool. Also, any current students feel free to share some interview words of wisdom since that’ll be the next hurdle in the near future.

P.S. for anyone interested I do have a SDN account if you ever want to connect on there, too! – iheartteeth7 is me 🙂 Or you can always find me on Twitter, but be warned, I think I’m wittier than I actually am.