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.

little bits of happy

It’s been a week of so many small joys all intertwined that it’s hard to even know where to begin reflecting on the past few days. I’m writing tonight with an overwhelming, continual gratitude for the outpour of God’s blessings and the small and big ways He gives me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). Some small, others more significant, but all moments worth sharing.

Even though our guys sadly lost out of March Madness on Thursday, the Lady Bears were victorious twice this week and are now moving on to the Elite Eight! As a huge Baylor women’s basketball fan (I skipped almost a week of class my freshman year to go watch history be made as we went 40-0 and won the national championship in Denver), I’m hoping for another incredible fight to the finish from our girls.

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After I spent much of Monday night watching the women’s game when I had a marketing test and anatomy quiz on Tuesday, I still managed to pull out As on both! Maybe I should watch basketball and enjoy a little pizza and Shiner more often when I study…

Tuesday afternoon I was so incredibly happy to be able to spend some time walking trails and catching up on life with my dear friend Christen who was in town. She moved back home to Colorado at the end of last school year, so this was our first time seeing each other since that sad goodbye. It was like she never even left, and as anyone who knows her would agree, every minute spent with her simply leaves your heart full.

If that wasn’t enough to make a girl’s day, I then treated myself to the long-awaited, post-half marathon training pedicure that was worth every penny. Running all those miles week after week doesn’t help any with the springtime transition to Chacos and flip-flops, trust me.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently taking a social dance class as a part of my degree’s fitness requirements. Our teachers are seriously sticklers when it comes to grading our dance tests, but I finally made a 100 on our last one – on Tango of all things. Now on to the Rumba, I’m thriving in my love for hip-moves and Latin rhythms. My teacher even told me I was just such a natural for this dance. Flattered? Extremely. A little awkward? Definitely (our instructors are a 60ish-year-old couple). It still made my day.

Some exciting news came my way when I found out I will be writing as a guest blogger/contributor for ASDA’s (dental student organization) national blog soon! I sent in an interest form a month or two ago just for kicks, and now I’m actually going to be “electronically published” for the first time as well as get my name out there in the dental world. The editor said they’d like for me to talk about my dentistry-specific service involvement in college, in particular my recent trip to Panama. I have all summer to perfect my post because it won’t be until the August issue.

My college pastor started a perfectly-timed new series called Back to the Future this Wednesday about making choices for your future and following your dreams that God’s given you in the midst of cloudy indecision. It’s just too good and I’m sure will deserve its own post when the series wraps up in a few weeks. I will go ahead and share the main takeaway from the first week, though – “Without complete surrender, there can never be complete confidence.” – Truth.

After much thinking, praying, and reevaluating my plans for next year as far as a job, I am officially stepping down from being a supplemental instructor in the biology department because I was chosen to fill a position as a lab assistant for general human anatomy – the class and lab I’m in now that I absolutely love even though it never ceases to kick my butt. I promise the material is taught at a level equal to medical/dental schools (my professor did use to be on teaching faculty at UT Southwestern). I’m so excited for change, a few less weekly work hours, a chance to work with my sassy, no-nonsense, and often like-minded professor, assisting students (many who will actually be my friends!) in complicated dissections -the bulk of our lab and why I enjoy it – and not to mention reviewing gross anatomy in depth for an entire year leading up to dental school.

Last night was Formal for an organization I’m in, and it was such an enjoyable time spent with some of my favorite people. I love any excuse for a little black dress, red lipstick, and my go-to sparkly nude pumps. I took Ross, my best guy, and there’s never a dull moment when we’re together. I cherish his friendship immensely, and I always appreciate when we can actually hang out with each other since, far too often, life just gets in the way. We decided to check out a new place downtown for happy hour cocktails and live jazz before heading to the event. We scrounged up the catered leftovers when we arrived fashionably late and then easily had the most fun on the dance floor  (I taught him the Rumba in one song), almost the last to leave.

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A good formal date – fun, mad dance skills, looks good standing next to you, and it doesn’t hurt if he’s your best friend

Good luck getting this crazy trio to take a decent picture

Good luck getting this crazy trio to take a decent picture

After all that time soaking up these souvenirs of junior year this past week, today was of course spent solely catching up and studying for another round of exams coming up. At least I was at one of my favorite spots with new pens, new music, and energized from a week of so many little bits of happy. 1979696_688355041215736_1869857780_n

Squash, Sage, and Simple Saturdays

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Today was lovely. It was a Saturday when I gave myself permission to remove any thought of school from my mind.  After a two or three week stretch of constant exams and the paper that I slaved over for weeks finally being finished,  I forced myself to take a deep breath and just BE.  I did things that really make me HAPPY.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy or appreciate my college experience, it’s just that more times than not, my weekends are filled with studying for the next test or catching up on projects.  As much as I am a self-proclamed learning-lover, it gets exhausting filling my brain with infinite amounts of information day in and day out. It’s so important to take time for myself occasionally in the rush of never-ending obligations and hectic schedules of college life.

After sleeping until my natural, non-electronic, alarm clock woke me up and tidying up my whirlwind of an apartment, I made my way to the local farmers market with my friend Shelby.  This is probably my favorite thing to do on Saturday mornings in Waco.  There are so many unique vendors selling everything from crepes, homemade soaps, hand-crafted espresso sips, local honey, and the always popular breakfast taco.  We decided on lattes and tex mex and caught up on life.

Seriously the best latte I've had - maybe because I was drinking espresso for a reason other than staying up late to study...

Seriously the best latte I’ve had – maybe because I was drinking espresso for a reason other than staying up late to study…

To make any leisurely Saturday complete I had to scope out sales at LOFT.  Of course I wasn’t able to find anything…(who I am I kidding?) In case my Saturday free of studying wasn’t already going to be relaxing and refreshing, I spontaneously booked an hour massage at a downtown spa. A chunk of my paycheck? Sure.  Worth it? ALWAYS.

Since sadly it has been WEEKS since our last roommate dinner, I insisted on staying in and cooking an actual meal for girls’ night in.  I was so looking forward to using my first butternut squash of the season I bought this week.  I made this creamy butternut squash pasta with our fresh sage and served with the best rosemary sourdough bread.  Fall perfection on a plate, my friends.  I roasted the squash instead, used rotini  (to snatch up bits of that delicious sauce), subbed 1/2 cup fat free half and half for some of the broth, and just chopped and added the sage to the sauce.  I knew 1/4 cup parmesan would just not cut it, so I took some liberty there. It’s roasty, creamy, warm, and good for the soul. It was a big hit, and it’s a great way to showcase one of my favorite fall ingredients.

Healthy comfort food at its finest

Healthy comfort food at its finest

My day of simplicity and saying no to schoolwork has come to an end, and tomorrow I’ve got to face the reality that is yet another exam on Monday.  I’m praying that God would open my eyes to see the simple but far-greater-than-these little joys He gives in the middle of stressful times, no matter what day of the week it is.

A Few of My Favorite Things

This post is the result of a Friday night in (typical for this summer) after my last day shadowing at the oral surgery office, a much-needed nap, working DAT practice problems all afternoon (20 DAYS AWAY), and dragging myself to the gym for a quick workout.  I wanted to blog about something delicious, profound, or inspiring, but instead settled for a making a collection of things that just make my heart happy.  I’m a big fan of Pinterest (I wish such an amazing time-waster was never created), and as I went perusing through some of my recent pins, I realized just how much you can learn about someone by looking at the random little things that people collect and save to their imaginary space of inspiration.  Here’s a sample of my simple loves:

1) Dreaming big

1) Dreaming big

2) My unchanging, faithful, and loving God

2) My unchanging, faithful, and loving God

3) Wanderlust

3) Wanderlust

4) Ryan Gosling's words of encouragement :)

4) Ryan Gosling’s words of encouragement 🙂

5) Hilarious Christian pick-up lines eCards

5) Hilarious Christian pick-up lines eCards

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6) All things oatmeal

7) Working out because health and fitness is a gift: My body has run 13.1 miles, pushed limits in yoga, and powered through mile after mile of cycling

7) Working out because health and fitness is a gift: My body has run 13.1 miles, pushed limits in yoga, and powered through mile after mile of cycling

8) Nerd humor

8) Nerd humor

9) Coffee-drinking, glasses-rocking, sweater-wearing guys

9) Coffee-drinking, glasses-rocking, sweater-wearing guys

10) Is dark chocolate ever a bad idea?

10) Is dark chocolate ever a bad idea?

11) My beautiful, challenging, and inspiring school

11) My beautiful, challenging, and inspiring school

12) Knowledge

13) COFFEE

13) COFFEE

14) Thinking of the one God has for me

14) Thinking of the one God has for me

The Body is a Temple

e9e5aa81bb3001611e78b6e3dcefdbfcThe Message version – “Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

People often ask me why I became interested in nutrition or care so much about leading a healthy lifestyle.  I am always reminded of this verse in the Bible that describes our body as a temple and that we are on the earth to glorify God through everything in our lives, including how we take care of the vessel that He so carefully and lovingly knit together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).  If we were created in the perfect image of God, shouldn’t we strive to maintain our body and health as He intended it to be? The complex and miraculous physiological processes of the human body are designed by the Creator to function under a set of ideal conditions, and it is ultimately up to each and every person to take care of their body to maintain their individual health. I understand that genetics play a major part in a person’s health, but I believe that a large percentage of the health conditions Americans face can be prevented through healthy habits and mindful living. More importantly, this has to start at a young age as we’ve seen with the dramatic rise every year in childhood obesity.
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God created the earth and everything in it, and when I think about how perfectly water, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and even animals provide vastly different but equally important nutrients that we humans need to survive, I see God’s love for us.  He knew exactly what we would need, and gladly gave us everything to live the abundant lives that He desires for us. I also think the colors, fragrances, textures, and tastes of real food show His creativity.  This is why I am such an advocate for eating as fresh and unadulterated food as possible, and I don’t understand how America has twisted our view to happily eat man-made, processed, nutrient-stripped, packaged, and sometimes unrecognizable “food.” I recently read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, and I absolutely love every point he made (I’ll probably have a post later with my favorite quotes).  His main tagline is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Yeah sure, it might be easier to swing through the drive-through every day for cheeseburgers and fries or not have to think about the complicated science of nutrition before sitting down to every meal, but do you think it makes God happy to see his children suffer because of clogged arteries, low self-esteem, or limited mobility? I imagine it does bring Him joy to see people growing their own plants and appreciating food from the soil that He’s given, being full of energy to live life enthusiastically, or honoring Him with their bodies by reaching their full potential to cross the finish line of a marathon.
On the other hand, I don’t believe God wants us to be obsessed about or consumed by our eating habits either.  It’s very easy to get caught up in both spectrums of eating disorders, whether gluttony or under-eating, but that is not the kind of life we should be living to honor God.  After all, he wants us to enjoy life to the full!  Even Jesus was known to savor a good Passover feast and wine occasionally. In the end, I think it’s about finding the balance of enjoying and appreciating our food while striving to live a disciplined and healthy life so we can live long and enjoy God’s blessings.