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.

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Butternut Squash and Quinoa Harvest Skillet

IMG_1330I know my last recipe I posted was butternut squash based, so I’m sorry for the lack of variation. It’s because it’s seriously my favorite fall veggie and can be used in countless different ways. For Tuesday’s roommate dinner this week, I casually whipped up one of the best vegetarian, seasonal meals I’ve ever made.  I didn’t really put too much thought into making this, but I wish I would have written down the exact amounts of things (this recipe is basically just a mixture of several different ingredients and you can play around with amounts). I didn’t realize while I was throwing this together that it would turn out SO dang delicious.  If you love fall and the seasonal ingredients, then I promise you’ll love the flavor and texture combos in this dish.

(serves about 4-6, could be entree or side dish)

Ingredients

Butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes (I used about 3/4 of a large one)

S/P, ground nutmeg, ginger, garlic powder (to taste)

1-2 t agave nectar

Quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable stock (I started with 1 cup dry)

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Several handfuls of fresh spinach or kale or a combo

1 medium sweet and crisp apple, skin on and chopped (I used a Pink Lady)

Fat free half and half or milk (amount varies – I probably used about 1/4 c)

1/2 c grated smoked provolone (or regular)

1/3 cup less sugar Craisins

1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans (I toast on a dry pan in a toaster oven for a couple minutes and watch carefully so they don’t burn)

Several leaves of fresh sage, finely chopped

Directions

1. Roast the squash, drizzled/sprayed with EVOO, agave nectar, and seasonings to taste at 375 for about 15-20 minutes or until fork tender.

2. Cook the quinoa according to directions using stock as the liquid. Set aside.

3. Saute the onions in a large skillet over medium heat in the EVOO, season with S/P, and cook until caramelized (about 10 minutes), adding in the garlic towards the end.

4. Add the apples and greens until just wilted.

5. Add and combine the cooked quinoa and roasted squash.

6. Add the grated cheese and H&H/milk until everything comes together and is melty.

7. Stir in the craisins, pecans, and sage.

I think what I love about this meal is not only is it fairly quick and simple, but it’s sweet, savory, cheesy, crunchy, packed with nutritious goodies, and very filling.  Enjoy, friends!

P.S. Be on the lookout for a showcase of my creative project for my Jesus and the Gospels class this week.  I want to incorporate my blog into my project because the title, Eat Pray Learn, represents the idea behind my concept for the project in a pretty cool way…

New month, new goals

I love the first day of a new month.  This one marks the beginning of my absolute favorite time of year.  November through January is what I look forward to all year because of the holiday season, “cold” weather, my early January birthday (which happens to be a really fun one this year), plus countless other little things that just make me smile this time of year .  I also am guilty of being bound to the concept of orderly time and only thinking I can take on new projects, goals, etc. with a calendar turn of a page – whether it be yearly, monthly, or weekly. That being said, with the first of November here, I have lots of little things to add to my monthly bucket list (in no particular order)…

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1. Write my personal statement.  This is a major component of my dental school applications, and it’s my chance to show schools what makes me ME.  I get to put an actual personality with those boring (but hopefully attention-grabbing) statistics that they’ll see first.   5300 characters to express why I want to be a dentist, and basically why they should give me a spot in their class over all the other applicants.  Also, because I want to apply to competitive out of state schools as well, this can be what makes them find it impossible to reject me simply because of my residential status.

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2. Fall in love with running again (Run 3x a week and get my base mileage back up for Bearathon training). I’m not officially starting my training “plan” until after Christmas (again, with the calendar concept), but I have GOT to get my endurance back to where it needs to be to even begin to think about doing those long runs on the weekend.  I also want to supplement with the Insanity workouts that I absolutely loved this summer.  Last year when I ran the half marathon for the first time, the fall semester before I was enrolled in a “running class” for a fitness credit for my degree plan.  I know I haven’t done as much consistent running this semester, but I’m hoping that since I’ve at least done the training before and am a lot stronger than last year, I can get back in the groove in a little less time.  This afternoon I actually went on my longest run of the semester along the Brazos, and it sparked that fire I have deep down that makes me believe I can call myself a “runner.” More on that later…

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3. Prep for healthy meals during the week all month long to counteract the upcoming holiday caloric craziness.  I’m vowing to spend some more time to actually plan and put together well rounded, veggie focused meals on a daily basis.  Also, I’ve got to nip my sweet tooth in the bud slightly for the next few weeks so that when the time does come during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the anticipated baking and desserts will be moderately indulged. We all know I’ve got to still be rocking the skinny jeans for my favorite wardrobe season.  As for those pumpkin cookies still sitting on the counter, well, they’re sort of healthy from all that Vitamin A, right?

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 4. Start thinking about Christmas gifts earlier. I’m always that last-week shopper for my family and friends since I’m consumed with [the dreaded *F word* for stressed, GPA obsessed, pre-health science majors] at the end of the semester in December, and no matter how much thought I put into trying to give a thoughtful gift, it always turns out as some variation on a theme from previous years.

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5.  Brainstorm fundraising ideas for ASDA mission trip next semester. I’m so excited that the organization I’m an officer for, American Student Dental Association, is in the process of coordinating a dental mission trip for spring break.  Right now we’re looking at Costa Rica! 3 of my biggest passions – dentistry, missions, and travel – all in one trip! However, all things worth having/doing call for making big sacrifices (in this case, financially).

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6. Be intentional with my professors for the remaining part of the semester. I’ve already asked for my first two letters of recommendation (yay progress! The oral surgeon I worked with this summer and my current religion professor who actually knows me as more than a seat in his class), but I’m still struggling with what two science professors to ask as well as one other non-science faculty member.  It really is difficult to form meaningful relationships with professors that have 200+ other pre-health students with the same intentions as me and limited office hours.

I just thought this was funny :) I mean, I know they love me, but do they really KNOW me?

I just thought this was funny 🙂 I mean, I know they love me, but do they really KNOW me?

7. Increase my yearning for God’s Word.  I’ve been praying that God would find new ways to stir my heart to fill myself with His truth and promises in the Bible EVERY morning.  Sometimes I find myself just going through the motions of reading what I’ve read so many times in my life before, but not being fully present and expectant of the new things that God wants to reveal to me each day.  I really want to experience His presence in a fresh and deep way this month (and every month after).  

Word. Literally...

Word. Literally…

I could go on forever (if you should know anything about me, it’s that I’m a very goal-oriented girl), but I’ll stop there, because I really like the number 7. Yes, it’s the biblical number of perfection, but also because I’ve got to get back to enjoying my crazy wild Friday night. What? Homemade broccoli cheese soup, magazine reading, and TV on the couch isn’t your idea of a typical college kid’s weekend? Well, maybe I’m not your typical college kid…

Pumpkin muffins and other lovely things

If you know me at all, you probably know I would have to say summer is my least favorite season. I just don’t particularly enjoy sweating for seven straight months here in Texas. I’m much more a fall and winter girl, and this is a major reason why I’m seriously considering moving north after college. Saturday we finally welcomed the first real cool front of the season, and my coffee shop study space was flooded with Texans breaking out the boots and sweaters and coming in for a hot pumpkin spice latte like it was actually COLD (maybe only 60 degrees). It’s been absolutely gorgeous, and I can finally get the sense that fall is in the air.

My mom got to come visit me for a quick trip, mainly to attend the Phil Wickham concert with me and a few of my friends.  IT WAS AMAZING.  We were on the FRONT row, and I could have touched him if I wanted.  If you don’t know Phil, he has the voice of an angel and is such a powerful vocalist and worship leader.  His songs never fail to usher in God’s presence and speak deeply to hearts. It was a refreshing night of music, and I’m so glad my mom could experience it with me.

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Another super study Saturday at Common Grounds was had with my friend Jenna, who is a focused pre-med student with never-ending homework like myself. We know how to make studying fun, though, and always find ourselves taking breaks to just laugh at our lives or remind ourselves of an encouraging Bible verse sometimes. She is always such an encouragement to me, and I try to be a source of support for her, too. I’m so blessed by her friendship, especially because we’re both passionate followers of God that just happen to also want to be doctors. It’s so cool how we can relate to each other so well on our paths to follow God’s calling on our lives in joy amidst the stressed and competitive atmosphere of other Baylor pre-health students.

Of course with the drop in temperature, the first thing my mind went to was my obsession with fall baking, specifically pumpkin-flavored anything. After a long day, nothing beats the therapeutic process of making a batch of warm and good-for-the-soul pumpkin muffins.  When I do bake, I always am a fan of lightening up the traditional recipes, but without sacrificing any flavor.  I used The Slender Student’s (a fellow Texan college-aged blogger with tons of healthy recipes – check her out!) recipe, but I used Truvia baking blend (use half of the listed amount for sweetener or sugar in any recipe) and added 2 oz finely chopped 76% dark chocolate instead of the chips for even more chocolate-y goodness throughout.  They have NO butter and NO sugar (except for the small amount in the chocolate), but I promise they still perfectly sum up the flavors and cravings of fall in one bite.
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Green Smoothie Ideas

IMG_4287I’ll save the health lecture this time. We all have heard about these mysterious, lean, mean, and green forms of liquid that are associated with “superfood,” “cleansing,” “glowing,” “energy,” etc.  There is in fact a lot of science behind what makes these drinks so nutrient-filled and good for your system.  Doesn’t it make sense that our bodies would appreciate the break from having to work and break down all the crappy food we hurriedly chew and scarf down? Liquid calories chock-full of healthy goodness that cover all the bases of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and the right kind of fats can be absorbed more efficiently. (Oops, health lecture). I happen to love green smoothies and try to incorporate them into my regular lifestyle at least a couple times a week. It really is a great way to boost up that daily fruit and veggie count goal that seems somewhat impossible to reach.  I make them different every time deepening on my taste buds that day and what I’ve got hanging around that needs to be eaten. They’re perfect for an on-the-go breakfast, other meal replacement (if you make sure to include enough calories of carbs, protein, fats), or a pre/post-workout boost. If you’re skeptical, I PROMISE you will not know there’s spinach in there if  you just close your eyes and ignore the color.  I have tried other greens such as kale, but to be honest I don’t know if you could get away with sneaking that into a picky critic’s drink. Feel free to experiment with different greens and decide what you can honestly enjoy drinking versus trying to finish a glass of something you’d be fine going the rest of your life without having again.  (Keep in mind depending on ingredients, a green smoothie might not turn out “green.” Don’t be afraid if it’s an odd color. Like I said, just ignore whatever color it is and drink up!) If you make them right, I guarantee you one day you will actually CRAVE green smoothies.  If you’re still completely against the idea, these are great without the “green,” too! Here are some of my concoctions that always turn out great:

PB Banana Mocha

1 cup unsweetened (original or vanilla) almond milk

1 frozen banana (if not frozen, just add a few ice cubes)

2 T PB2 powder

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1-2 t instant coffee granules

1-2 t cocoa powder

1/2 T ground flax

1-3 cups fresh spinach (I use a small personal blender so I fill it to the top)

Truvia to taste

Tropical 

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 frozen banana

1/2 c frozen peaches

1/2 cup frozen pineapple

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 t almond butter

Spinach (again, LOTS)

dash of vanilla

Truvia to taste

Optional – 1-2 T coconut flakes

Berry Blend

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 cup frozen mixed berries

1/2 T flax

Fresh spinach

Dash of vanilla

Truvia to taste

Optional: to make creamier – add a couple T of plain greek yogurt. For added tartness – a squeeze of lemon juice

Chocolate Strawberry Banana

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 frozen banana

1/2 c strawberries

1 T cocoa powder

Fresh spinach

Dash of vanilla

Truvia to taste

Snacks for Success

I’m a big fan of snacking.  I was always that girl in school with the lunch box or backpack full of countless Ziplocs of healthy snacks to fuel those never-ending days of volleyball away games or night band practices.  You would not find me spending money at the concession stand or vending machine (since when are nachos a good pre-game fuel anyway?) buying an after-school “snack” that had more than enough calories to count as a meal but lacked any kind of balanced nutrition. To this day, I usually throw something quick together in the morning before I head out, so I’m never without a healthy nosh for in between cycling class, chemistry lab, or long hours at the library. Snacking the right way is so important to keep your metabolism humming throughout the day instead of overloading your system only two or three times a day to feel bloated and full then sluggish and hungry.  Eating smaller amounts every 3-4 hours will keep energy levels up, your brain happier and functioning at its peak with fresh glucose, and you won’t have to endure the desperate stomach growls nagging with unhealthy cravings.  If you are into counting calories, I’ve found it’s best to try to keep your snacks around 150-250 calories (keep in mind your level of workouts and if additional protein or carbs are important to you).  This will keep you satisfied and give you energy to last until a meal a couple hours later.  It’s also good to think about a balance of protein, carbs, and fats in your snacks just like you would for meals.  Whenever you can, focus your snack around a fruit or vegetable to amp up your daily count.  I thought I’d give you some snacking inspiration and make a list of some of my go-to foods.

Sweet 

Apple or banana with 1 T nut butter

Smoothie with milk (I use unsweetened almond) and frozen fruit (plus any other healthy add-ins you want)

Smart Pop popcorn 100 calorie mini bag kettle corn with cinnamon and 1 T dark chocolate chips

1/2 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a few chopped walnuts

1 orange with 1/2 serving cocoa roast almonds (Emerald brand)

Salty

Carrots and broccoli and any flavored hummus

1 piece of toast with mashed avocado and dash of Siracha or salsa (if you need more calories top with a fried egg or egg whites- SO good)

6 Triscuits (recently obsessed with the new sweet potato/onion flavor) and light string cheese or Laughing Cow cheese

1 serving Blue Diamond Habenero BBQ almonds (another new obsession)

Smart Pop popcorn 100 calorie mini bag butter flavor with a sprinkle of parmesan and italian herbs

1 small corn or wheat flour tortilla filled with avocado, sharp cheddar, and salsa