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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On seeking balance and fleeing comparison

These days I’m learning more and more about myself as I aim to master balancing schoolwork with everything else, and I’m also in the process of figuring what all exactly I want to be involved with at Penn Dental when it comes to organizations, leadership roles, frats (yes, frats), clubs, etc. I know I can’t say yes to everything, but I also don’t want to just sit on the sidelines and float through these four years simply to leave with a degree. I want to leave with experiences and memories of things other than studying for hours on end like today (and all week) for our Biological Systems exam Monday. I want to be a voice for my class, get my hands into projects that I can take on, and utilize my unique passions.

We have different interest meetings literally every day for another group (usually with free food so duh we’re going), and lately we’ve had a few events for the dental fraternities (that’s another story – I’m sure all my undergrad friends are cracking up that I’m even thinking of joining one). I applied for our ASDA board as either a D1 Rep or Contributing Editor (aka writing blogs/articles for newsletter, website), and would really love to have a chance to play a bigger role in ASDA already in my first year. I’m also on the class council ballot for both Curriculum/Academic Chair and Ethics Chair. I think either one of those would be a really cool way to serve the ridiculously cool Class of 2019 Penntists (and the classes to come as far as making our curriculum as effective as it can be), strive to maintain our awesome class dynamic and get through any specific struggles, and get to know faculty throughout the school. This is my campaign plug, classmates – you know you want to vote for me 🙂 There’s also talk about having just for fun secondary elections for things like Class Chef, Class Baby, or PR/Social Media Chair aka me. One of our professors in lecture the other day, (sort of weirdly) anonymously called me out basically about my blog, and everyone automatically knew it was me. Long story short, somehow some faculty know about me and that I blog about dental school and just wanted to check it out or wondered what I was saying I guess. So yeah, I’m pretty much here to be a billboard for how awesome Penn Dental is now and can’t talk bad about my profs (even though Dr. M assured me I was free to rant about how awful her tests are b/c it was my perogitave to write about whatever I want). But seriously, though. Apply here. I’ll come say hi on your interview day like I’ve already done for the first 2 rounds of new interviewees! And maybe get some free coffee while I’m there…

it's always sunny in Philadelphia - Rittenhouse Square

it’s always sunny in Philadelphia – Rittenhouse Square

A lot of people probably think professional school (med, dental, law, etc) is a boring and dull grind of absolutely nothing but studying your brains out 24/7. Well, news flash, that’s actually not accurate. Maybe more like 10/6 but whatever. I often tell my friends and family back home that to me, dental school is certainly one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done while also being hands down one of the funnest times in my life so far. Sure, you can lock yourself away in a library cubby and never see the sun for days on end, and I’m sure you’ll get that 98 on the exam and keep your dreams of specializing at your top choice program one day (side note – yes I’m still interested in specializing at the moment, but I also refuse to be miserable). However, I am such a HUGE advocate of taking time for mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health and remembering that while we are a student, we are still a person. A person that needs to do things like go get popsicles just because, take a long break for a sunset run, bike to Rittenhouse for La Colombe coffee simply because we finished class at 1, sleep that extra hour or two, make a beautiful meal, skip a lecture this coming Thursday b/c TEXAS, or take the entire Sunday off from studying last week because your border collie back home you’ve had for 17 years passed away. There are times when school will simply come second to things like that. When mom told me that Jody died, I immediately couldn’t even think about studying anything. I went home to pretty much cry in bed the rest of the day, watched Eat Pray Love (one of my faves), and had therapeutic pizza (what else?) with some friends to get my mind off of it.

my boy

my boy

Another thing I’ve already realized is how easily my classmates and I get trapped into comparison even though I wouldn’t say Penn is “competitive” like it’s reputation sometimes. While I took the day off Sunday b/c I honestly could not focus on school for one second, I couldn’t help but think about how “behind” I would get on studying for our next exam. People are constantly talking and asking each other about how much they are (or aren’t) studying, and as much as I seriously love the collaboration of our Facebook group page when it comes to study materials, I think sometimes it contributes to this unspoken comparison of who’s doing what and how early. When professors announce the average or grade distributions of how many As, Bs, etc, you can’t help but think about where you fall in that spectrum, and we forget that we are 120 people that are used to being the best. That’s how we got here. I remember at my interview someone saying that coming to dental school (and maybe more so at a place like Penn that is just more competitive for acceptance), you have to prepare yourself to be average. We have all been above average academically our entire lives, and now there has to be 50% of the class that is “below average.” It’s truly a crazy concept for us type-A overachievers. They also said, though, that it doesn’t even matter at all, because when we graduate and are then in the real world as practicing dentists, we would be above average again (there’s more of that Penn pride…). A friend from Baylor who’s a first year med student actually just started a blog and wrote tonight on this very thing. Check it out to read basically what I’m trying to say here. We often forget that everyone comes from different educational/personal backgrounds and that what works for me may be completely different from what works for someone who’s been out of school for five years or who is married and has kids. While I always will strive for excellence in everything, I am not striving for perfection. I have to remind myself DAILY of a truth I learned throughout college and in my personal journey. That is that my grades or anything I DO will never be my identity. I am a unique and loved child of God, and THAT is my identity.

Speaking of that balance, after studying for way too many hours today, I’m now going to grab a Blue Moon harvest pumpkin ale and watch an episode of Grey’s before calling it a night. Happy weekend, friends.

P.S. 5 DAYS TIL TEXAS

We won’t be distracted by comparison if we’re captivated with purpose. – Bob Goff

It is finished.

now_that_im_done_with_finals-17383

Those three words were the email subject title of my religion class’s final essays (gotta love Biblical puns – not to make light of the words of Jesus)- my LAST assignment of 2013.  FINALS ARE OVER, and I’ll let you guess how ecstatic I am at the moment.  A few  words to describe my feelings after reaching the end of yet another challenge-filled but rewarding semester of college:

Joy, bliss, freedom, relief, exhaustion, accomplishment, victory, survival, disbelief of how fast they keep on going by (I’m now a senior by hours)…

I don’t even want to get into any of the details of my finals because that’s how done I am with even thinking about school right now, but let’s just say some serious and endless hours were devoted, sleep was lost, workouts and appearance neglected, and now we wait. Final grades won’t be posted until Wednesday or Thursday so I am officially putting it to the back of my brain, and I’m going to enjoy my first full day of break! There is still a possibility I will barely avoid a GPA drop (holla! #perfectionistprobs), but there is one class I’m still pretty nervous about, and more than one of my classes were dependent on how I did on the final exam. It will be OKAY though. Tomorrow I plan on sleeping until who knows when, doing a serious cleaning of my neglected apartment, taking care of important errands I’ve been putting off, and heading to see Frozen with a friend and grub on my favorite pizza in town.

I’m thankful that God showed himself faithful to me yet again by providing me with the strength and peace to persevere through a time that can be very discouraging and keeping my eyes on Him and his plan for using the gifts he’s given me. One semester closer to becoming a Dr.!

As for now, REST. Physical, mental, spiritual REST.

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Evolution

I bet I caught your attention with that post title.  No, I’m not actually writing about a fundamental biological process, although I could write a lengthy explanation on everything I believe on the subject as a believing Christian with a scientific mind that would probably spark some healthy debate among my readers.  Instead, I’m referring to the idea that I’ve had recently that I might gradually shift this blog’s focus and purpose from solely healthy recipes and food inspiration into something more all-encompassing and better representative of the things that I’m passionate about day-to-day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enthralled with all things food and especially convincing people that eating fresh, healthy, and from-the-earth can be the farthest thing from boring.  I do still want to occasionally share recipes and my meals that are just too darn good to keep to myself.  However, I don’t want to showcase false advertising that this is only a “healthy cooking blog” with the name and description, only for readers to be annoyed with my venting about the stresses of school, elaborating on my dream to be a dentist/oral surgeon, or just my random amusing stories along the way.

As I get older (and I’d like to say this is true of everyone), my passions and priorities do evolve over time.  Thinking back to high school,  for example, I was so wrapped up in all my extra-curricular activities such as marching band, varsity sports, piano lessons, UIL academics, school clubs, and other endless time-suckers.  Of course all these experiences shaped me into the person I am today through my teachers and mentors, making memories with my friends, practicing and perfecting skills, and the sometimes hard lessons learned over the years.

I was very consumed with maintaining my image as the girl who did it all, and did it all well.  I also thought about what I ate and how much I exercised probably more than I should’ve, and I can admit now that I was too small back then (I think athletic curves and confidence trumps skinny any day) .  Now I enjoy my food a little more and appreciate the muscle and curves I’ve gained the past few years (even if they came with more pounds).

Things I devote my time and energy to now include things like the never-ending cycle of studying for exams and writing research papers (both of which I should be doing right now), working, dental school applications, laughing and late night library shenanigans, spending time whenever I can with my family and new nephew, fulfilling my goals to become a life-changing doctor, and living life with my group of on-fire-for-God friends that encourage and challenge me every day.  Of course I still cherish the little time I make to get in the kitchen and create a beautiful meal start to finish for people I love, it’s just that in the grand scheme of things, it’s sometimes hard to keep up a consistent recipe pool for blogging.  Thanks to all my readers (however few of you there are) for sticking it out through all my off-topic rambling, and be on the lookout for a possible new name and theme…