Welcome to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry's Blog!
Here you will find blogs from our students about various issues facing our prospective dental professionals, from a day in the life to dealing with frigid Michigan winters. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest a topic you would be interested in learning about. Enjoy!
BY KEVIN KUO
This is a cinematic representation of a student’s experience on outreach at Muskegon Family Care. The theme and effects were inspired after Apple’s popular TV ad “Music Every Day”.
Dental students from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry see patients every day in many external community clinics. This outreach program sponsored by the School and many health clinics around Michigan provide an excellent opportunity for dental students to not only gain experience in dentistry but also provide care for Michiganders who are in need of dental care. Because the state of Michigan also possess a wide array of tourism and travel destinations, students also enjoy various attractions and dining in areas around the dental clinics.
2013 is my first year at the University of Michigan after I graduated from a community college with an Associate in Science degree, so I wanted to make sure that I became involved with my community at the dental school in order to get to know other people, and make the most of my remaining collegiate years. In doing so, I applied and was subsequently accepted to the SPDL (Scholars Program in Dental Leadership) program at the dental school, and I was very excited for our first meeting! As the day arrived, I met my peers at The League and I was bemused by the scene that greeted my eyes. I’d originally believed that I was in the wrong place, because I saw circus acrobats and several “stations” involving ladders, juggling equipment and tightropes strewn about the ballroom. I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into!
We were given t-shirts and I began to think that it must have just been an entertaining day to kick off our program. As what I assumed would be the performers performance commenced, they started pulling in volunteers to demonstrate. I momentarily considered hiding in the back at that point because I thought there was no way I could do any of that stuff without more training, and as I looked around I noticed a lot of other students with similar expressions. My plans of evasion quickly fell through as I was called upon to demonstrate the tight rope station. My less than perfect balance combined with a tendency to trip over my own feet led me to believe that I was about to fall flat on my face in front of people I’d only just met, but luckily I was not alone. Another woman was called up to walk another tight rope next to mine and she told me that she thought she’d fall too. The tightropes were only about a foot off of the ground but were still comprised of two posts and wire. The director instructed us to begin trying and the first time we attempted to cross both fell. We also fell the second time. Before our third attempt, I realized that there had to be more to this than what they were telling us so since they hadn’t told us we couldn’t, I suggested to my partner that we move the tightropes closer together and help each other across. This was the solution and as we helped each other cross the tightropes, we finally made it to the other side.
The rest of the events were similarly structured. They seemed simple enough but alone, one could not hope to complete them. However, by working together, we all completed the entirety of the gauntlet. What I’d originally perceived as entertainment turned into being an incredible learning experience. What we couldn’t do alone we did easily together and it was a lesson that I hope everyone has the opportunity to truly learn, because it applies not only to working in a dental office or any kind of professional setting, but to life as a whole. What may be too much for us to tackle on our own becomes easily manageable and even enjoyable when completed as a team. My first experience with the dental leadership program was incredibly enjoyable and rewarding and I am very much looking forward to our next meeting.
Want to see more pictures from the kickoff? See the flickr gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/umdent/sets/72157636688916123/
There are several reasons that students choose to join SPDL (the Scholars Program in Dental Leadership). Some of these reasons include learning how to become a better leader, getting to work with faculty mentors, and helping the underserved. In addition to these reasons, I chose to join SPDL as a second year student to fulfill a promise that I had made to myself while I was applying to dental schools. I wrote down on a to-do list that if I was accepted to dental school, I would do something to help provide dental care to the elderly population, especially those who are nursing home residents.
When I started dental school, my mind was focused only on classes. I studied for Head and Neck Anatomy quizzes as though they were final exams, and I think that most of my classmates did as well. Once the D1 Fall Semester got rolling though conversations amongst classmates turned into constant complaining and groaning about how much classwork and studying we had to do. I was getting tired of the monotony of going to class everyday 8am-5pm and then either going to the library or staying to work on my pre-clinic typodont. I knew that eventually I would be allowed out of the lecture hall to actually do dentistry, but for the time being, I realized I needed something else to focus on. This is when I found my dental school to-do list, and decided it was time for me to own up to the promises that I had made to myself about what I wanted to accomplish during these four years. After talking with other students who were involved with SPDL (Scholars Program in Dental Leadership), I decided that having my own leadership project with a faculty mentor would be a way to do something with geriatric dental care.
When I made this decision to join SPDL and do a project on geriatric dentistry, I felt really excited that I would have my own project and would have something else to do besides schoolwork, but then I realized I had absolutely no idea what kind of project I should have for this broad topic of “Geriatric Dentistry” or how to find a dental school instructor to be my mentor. One of the positive aspects of SPDL though is that the students and faculty directors are encouraging and want to help students accomplish their projects. I emailed Dr. Russell Taichman, the SPDL Director, with my broad topic and he suggested that I contact Dr. Domenica Sweier, and after meeting with her several times and with her guidance, I was able to focus my broad idea of geriatric dentistry into a more specific project idea. As far as my SPDL project goes, I spent the majority of my D2 year just trying to narrow down my project idea. As motivated as I was to accomplish the project, the reality was that as a D2 student I still had a lot of school work and also had to study for Part One of National Boards. Even though it took a while for my project to get started, the faculty and mentors who are involved with SPDL projects understand that academics are the first priority. This is why SPDL projects are long-term projects. As such, I find that this is what has made my project so meaningful. Working on it over a long time has allowed me to put a lot of thought into it, to jot ideas down in a notebook, and evaluate what parts of the project will be more valuable than others.
After one year in SPDL and lots of brainstorming, I am starting to see my work come to fruition. I researched, created materials, and finally got permission from the Institutional Review Board to begin my survey project. I hope this plan will improve the access to dental care for nursing home residents. I am gathering survey data from nursing home nurses and nurses’ aides that will be used to hopefully make changes to a government issued document that is used to assess the oral health of nursing home residents. My goal is that my proposed changes to this document will be easier to understand for people who are not dentists but who provide care to nursing home residents and who still must evaluate the residents’ oral health. The goal is for these caregivers to more accurately assess nursing home residents’ oral health and understand when they need to recommend residents be seen by a dentist.
I have learned this year that it requires a lot of patience to complete a long-term project. Most people observe the end result of a project, but do not experience all of the hours that go into its creation. Therefore, I find that it is important to celebrate small milestones along the way, since they are all steps that will eventually come together to achieve the task as a whole. With my SPDL project it is very easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed by all of the details that are involved with its planning, however, I remind myself from time to time that the point of this project is that I will hopefully be increasing nursing home residents’ access to dental care, and therefore with SPDL, I have been given the opportunity to give back to the community.
The first week in Bauru was spent following around fourth year dental students. The fourth year dental students are actually in their final semester, because summer vacation in Brazil begins in December. I was surprised by how similar dental school is at Faculdade de Odontologia de Bauru Universidade de São Paulo (FOB-USP) and the University of Michigan. At both schools, D1s are busy studying anatomy and going to classes, D2s spend most their time in pre-clinic simulation labs perfecting their skills, D3s are adjusting to full clinic and rotation schedules and D4s are trying to sort out what will come next for them after graduation. In Brazil, dental students begin right out of high school and so it is common for there to be 21 year old dentists. Below is what a typical day looks like for dental students at FOB-USP.
8 AM -12 PM: Class or Clinic. In FOB-USP classes, one professor will speak for approximately four hours. There is usually only one 15-minute break in the middle. In the clinics, the third and fourth year students treat patients on different days. Students are paired with another in their own class and they are assigned to cubes in the clinics. A student will see one of his or her own patients for approximately 2 hours and then assist a classmate for the remaining time. There are separate clinics for oral surgery and emergencies, just like we have at Michigan. Pre-doctoral students at FOB-USP have the opportunity to do a variety of complex surgical procedures, including bone grafting and third molar extractions. In Bauru, faculty periodically walk over to check on students while they are working and to answer questions. They use a less formal system for checking students’ work that we do at Michigan.
12 – 2 PM: Lunch. There is a cafeteria on campus that serves healthy and inexpensive lunches. Most of the students eat there. After lunch, students study in the library, work on research, or relax. Almost all dental students do research at FOB-USP and they are paid for their work.
2 – 6 PM: Class or Clinic. Same as in the morning.
6 PM- 9 PM: Students use this time to do research, finish lab work or to go work out. There is an on-campus gym and outdoor track that a lot of students, faculty, and staff utilize.
9 PM – Dinner. The Brazilians tend to eat late. Many students leave campus on the weekends and so most social gatherings happen during the week. Dental classes are small with fifty students or less and they are very cohesive. For birthday parties or other celebrations, almost everyone attends.
Amy Lesch is a third year dental student.
It was our first day as exchange students at the University of São Paulo School of Dentistry in Bauru, Brazil. Walking into the classroom, we quickly realized that we were the only ones wearing all white. As if our unfamiliar faces among this close knit class of 30 dental students didn’t make us stand out enough, my colleague, Amy Lesch, and I were clad from head to toe in all white according to the school’s clinic dress code. There was no clinic today, only classes. Slightly embarrassed, we scrambled to find our seats. This very same moment, however, was when we discovered how friendly and welcoming the people of Brazil really are. The professor came to our seats to introduce himself and welcomed us in his slightly broken but cordial English. Many of the students flocked around to meet us as well.
“Muito prazer (nice to meet you),” I would say, trying to use some simple Portuguese I learned before leaving.
“Ah, fala português! (He speaks Portuguese!)” they glanced to each other, surprised that I knew any. I don’t really speak Portuguese that well, but I had managed to learn to say some basic things, and it seemed to be enough to delight everyone we met. Enjoying the attention, as Amy can attest, I began using this little tactic to impress the Brazilians, albeit undeserved praise.
All of the students were kind enough to go out of their way and introduce themselves. They did their best to speak to us in English and make sure we were enjoying our stay.
Soon the class settled in, and we began the lecture. The topic: Dental Law and Professionalism. I was reminded of our classes at UMSOD on the same subject. Eventually, we came to a lecture on a Periodontology, or ‘Periodontia’ in Portuguese. During the lecture, the professor came to a slide with the classic venn diagram of the three contributing factors of periodontal disease: hospedeiro (host), micróbio (microbes), and ambiente (environment). Amy and I looked at each other and smiled because we had seen this slide so many times in our endless lessons on periodontal disease.
“I wonder if they have Dr. Fenno’s famous biofilm cartoon as well,” Amy laughed.
We started to feel more at home, as dentistry was the common ground we had with everyone else in the room. We followed the 4th years throughout the day for the first week of the exchange to classes, clinics, and even dinners and parties, or ‘festas’, afterwards. We quickly became friends with many of the students and were off to a great start of an incredible trip.
Justin Pisano is a D3.
Greetings from Bauru! My classmate, Justin Pisano, and I are in Brazil for two weeks as part of an exchange program with the University of São Paulo School of Dentistry in Bauru. This exchange was made possible by the generous support of International College of Dentists and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. For the first week, we will be getting a glimpse into the lives of a Brazilian dental students as we attend their classes and clinic rotations, eat in their cafeteria and sleep in the student dorms located on campus. The second week will be spent at Centrinho hospital, where they specialize in treating craniofacial abnormalities.
Although we have only been in Bauru for just a few days, the students and faculty have made us feel right at home. All of the students we have met have been so warm and welcoming to us. They have gone out of their way to show us their city, get a feel for Brazilian culture, and teach us some of their beautiful language. Even though it is winter in Brazil, the weather is comparable to Michigan summers. I am excited for what the next two weeks will hold. More about our adventures will follow!
Amy Lesch is a third year dental student.