Sunday, December 30, 2012

What we’re learning in dental school

What are you learning in dental school?
What kind of classes are you taking?
How is dental school different from med school?

During the holidays I was answering a lot of questions about what we learn in dental school from friends and family. Why anatomy? Why basic sciences?

Here’s the official information about Penn’s curriculum from the dental school website.

D1 & D2
- Didactic learning with classroom lectures
- Basic sciences including Histology, Embryology, Anatomy, Cadaver Anatomy, Microbiology &etc.
- Some clinic learning including Health Promotions (learning how to interact with patients and learning about different oral hygiene products), DAU (assisting upper classmen), and Radiology rotations
- Dental simulations- virtual reality lab (I wrote about this earlier & at ASDA’s blog about getting to actually drill a tooth in my first month at Penn)

keepcalmHow to survive in dental school: Korean Student Dental Association shirts
(I did the Gangnam Style flash mob early fall.)

D3 & D4 (mostly treating patients in clinic)
- Completing our rotation through the different specialties
- Treating patients
- D4’s also do a 6-week Externship at Penn’s partner institutions all over the world (including Seoul National University- six weeks in Korea would be my dream come true.)

Penn also has Selectives which are different classes you can choose from. I think it’s great for tailoring the dental school’s curriculum to fit your interests- I took Cosmetic Dentistry this fall which reminded me to think about the duality of aesthetics and functionality in dentistry.

Most of our lectures this D1 year are on basic sciences. We are learning the concepts behind our procedures & how the body works so we can restore its normal function. The professors work hard to bring dental relevance into our topics giving old classes I’ve taken a new meaning. I can also read my own dental X-ray radiographs now… sort of.

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It’s a lot of information. I have never studied this hard in my life. But as our immunology professor Dr. K reminded us, “the point of this [complicated immune system] is not to show up on dental exams but to protect dental students and others from getting sick.” It’s what makes us grow and run and do the every day things we love.

Think of these not as another packet we have to memorize, but as life’s secrets we’re getting to see. It’s not particularly easy when you’re still up studying at 3AM… but I’m trying to keep that fascination alive.

What’s your favorite class in dental school?
What’s the most difficult class you’ve taken?
(Anatomy has been crazy but I remember organic chemistry 2 in undergraduate crushed my soul.)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas time in Tucson.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I’ve spent a wonderful Christmas in Tucson with Laura and her family. Eating delicious sit-down meals (remember how I complained about this?), leftovers in the kitchen, and a fully stocked pantry and fridge to tempt me at all times. So relaxing.


And Tucson is gorgeous. In mid-50’s and the sun on full-blast. I absolutely need my sunglasses and sunscreen in this part of the country. I forget how much the cloudy Philly weather affects me. When the sun comes out on those rare occasions in Philadelphia, I cheer up exponentially.

I went out for a run one morning around the neighborhood. Look at this beautiful scenery. This is the view just outside Lo’s parent’s house.

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Another morning we went hiking out to the Honey Bee Canyon Park and saw these petroglyphs. Tucson has a ton of these easy nature hike trails. And this time of the year is perfect for these leisurely strolls.

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Suburbia life is way too attractive. Driving around everywhere, big parking spaces and malls. I don’t have to worry about buying too many things to carry on the bus.

I’ve been spending the rest of my time relaxing around the house and eating a ton of delicious food. Sitting on the couch, munching on grapes and watching movies is just so wonderful. Spending the holidays at (a) home with family and friends is just what I needed after this stressful semester.

…. and did I tell you we have class on January 2nd?

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How’s the weather where you are? Any white Christmases?
Have you spent any time outdoors this winter break?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Realistic healthy resolutions for 2013

Finals period was a free-for-all when it came to junk food and coffee. I found a study spot that had free food every night. Between eating poorly and missing gym, I was losing the physical battle (Listen to goop: it speaks the truth- here). Putting my head down on the desk during breaks had never felt so good.


Plus this guy came to visit me before flying to South Tampa, just a month after he was in town for Thanksgiving. I wanted him to try different Philly restaurants! And to properly celebrate the end of fall semester with good food. I even fell off my vegetarian train and ate some chicken while he was in town… it just smelled so good.

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Since the world hasn’t ended and we’re still here, I want to make realistic healthy changes for graduate students. Here’s my realistic New Year’s healthy resolutions. First one is especially hard when you’re a dental student at Penn.

- Remember that I don’t have to eat the free food.
- Add some protein to every meal.
- Cut out artificial sweeteners.

Typical contents of my bag:2012-12-11 09.04.29

On Friday I got to the airport at 6PM for a flight that was landing at 11PM. Since this was weird dinner-ish hour I decided to eat my dinner at the airport. I walked around for twenty minutes looking for something vegetarian-friendly. I would have loved some PB & J, but instead I settled for an overpriced salad. Airport can be the biggest fast food central.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Six weeks with braces: central incisors

Before leaving for winter break, I had my orthodontics appointment. I haven’t been wearing my tongue crib regularly. Helen told me that in younger kids, they attach it permanently so that compliance isn’t an issue. Compliance seems to be a frequent problem in orthodontics in regards to retainers, habit changes and oral hygiene… even for grown-up dental students like me.

This time I got red braces in celebration of Christmas. Orange Thanksgiving bands are so November. I think there’s more than twenty different color rubber bands- my goal is to get through them all. Three weeks * 20 bands = 60 weeks. If I have my braces on for longer, I promise I’ll come up with patterns.


After the usual check-up and chat, the faculty advisor came by to see how I was doing and announced, “oh, she needs a new wire!” I asked Helen if my teeth had moved at all- was it that obvious? She pulled up some photographs from my last appointment and the difference was clear.

My wire had been all twisty up and down just four weeks ago. Now this one had straightened out along with my teeth. In particular, Helen pointed out that my left central incisor had shifted down. A month ago it was a good 1mm shorter than my right central incisor- you can sort of see here and here.

Since we learned all about bone growth, resorption, and osteoporosis, I understand the concept behind braces but it is still awesome to see bone remodeling in action- working on me! Every week, every day, right now at this very moment: chomp chomp clank clank.

I got a new thicker wire in and cried the next two days while eating- just like the first time I got braces. New year’s resolution: wear my tongue crib, floss every day.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas & Happy holidays.

Here’s some pictures of Philadelphia getting in the holiday mood, starting with our Holiday Party at Penn dental. We had live music, fresh vegetables, and cheese selections in the atrium. One thing missing was the gingerbread cookies. The decorations were kept up throughout our crunch time which made me smile.


The Ronald McDonald House of Philadelphia also put up Christmas decorations! This house is also the first Ronald McDonald house in the world. Since there are no houses with outrageous lawn decorations around where I live (driving home in West University during Christmastime is the best), this is the closest I get to Christmas-lights-craziness. It’s a little bit over the top… which is perfect.

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Some snowy-white red and green sprinkled pretzels and our make-shift tree in the classroom. A chair covered with wrapping paper and those gift-wrap pom poms. Too cute.


This is it, everyone. Officially on winter break. Eat well, enjoy spending time with family and friends, and drink good coffee. I’ll be back in Philadelphia in the new year 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter break to-do

Ohmygoshwinterbreak. After finishing up my last final, I got home and cooked a huge meal with eggplants and onions- SO GOOD. I am done with my first semester of dental school!!!

This winter break I’m looking forward to a little deviation from my typical dental school life, away from Philadelphia and away from dental school: Phoenix.

To do: Have fun. Relax. Enjoy my break with my lovely friends.

I actually stayed with Lo when I interviewed at Midwestern University in Glendale last year. I love her apartment with the sunny bay windows and I love us, driving around singing to Taylor Swift. And two more girlfriends are flying into Phoenix to spend New Year’s together. Some happy memories I’m looking to recreate…

Austin, TX

Commencement with mom-me-Alex227813_10150262755960169_1291157_n

Beer Bike ridiculousness

Denver during the summer44446_470604090168_7539946_n

And the spring break Bahamas cruise.486241_10151298547810660_2017268681_n

Dental school’s on hold for winter break. (Our online class software will be down most of winter break too.) It’s going to be the winter of writing- call it WoW- Laurs for her law review journal. AQ working on her poems, and me on my articles.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Studying with or without caffeine

A few weeks ago, I got up some free 5-hour energy drinks. The first time I tried the 5-hour energy drink during studying, I downed half the bottle. That didn’t go so well… because I couldn’t focus on one thing. I was opening up a tab that I had just closed, remembering random things I needed to do, and just all out frazzing out.

5-hour energy drinks contain caffeine equivalent to one cup of coffee. And I rarely down half a cup of coffee in one sitting.

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Next time I took little sips throughout my studying session- so much better. But at $3 a bottle with its bitter taste, I just don’t think it’s worth it. I’d much rather sip on a bittersweet latte and enjoy it. And now that I’ve added in a coffee budget for graduate school, I feel better in control of my coffee purchases.

Some tips on how to enjoy the brain-boosting benefits of caffeine without the side effects:

- Keep your caffeine intake down to 200 –300 mg a day. That’s about two to four cups of coffee.

- Watch what you’re adding to your coffee. A cup is only 5 kcal but the sugar and cream can add up. (Lattes often hover above 200 kcal!)

- Don’t sip on your coffee throughout the day. This constant low pH exposure can be harmful for your teeth.

- To make sure you get enough sleep, don’t drink coffee six hours before bedtime.

I’m trying to take better care of my body by watching what I eat including what I drink. Morning coffee does not get a free pass either.

There was a week when I had a lot of dental school stuff. Every other day I would get a free drink (five drinks and you get one free!). The following weekend I cut back to zero cups and was super cranky, along with a killer headache.

And…Frito-Lay will soon be making caffeinated version of Cracker Jack called Cracker Jack’d containing about 2/3 cup of coffee equivalent of caffeine.

How much coffee do you drink a day?
Have you tried similar energy drinks?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Just looking at my own dental x-rays…

(All right, technically we don’t look at “X-rays”- we look at the radiographs. We are also learning how to talk like a radiologist in dental school, especially with all those worries about X-ray exposure in the dental office.)

We just had our first Physiology exam so I am taking a mini-break by looking at my own dental X-rays. It’s kind of like studying for our upcoming (and last for this semester) Radiology exam. Look at this:

- What is going on with the root on my maxillary premolar? (It’s the second from the right.) It’s having its own disco dance party all twisty twasty.

kim yesle

- Mamelons! On a fully grown-up adult. These are the three rounded bits on the edge of your central incisor that wear away with use. This means I don’t use my central incisor much, probably due to my open bite. This should change with my braces.

kim yesle

I’m also looking up “Before and after braces photos” on this evening break. It’s unbelievable how much braces can improve a person’s smile.

Also on the subject of X-rays: dentists can diagnose osteoporosis by looking at dental radiographs! And teeth after braces look different on radiographs than un-braced teeth. I think it’s something about alveolar bone angles… Yeah, there’s still a lot for me to learn.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Keep chugging along

I went over to Chinatown to celebrate a friend’s birthday and picked up this wonderful idea for caffeine at Tea Do: green tea latte’s. I got a Japanese Green Tea with tapioca balls. It was so rich and creamy delicious and for $3, a total steal.

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I may not be able to make it here this winter (I miss this place so much- just can’t deal with two days of jet-lag over our nine-day winter break) but the other side of temperature spectrum awaits at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

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Until I’m on that flight, I’m relying on my homemade green tea latte’s to keep my spirits up (it’s always the little things that keep me going). I can do it, and so can you!, if you are also chugging through finals like me. All other schools are done with exams and I need to get off facebook….  now.

Celebrate the little successes.

Just keep going. First water break is coming up.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Leisurely breakfasts in dental school

Although this isn’t a foodie blog, my posts featuring food seem to be really popular. So here we go about my favorite meal of the day: breakfast!

Last year I read this article about the decline of sit-down breakfasts in favor of grab-n-go's in D.C. This made me sad because breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day- and yet, I never have sit-down breakfasts anymore. Dental school mornings can be so crazy.

At Haslla Art World this summer, I got into the habit of having breakfast meals. I’d come into work and eat breakfast while setting up that day’s projects. Because lunch and dinner times were so hectic, breakfast was a meal I tried to enjoy.


During my usual coffee + grab-a-bagel routine here at dental school, I am sneaking bites in between studying PowerPoint slides, writing emails, packing my lunch… I don’t know the last time I sat down and properly ate a non-microwaved breakfast with a fork and a knife. So Penn friends- can we go to McDonalds before class one day?

A sit-down breakfast is a luxury in dental school- such a delicious luxury when we can afford it. I need to look up easy and simple breakfast recipes.

What’s your favorite breakfast food?
Do you skip breakfast?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gifts for the pre-dental/dental student in your life

I told you I like to make wish lists when a holiday comes around. This year, I got an early Christmas present (this was Sharon’s idea)- running shoes, my Nike Women’s Marathon registration fee, and possibly a Garmin GPS watch (suggestions? ideas?).

Still, I have a few items on my Christmas wish list. These are some very practical ones in case you are trying to figure out what to get your favorite pre-dental or dental student.


1. Gift certificates to grocery stores, coffee shops, iTunes. (Picture 1, 2, )
We need to eat, drink caffeine, and listen to music anyway. You can’t go wrong with gift certificates. My thoughtful friend MJ sent me a Barnes and Noble gift card when I just started dental school- perfect for laying in bed on lazy afternoons and having a reading marathon.

2. Nerdy jewelry
I’m not sure how anatomically accurate these molars earrings are, but they are cute! And these caffeine molecule necklaces? Your dental student can add a little sparkle on days when she’s lounging around in…

3. School spirit sweatshirts
There are tons of cute sweatshirts (cozy and comfortable) at the Penn bookstore but most of them are ridiculously expensive. Perfect for wearing to bed, throwing on over PJ’s on exam days (what? I never), or showing your school spirit.

4. Magazine subscriptions* (that’s a wink- momdadmark?)
I pick up a magazine every now and then at the grocery store… but three of those impulsive buys could probably pay for an entire year’s subscription. My Komo bought me Positive Thinking every year I was in college- I used to steal these magazines from her whenever I visited! I loved getting them in the mail every month and thought of her. Everyone has time to squeeze in a little magazine reading, so find one for his/her interests- extra points if you get one for his/her new year’s resolution (Runner’s World, Glamour).

5. School supplies (Picture source)
Some people might hate getting school supplies but I love them. Get them something silly and outrageous (ha- we’re talking about school supplies…) they would never get for themselves, like twirly-colored pens or polka-dot paper clips. Or something really nice now that they’re transitioning into professional life, like an expensive pen or a beautiful letter opener.

What’s on your wish list?
What are you getting for the special ones in your life?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy gym sessions

I wrote about motivating yourself & your patients to make life changes. I think we may be finally in the Action stage of Prochaska’s Stages of Change… despite some misleading posts lately. ;)

I have been on an accidental gym marathon session thanks to Markus. My Zune died on my way to the gym but I saw that Mark had downloaded onto the iPad:

1) The Amazing Spider-Man
2) Taylor Swift's entire Speak Now tour

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Three days straight I went to the elliptical to watch Spider-Man. I was looking forward to getting to the gym all day so I could see what was going to happen next. This also means I wore workout clothes to school but… I can’t really catch two rabbits in this crowded forest.

Time passes by so much quicker when you’re watching movies- and I was having so much fun. It was a study break and a workout rolled into one. Of course, after my gym sessions I snack on things like these:

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Our dental school class council had prepared these snack packets for when we needed energy desperately. Sometimes I think: “I worked out at the gym. I can eat whatever I want! All your Sour Patches are belong to us” which… I think defeats the whole purpose of exercise.

And studying makes me ravenous. I go crazy with midnight snacks as soon as I get home from the library. It is scientifically proven that studying makes you hungry although you don’t burn any more calories than normal.

Must remember that I just signed up for a half marathon with Tiffany’s necklaces at the finish line. They only give them to people who finish the 13.1 miles…

What motivates you to exercise?
Do you treat yourself after workouts?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One month update on my braces

I’ve had braces for a month now.

I’ve tried to master smiling without my teeth (using just my risorius) but I’ve given up. I look evil (see below) or like I’m trying to chomp down on my last bite of food before the picture’s being taken. Here’s some photos of me smiling with braces. The first thing Mark said when he saw me was: “It’s not that bad.”


Having braces does make me self conscious. 1) Because I am a grown-up with braces and 2) Because smiling is so darn difficult. The brackets get caught up in my lip when I’m trying to smile so I have to consciously move my lip above the brackets using different facial muscles when I’m trying to smile… if you’ve had braces, you probably get what I mean.

Food also gets caught in the brackets and the wires (the importance of buccinators is lost on me) especially when I eat smushy pastries. Pastries and breads are my favorite, so this is sad. It’s a good thing I’m in dental school because people understand the importance of a perfect bite… and why you’re moving your mouth around in class trying to get all the food bits.

And then there’s my weird food habits because of braces. I eat my apples with a spoon and cut into my pizza with a fork and a knife. It takes me about thirty minutes to floss every day and I flop into bed most nights without even trying. Sometimes the wire gets caught in my cheek and I have to make a puffy squirrel face to pull the skin off.


I have my next appointment this week. I can’t wait to see how much my teeth have moved. Helen initially told me I’d have my braces on for two years, but I have my fingers crossed that my teeth will move faster. I can feel them move when I push them with my tongue, and some teeth hurt much more than others- which means they are moving!

How long did you have braces?
What was your least favorite thing about having braces?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day trip to New York City

America voted for its president a few weeks ago. It so happens that the Korean Presidential Election (which happens every five years) is also taking place this year. This is the first year that Korean citizens can vote from abroad!

So Janet and I planned a day trip to NYC.

I took the 7AM bus from Philadelphia to NYC and was in Manhattan by 9AM.

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The consulate ran a shuttle to/from Manhattan & the entire voting process was so organized. I voted and was out in five minutes. I headed over to Bryant Park to watch the ice skaters, look over the Holiday Shops, and to try out Max Brenner’s Italian thick chocolate. I did not think hot chocolate could taste like that… so thick and rich. I need to head over to Rittenhouse Square soon.

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There was a special Lion King exhibit “Inside Lion King” next to the park- they had costumes from the show with guides explaining how the costumes were conceptualized and designed. We watched this over Christmas in Tampa one year and I was blown away. My mom bought the soundtrack right after the show and this CD was on constant reply in the car for months.

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And lunch at Extra Virgin with Joanna (she writes at Scraps to Scrumptious with other Rice friends) before hopping over to the Union Square Holiday Market. It was so crowded at the market. I bought a huge bag of apples and lugged them around the city before bringing them back to Philly.


Janet and I decided to walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. It was a gorgeous walk with foggy buildings behind us.

We ate at Grimaldi’s then came back to Manhattan to walk down Fifth Avenue with the gorgeous Christmas decorations and the huge Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Again- so so so crowded. It took us ten minutes to walk across one particular block- I think Lord & Taylor?- because everyone was staring at their beautiful window displays.

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NYC was wonderful. I’m starting to get in the holiday spirit! It was a short trip but we ran around the city among the super crowded streets to see, do, and eat. We already have our next trip to NYC planned out with things we didn’t get to do this time.

Dental school is so busy but since this trip was necessary (and planned out in advance) I spared a weekend getaway. And I remember that one of my reasons for choosing Penn dental was so I could live in the Northeast. So many cities are reachable by train and buses from Philadelphia!

Now for microbiology…

Friday, December 7, 2012

End of Biochemistry

Biochemistry is o-v-e-r! Done done done. I also wrapped up my Dental Simulations rotations this afternoon. Only three exams until I’m reunited with my girls in Phoenix for winter break. I keep texting everyone with random things we’re going to do: Grab coffee at a drive-through. Write. Watch the History Channel together. Sit by the pool and make some Vitamin D (which is a steroid vitamin and needs to be hydroxylated in the liver and the kidney to become the functional metabolite stored in the fat).

The exam room was hot. When I walked out of the smoldering exam room, the cool fresh air felt a welcome relief. I could breathe.

The last day of Biochemistry lecture Sharon, Z and I made a cake for our biochemistry professors… in the shape of Krebs bicycle.


This is our attempt at a self-picture with our cake.


We had a lot of interesting lectures for this class. I studied the TCA cycle and metabolism for the tenth time in my life, but with dental facts mixed in. We also had many wonderful guest lecturers who presented ongoing developments in their labs.

How is bone resorption associated with inflammation? How does Fluoride inhibit carbohydrate metabolism in bacteria? These are questions I never even thought to ask. This brought a new degree of relevance and made biochemistry a lot more interesting.

This is one of the biggest classes we have as first years, and I am so happy to be done. And to have survived. Studying made me do some irrational things but ohmygod this sense of relief is wonderful. I need to put my Biochemistry packets away and get some sleep for tomorrow.

Just signed up for a half marathon…

Thanks to the supportive, encouraging runners in my D1 class (here we are at during Philadelphia Marathon weekend), I was persuaded to sign up for a half marathon: Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC.

nwmPicture source (& you can sign up here!)

I stared at the screen for thirty minutes trying to decide if I was going to do this. It was one of my MIT’s for the day: decide on the Nike Half Marathon. I was asking myself so many questions:

Will I have time to train for a half marathon in dental school?
Will I be able to train in cold weather?
How is my dental school schedule around this time?
Can my body actually do this?

And then I decided…. I should just do it (haha). It is on my list of 25 things to do before I’m 25, and now’s a better time than ever.

I’m going to need to be smart with my time. But just like when I was lifeguarding, having a big responsibility made me more efficient with my remaining time(“I could be at the pool right now”). I also want to start making lifelong changes to take care of my body. Keeping this race in sight will be a big motivation.

I have to admit: I’m a little nervous. Random moments I remember that I just signed up for a half marathon and in four months will be running 13.1 miles. It’s far away enough that I think I can train (last time I said it in Houston, this happened). But I have wonderful friends who’ll be with me the entire training season (although maybe not during the actual race… but they’ll cheer for me at the finish line?).

Are you running the Nike Women’s Half?
Would you run a half? A full marathon?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The dental student diet

(I’m continuing my unhealthy dental student streak from weeks ago- can I get some nutritional/rational advice on how to stay healthy with a constant time crunch?)

Breakfast- something quickly prepared (toasted bagel, cereal with milk poured in) and eaten while hopping around getting ready for school. Always serve with coffee: hot, warm, microwaved from the day before… anything to get the morning started.


In-class baked goods- So many of our classmates bake when they are stressed. I think I hear the words “Would you like a cookie?” every other day in B13.

Lunch- We usually get an hour off to refuel and relax. Lunch is either free food at our many ASDA Lunch & Learns or something I grabbed from the freezer that morning. Frozen vegetables, canned beans, rice, cheese and starches thrown together into a concoction.

Dinner- Something microwaveable or leftovers from the last restaurant meal. Then continuous snacking until bed.


There is so much free food at Penn! Whenever we have dental school interviews, there’s leftovers pastries and sandwiches. Or if you’re at any campus buildings, the leftover food always makes its way to the info desk. I found a box of P-shaped pretzels last night. Definitely grabbed some (I love pretzels and bagels and all those chewy savory pastries).

Also got 5-hour energy drink samples which I’ve never tried before. Some people take them regularly but I’m a little scared of this intense-sounding drink. 5 hours? That seems like an awfully long time to be uppity-energized and intensely focused.

And if this isn’t enough and you still need a little pick-me-up, find someone to split a sweet crepe with you. A sweet ending to a long day.


What’s your favorite meal of the day?
Have you tried these 5-hour energy drinks?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Essentials in your studying backpack

Definitely did not have these in my non-dental school “working” bag this summer! I wish I could carry around a tote bag to school instead of a huge backpack, but I carry around too many things.

I needed a little study break so I drew with my fingers… When I’m heading out to contract my procerus while tapping on my mentalis, here are the essentials I make sure to take.

clip_image0021. Lip balm. Chapstick. All four of them. It’s winter and you can’t focus when you have dry, chapped lips. I have a bunch from random things like graduate student events and airplane flights. Sometimes I just put it on because it tastes so good.

2. Water bottle. Staying hydrated is key, especially when you’re also chugging coffee. I left my water bottle in Korea and until Markus brought it to Philadelphia during Thanksgiving, I was refilling my plastic water bottles. If your study spot also has a hot water machine, bring a mug! Mugs with hot liquids make any studying session instantly cozy.

3. Snacks. Studying makes me really hungry- because I guess your brain uses up glucose (can studying count as an exercise?). I try to pack little pieces of candy, fruits, or cereal. Stopping by coffee shops is a big danger zone for me, especially when I’m worn out from brain marathon and a pumpkin latte sounds so good.

4. Scratch paper. A must. I like to scribble when I’m studying.

5. Earphones. For Glee-clip watching study breaks or just to tune out the noise around you. I prefer some noise when I’m studying but when it gets a little too loud, I turn on this white noise generator so I can concentrate.


When Umma or Appa messages me to ask what I’m doing, I like to snap a picture and send it back. I was studying last night and snapped this quick picture for them. There’s some of my studying essentials.

What are some of your studying essentials? (Gummy bears!!!)


Monday, December 3, 2012

Celebrating Diwali at Penn

I like that we have a huge culturally diverse undergraduate & graduate population at Penn. Last Saturday Penn dental hosted a Diwali celebration. Our own dance club Brown Sugar also danced- in the last act. I miss dancing (salsa and at other unorganized rowdy atmospheres) so I signed up. I was put in hip-hop with a few other girls in my D1 class.

The week following up to this performance, we had practice every day for a couple of hours. I was getting antsy with our crazy exam schedule, but it was so worth it- this show turned out amazing.


Diwali, or Festival of Lights, is one of the biggest holidays celebrated in India. Someone told me that it’s like Indian Christmas. Diwali also begins the Indian new year. Almost everyone dressed up in Indian garb (or borrowed them from their Indian friends) for this night of amazing food, unbelievable dancing and even singing.

Our dance went great! I also had a lot of fun watching the other performances and trying different foods. Lovely friends brought me flowers which are sitting pretty in my living room right now.

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Oh, and because dental school was hosting the event, we got toothbrush + toothpaste goodies. I laughed.


Biochemistry is coming up this Friday. This is our final which counts for a whopping 40% of our grade. A little scared…

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Don’t make me over: changing for your career

Do I need to change for the sake of my career?

We judge people based on appearances without knowing the full story- we never know the full story- so how you present yourself is really important. People know things about you only if you put it out there…. or from facebook. For example, if you have an accent, should you work to change/hide it? (“take a class to lose my southern accent?”) Or become more assertive if you’re in an aggressive/competitive environment? Dress differently?

house-bunny-makeoverThe makeover assembly line. (Picture from The House Bunny)

During my gap year, I went to a bunch of seminars on Women in the workplace and thought much about being a working woman. One tip I got was this: pick up traditionally male hobbies if your workplace is male-dominated. Tag yourself along on those outings. And fake it (golf, barbecues, hunting) until you learn to enjoy even a minor aspect of it.

And I’m starting to think it’s not just about being female. It might apply to other traits too.

This thought sprouted from a discussion with a classmate whose close choice for dental school after Penn was Loma Linda. I asked her why, since these two schools are pretty different, starting with location.

She answered, “I would have liked the safe atmosphere.” Huh?

She explained that at a place like Loma Linda- which is associated with Seventh-Day Adventist church- she would have been around other like-minded Christians. Loma Linda would have been a place for her to openly discuss religion, talk about incorporating God into her career with her colleagues.

Penn is, of course, not a religion-affiliated institution. And from my personal experience, people don’t openly discuss religion or spiritual beliefs unless they know the other is also Christian or otherwise very spiritual.

Religion is not a trait you can readily change, so it’s a matter of concealing it. But to what extent? Do you take special care not to have “Merry Christmas” signs on your desk? When someone asks you what you did this weekend, do you leave out the “church and small group” part of your day so the conversation doesn’t stray in that direction? Do you take off your cross necklace to work? Your purity ring? Where does it stop?

And even for me, I have never mentioned my personal faiths on this blog- until now. I grew up Catholic, and after neglecting this aspect of my life for the last six, seven years, I am striving to be a better Christian.

But you see, am I putting some people off because 1) I am Christian or because 2) I didn’t have the good sense to hide this aspect of myself? Would you go to a dentist who openly displays his religion (cross in the waiting room, bible verses on the receptionist desk)? What about one you know is deeply religious but doesn’t display it, perhaps takes special care to hide that trait?

What do you think?
Are you working to change or hide an aspect of yourself to become a better dentist/physician/whatever?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Managing stress in dental school

I wrote this article for Penn’s ASDA newsletter OPenn Wide called “How to manage stress in dental school”. Mid- to late-October was a pretty rough time for me, and as I was doing my mini-interviews for this article, it was motivating to talk to classmates about how they stayed motivated in dental school.

Betty the editor and I were discussing what I should write about, and what interested me most was how others were keeping this up, how they kept pushing through. It’s fascinating how everyone deals with stress differently (everyone also studies in wildly different ways, but that’s a post for another time).

I open with a reminder from my favorite newsletter:

Eating a healthy diet will help you stay energized, focused, and well rested during times of stress. If you are not mindful and eat junk food or frequently skip meals, you are more likely to perform poorly or get sick during stressful times.

So true. Junk food can be instantly comforting, but I always feel worse afterwards.



These are the wonderful people I’m studying with at Penn.