Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: the year of dental school survival

Alex and I were chatting with Lo when I expressed my doubt about the new school year. PATHOLOGY is starting! (I am going to always refer to this class in caps. This 8-credit-monster deserves it).

study huddy (640x478)

PATHOLOGY begins the very first day we get back. My insides feel fluttery as I think about it. But Lo reminded me this: I figured it out! I have a system that’s worked for three full semesters at Penn dental and it will continue to work for me as I tackle this monster of a class. Like in Pharmacology, I was in North Carolina the weekend before our exam and when I got back, I studied like never before in my life. This H is extra sweet because I know I worked my butt off for that grade.

19.5 years of school and I’m still scared as shucks for that first day of school.

But… as I flipped through 2013 calendar I remembered tons of bad days I didn’t think I’d survive through. I mark those blue days on the calendar with a sad face. Dropping an acrylic provisional in lab, the anticipated lunch meeting turning into a disappointment, failing pop quizzes, and feeling like my eyes were going to give out the terrible night before a practical exam. (Then texting that one person I promised I wouldn’t talk to until 2511…) Living through those days felt like I was crawling through a muddy pit. Time went by slowly and I couldn’t breathe.

Good luck finding this baby on this lab floor.floor splatter (478x640)

New year gives me a chance to evaluate the different parts of my life and give more value to ones that matter to me. Like my new year’s resolution, it continues being the same. Alex says we should incorporate it into our lifestyle: being bold.

Capogiro’s #1 gelatocapo gelato (640x480)

Like my dental school crush. It’s not so much a crush as an admiration for the way he sees the world. We unexpectedly had coffee together shortly after school ended and I just had so much fun. I am timid in admitting how excited I am to maybe-possibly hang out. Now I want to delete this because I am going to publish this on the internet… but I’m not. I’m still going to keep it here.

On some level I still listen to that gremlin saying: “you are not worthy until….” But in the new year, I want to act despite those thoughts and feelings. I’ll continue to dig deep, while being forgiving of my imperfect self (this year I found an angel savior in Brene Brown). I’m simply doing the best I can at the moment. I’m running the mile I’m in.

- Yesle

Thursday, December 26, 2013

merry christmas & happy holidays

I don’t know how to tilt this! And I just found out you can’t upload gif files on Twitter. But it’s beautiful at night and it’s lovely Christmastime: Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House lights on.

RMH_Philly13 (2)

I just got Twitter and I’m trying to figure out how it works and what to DO on Twitter. I like following Philadelphia local businesses and knowing what’s going on real time. But other than that, I am still learning just what Twitter is useful for.

From my trip in NYC with Yulia:rainnyc (478x640)

Broadway at night.broadwatnight (640x478)

Took Yulia to try Korean food.
Verdict: she loved it and it made me so happy.kdin (640x514)

Plus some secret fun adventures running around the city! It was just what I needed to celebrate the end of another great dental school semester.

Tonight Alex arrives in Philly! I am thinking about taking her to see the dental school and our clinics and laboratories. Or not.

- Yesle

How do you use Twitter? Any fun/useful Twitters I should follow?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

my experience at Penn dental school as a patient.

You know I’m a student at Penn dental. I am also a patient here at two of their learning clinics. I have a student dentist at University of Pennsylvania who is a fourth year dental student. I also have my orthodontic resident who is also a student-in-training. While chatting with classmates who go to private practice for their dental needs, I thought about my experience as a patient at Penn dental school.

first snow[4]

All in all, I’ve had a great experience. And here’s why:

- Let’s learn together. Because students recently learned these procedures and are perfecting them, they still have that excitement coming from new knowledge. I remember when I did not know anything about caries and my student dentist decided not to treat some early caries. I did not understand why. She explained to me how some caries are reversible if you catch them early enough. Ohhhh.

- A second opinion. Every student works closely with assigned faculty for each case. This means your treatment is thoroughly evaluated and considered by not one, but two trained professionals. If you have an assistant (like us first and second-year dental students), three sets of eyes will be looking over you and taking care of you. Plus, my dentist needs to do well because she needed to show good work to graduate!

- Honesty and integrity. If you are not a dentist, you don’t know if what your dentist is saying (or charging you for payment) is true and honest. Here at Penn dental, no problems there. The school is not here to make money. We are so thankful for each and every patient who comes through the doors to give us a learning opportunity. Not only does Penn do a good job estimating fees and treatment schedules, you will know that you are not being scammed on by your dentist. This, to me, is the biggest advantage.

The negatives, because they do exist:

- Time-consuming. School policy has us taking full mouth X-ray radiographs and complete medical history for every patient. Also at the initial visit, each patient has his impression taken for stone models and complete periodontal charting done. Moving forward with the treatments, because student needs approval from the faculty to check at every integral step, treatments do take longer than at private practices.

- Rotating door of dentists. This is also my personal problem. Dental school is four years so your student dentist will (eventually) receive her diploma and graduate! This means even if you absolutely LOVE your dentist, she will be gone after two years in clinic (I don’t know what I am going to do next year without my M!). Seniors will transfer patients to capable underclassmen, of course. But if you had a special bond with your dentist, you might shed a tear.

You can call Penn dental at 215-898-8965 to make an appointment OR contact your student dentist directly if you already have someone specific in mind. I’ve actually talked to a few non-dental friends about becoming my patients. One flat-out said, “are you any good?” You know, I talk about difficulties and messes in lab here on my blog, but I know I’ll be great come June. I’ll do the very best work I can and seek out help if I don’t think I can.

- Yesle

Friday, December 20, 2013

joyful. 3/8 a dentist!!!

This semester of dental school just wrapped up! It was a long semester and I poured my heart out into everything I did this year. I worked hard in dental school but I also made room in my life to live out other values of my life and be perfectly fine doing that (aka not guilty).

I feel joy. I feel relief and I feel proud of myself.


I usually approach joy with caution but today I am unabashedly, just whole-heartedly happy.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

love song for no one


Dare I say it? One more week.

My friends (who are done with med school exams and big end of the year reports etc) are cheering me on, but right now the motivation comes from within. It’s like running in a race. You push yourself because you see the end: you would sprint even if there were no spectator along the side of the last mile.

Here’s an observation I’ve had about myself this year. It’s rough doing it alone.

A Love Letter For You mural project by Steve Powers
all over West Philadelphia! Picture

I don’t mean it in the sense that you feel there’s a big problem that needs to be solved in the future (aka get married and have kids). But even for that moment alone, when you are going through everything, it is nice (it must be nice) to have someone sharing that experience.

I always said I’d rather have a successful career than a successful marriage. I envied women who were hanging out with the big boys at board meetings and wearing pant suits while sipping coffee at 6AM, not those with lovely kids and adoring husbands. Now I don’t think I know.

It’s funny. I see my dental school friends who are married (or in serious relationships) and it’s amazing to see how much support they receive from home. This kind of love does not depend on their having a stellar GPA or awesome molar preparations. It’s truly unconditional. Last week my dental school classmate threw an early Christmas showing of Love Actually. There were like three couples there who are so wonderful (and so different!) in their own unique way. Just seeing them made my heart melt.

And yet I am not actively looking to find someone. I somehow think it’ll just happen naturally, despite the fact that I spend 57 hours a week at dental school. Like last night, someone I have a mad crush on asked me what I was doing tonight. I said, “STUDYING, duh.”

What do I want? What do I need?

- Yesle

Saturday, December 14, 2013

baby it’s cold outside

We got our first snow in Philadelphia last weekend. It started snowing while I was in our basement lab working on teeth things. I saw the snow start to pile up out the window and by the time I left, we had this Winter Wonderland.


So gorgeous! I love my duck boots because I can deliberately stomp on every snow pile I see.

first snowIn front of Penn School of Dental Medicine entrance

Philadelphia is so efficient when it comes to cleaning up the roads and sidewalks! In Houston when I was an undergraduate, entire city shut down when we got a tiny bit of unexpected snow.

birdmanSnowman (or snow-bird?) on my walk home

The beautiful scenery outside makes last week of dental school much more bearable. It’s snowing outside as I type this. Perfect day for sipping on latte’s and reading- I mean, studying antibiotics and antivirals.

- Yesle

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NYC on a last-minute getaway

After a pretty rough week (and lots of self-doubt and frustration), I decided to go to NYC on a last-minute getaway. I needed a break from dental school and from Philadelphia. I had a crazy dental school exam schedule coming up but once the idea popped into my head, I was just so ridiculously happy.

New York is so gorgeous during Christmastime! It’s also very crowded with everyone else who believes the same. Yulia and I caught up over lunch, ran around town for cupcakes, and went to see best Christmas tree in the world: one at Rockefeller Center.

I wanted to watch Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark before it closes upcoming January. We caught the matinee show. I loved the rock-and-roll feel of the songs by Bono and The Edge. U2 fans will appreciate some cameo appearances of their songs. ;) The set design is incredible with buildings rotating upside-down and 2.5-dimensional cartoon backgrounds.


We were so close to the stage! If you want to splurge for a musical, this is the one. Spider-Man will be flying right over your head.


It got dark pretty fast so we got to see the beautiful (blinding) NYC lights in Times Square, plus the lit-up Christmas lights and decorations.


Then, home-bound.

I want to live in NYC once in my lifetime. There are two dental schools in the city! (I love how you can say “the city” and everyone knows exactly which one.)

- Yesle

Sunday, December 8, 2013

so you had a bad day

Early this week was one disaster after the other. On Sunday, I went in early morning to practice for our upcoming practical which was this Wednesday.

First, I started preparing the wrong tooth.


Then I did a completely different procedure from the one we were being tested on: an omnivac shell provisional on the tooth instead of a block carve provisional.

In my frustrated state, the entire procedure took longer than usual. I thought I was supposed to get better? I could not get the margins smooth and continuous with the prepared tooth surface for the life of me. And so on. By then I had been in lab for eight hours and my eyes were burning from the acrylic monomer fumes.

Sometimes you need to call it a day. And Sunday was most definitely one of those days.

So I did. I came home. At this point I was freaking out that I would not learn this procedure in time for our timed practical on Wednesday. I couldn’t even organize my room because I was so jumpy. I got myself into bed for a nap although I had a ton of things to do… and this nap turned out to be so much better than slaving away for hours in lab.

And Wednesday’s practical exam? I think it could have gone better. But this was an example where two values collided. I had to make a decision what was more important at the moment.


A few weeks ago my advisor asked me, “what does balanced life look like to you?” I believe a “balanced” life for me is not letting school define a good (or a bad) day. I’m trying to live my life that way. Better reset’s, better framing of these situations. It sometimes means letting go and “giving up”, if only for my sanity.

- Yesle

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thirteen months and now “finishing”

At my last visit, my orthodontist made this cast of my teeth to see the progress (especially my tricky little third molar in the back). Now we are officially in the “finishing” or “detailing” phase of my orthodontic treatment… only that this finishing will also take a while.


I was almost a Boards Lesion patient (meaning a student dentist would use my cavity to demonstrate her dentist skills for an exam). But since my braces are expected to stay on throughout May, she couldn’t use me as her dental patient.

This is so exciting to be officially moving onto a next phase. Plus, smaller tweaks mean less pain. I have decided I’m going on a sticky gooey diet when my braces come off. It’s kind of a reverse detox.


How did you celebrate your getting braces off?
Or how do you plan on celebrating? (It’s a nice daydream!)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

perks of having dentist friends

I woke up with a sore spot on my gums this weekend and tried to diagnose it based on the limited pathology knowledge I have…which is very limited. Thrush? But I’m not a baby nor do I wear dentures.

2013-11-30 14.18.22

I promptly recruited my upperclassmen friends to diagnose the spot for me. Final diagnosis TBD but this… made me so happy. Having dental school friends = so many questions that can be answered. That and I can’t wait to look at everyone’s teeth when I go home this summer. Family members, get ready. #futuredentist.

PFM crown prep makes me laugh

This cannot be real. I finished preparation on #21, a mandibular molar and had to laugh. This is not a tooth! It’s a little nub sitting in the mouth. The occlusal table (view from the top) is a little circle.


The things I find funny… (only in dental school)


Saturday, November 30, 2013

A wisdom tooth by any other name

Talking about the four #7’s here, the third and last molar the wisdom teeth.

In Korean, we call the wisdom tooth 사랑니 which literally means “love teeth”. They erupt around the time you learn what love (or puppy love) is. I think.

I was curious to know what people call wisdom teeth in other languages, hoping these terms would be insightful. Someone already did the work for me! From this blog:


My favorites: in Greek- does getting wisdom teeth mean you are normal and a conformist? ;)

All of our dental school dentoforms have third molars. It’s funny because I naturally assume everyone has third molars (counting up, #16, 17, 18…) but many people get third molars extracted.

A side note about extracting wisdom teeth: about five million people get their wisdom teeth extracted every year. Third molar extractions have become more controversial- these surgeries sometimes cause nerve damage during the surgery. ADA’s official position is neither yay or nay but you don’t always need to get them removed.

Friday, November 29, 2013

thanksgiving 2013 gratitude's: I’m still here.

Happy Thanksgiving lovelies!


It’s been a while since I did these gratitude posts. But now that it’s Thanksgiving and all…

  • I started the morning off at the Ronald McDonald House. It was a shift without my usual evening crew and I got to meet other new volunteers. Of course we started talking about how we got started. A volunteer told me that he heard about the house after a family member spent a year in the hospital years ago. “And then after he passed away, I started volunteering.” This got me thinking, I am so lucky I have my health and so does my loved ones: family and friends.

PicMonkey Collage

  • This movie TiMer. Alex watched the movie upon persistent begging on my part and we got to discuss it. (Both leading men are from our favorite TV show Gossip Girl! Did that surprise you? It certainly did AQ and me.) I am thankful for quirky romantic movies with interesting endings because they give me so much insight. It’s how I react to these endings that help me evaluate what I think about romance, fate, and life “detours”. Please watch TiMer on Netflix and talk about it with me!!!


I must mention Oona is an orthodontist! There is a super cute scene with her and Mikey playing dentist/patient: “suction please!”

  • I’ve been working on my spirituality. I reach out to God when I need stuff and happily forget when everything’s going well. My friend told me that even my reaching out for God comes from God’s grace. I don’t believe that the purpose of my hardships have been to bring me closer to God but they have had that effect on me.
  • I am also thankful for this blog and you readers. I like the writing part. It’s a good way to spend my energy and channel my frustration sometimes. But I love the feedback part: opening my inbox- to receive emails from you guys saying hello, asking questions, or even sending me something random my post reminded you of- is the best.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend and beyond,

What was your favorite Thanksgiving dish this year?
What weird-ending movie has stuck out to you recently?

Monday, November 25, 2013

One bad grade away from winter '13

Today I was talking to Sharon about how I need new hobbies. We had a pretty chillaxing weekend and I felt so uneasy NOT having anything I NEEDED to do. "You have your blog!" said Sharon. I love writing and this is a wonderful therapeutic outlet for me.

Three days out from Thanksgiving! We had a pretty relaxing pre-Thanksgiving weekend (albeit a late Friday laboratory session for me) so Lan, Christie and I made macarons from scratch. It was super fun and all the more delicious because we made it with love.


So about the title: I find myself saying this prayer SO MUCH these days.


This semester I’ve learned to let go. To drop the rope and accept that there are some things (like my internal feelings) I can’t change. It’s how act in spite of those feelings that moves me closer to my values and my goal.

Like that I didn’t make an A in my Dentures class: I beat myself up for a crabby midterm grade when our final grades came out. I was so close. It was a matter of a few questions I probably guessed wrong on the midterm. I pouted for a day then got over it. Another B on my dental school transcript isn’t going to make a difference. If a friend came to me about this problem, what would I say?

When I find myself thinking rationally with so much clarity, I can take off my frustration-tinted glasses and see things for what they are. Then deal with them OR accept them.

And just go out and run.

run river

Good night! Today’s an early bed day for me.


Do you focus on grades in dental school as much as you did in undergraduates?
What do grades MEAN to you? (I took them to mean my self-worth and self-validation for all the “sacrifices” I was making…. now they are just grades, no elaborate stories attached.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

8k racin’ in my pajamas

This has been on my to-do list for a long time: run a silly race. This past weekend was the weekend to do it for the Philadelphia Marathon weekend. I remembered the amazing energy and excitement from last year’s cheering & signed up early in the semester.

2013-11-15 14.20.352013-11-16 06.40.18

I convinced Kathy to run the Rothman 8k in a silly costume. First we wanted her to dress up as a banana and me as the sock money (since she was going to pace me anyway…) but because the banana went missing, we ended up being two PJ’d sock monkeys.

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Ended the eight kilometers with a high-five from Mayor Nutter at finish line! It may not be 13.1 miles but I was struggling especially at the final uphill. I hadn’t been running as much as I hoped. But considering I was running in fleece pajamas, I was happy with my time of 48:09.


It was a super fun and a great weekend overall! Later in the evening I even had a carb-loading dinner courtesy of next day’s marathon runners. ;)

I love running and every time I go out for a run I never regret it. I’ve been playing with the idea of training with a group. At the DC half I saw so many Team in Training runners and was so inspired to do something similar. I’ll be held accountable which is great on days where it’s laziness holding me back but on other days where I’m crammed with school, another stress factor adding to my anxiety.

Happy weekend! Next week is Thanksgiving!!! Which in my world means sweet potato pie.


Have you followed a training plan for a race? Have you trained with a group?
What was your experience like? I’d love to hear about it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

something new (but old): first alginate impression

We saw our first snow of the day yesterday morning. One exam and it’ll be Thanksgiving!

Dental school is going. We have classes and lab and assisting. I spend a lot of time in the library and a lot of time in the basement lab.

It’s been hard for me to keep that sense of wonder and gratitude when I’m caught up in everyday details of A’s and B’s and assignment due dates. Our clinic (that I’m assisting in) temporarily got moved upstairs and I’ve been walking in every week thinking, “are we really in this place?” We get sunlight! (until 4PM anyway…) I remembered I felt this way first few weeks of school about every chandelier and every portrait plaque around Penn dental. Now I just run by them angry and stressed.

Today in clinic I took alginate impressions on a patient. I had totally butchered X-raying a patient an hour ago and I wanted to something right. And I did. It’s so weird: I explained what I was doing to the patient, mixed up the alginate dough, and talked the patient through the procedure. Just like D3’s and D4’s who seem so confident and in charge, I almost watched myself from outside doing this entire thing. I’m still faking it but sometimes it’s almost me.

It reminded me of this TED talk by Amy Cuddy: your body language affects YOU. It can transform you. (Dr. Cuddy says: “Don’t fake it til you make it, fake it til you become it.”)


Things get better.

Same for preps we just started for our fixed prost class; my preps suck. There’s no sugar coating it. It takes me hours to make something that sort of looks like a prep… and my eyes and back hurt by this point.

My brother sent me this Adventure Time meme and I have to remind this. Who enjoys sucking at something? Nobody, duh, but I can’t be good at every single thing I try. I am just silly sometimes.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

teeth in my backpack

We have to collect teeth for our upcoming Endodontics class. To get them autoclaved and X-rayed, I was carrying them in my backpack until I could drop them off at school.

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Some of these teeth are so clean and perfect, I don’t know why they were extracted! Probably sad periodontitis or even unfortunate trauma?

Anyway, so ridiculous and funny to be carrying around a pill jar full of teeth in my bag. Only in dental school….

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

complete dentures done.

One class down! I can now fabricate dentures for an edentulous patient.

I like that we are learning practical skills. It’s crazy because we need to KNOW the stuff and also be able to DO the procedures. This is dental school: learning real-life skills.

2013-10-27 20.01.46

Dental school is SO VERY arts and craft-y. A big part of it is learning how to use tricks to make processes easier, which for dentures is about 80% working with Bunsen burners and different types of wax.


I think there needs to be a Michaels’ here so I can go pick up craft boxes and organizers for this new teeth-making hobby of mine. ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

dentists in fine art: American Gothic

american-gothic-models“In 1930, Iowa artist Grant Wood painted American Gothic. The models he used for the painting were his sister Nan Wood Graham and his dentist, Byron McKeeby.”

Picture and quote source

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to study anxiety, depression in animal models

We studied anxiety and sedative medications in Pharmacology and Dr. Hersh brought up an interesting point: we study these drugs in animal models. He talked about how rats are barred from food to create anxiety. WHAT. I had to look into this.

PD*26602368picture source

(Side note: these lectures are unintentionally funny because our professor mimics rats scurrying around on these medications or Michael J. Fox on Parkinson’s disease medication. He’s crawling on the floor and stuff. It’s that guilty laughter… )

How do you make your animal model anxious and/or depressed? (warning: this is kind of distressing for humans too)

- Pit of despair: used by Harry Harlow to isolate monkeys for as long as a year, to cause them to develop depression
- Use a strain of mice that is more depression-prone. (I didn’t know such a thing existed!)
- Separate mice from parents, get them bullied by bigger mice, make them chronically stressed by putting rats close- they’ll think they’re in lethal danger. (This blog post is pretty great)

And how do you measure how depressed your animal is? By exposing them to helpless situations and seeing how long they last before giving up. These helpless situations include:

- Forced swimming test.

It looks nothing like this picture. (source)swimmingRat-300x253

- Tail suspension test. (This was someone’s genius idea in 1985)… I just can’t include a picture of this here. They are too sad. Mice are literally suspended from a high point with taped tails.
- Open field test: taking advantage of the fact that mice do not like open spaces- exposing them to wide open space and observing their behavior.

I was getting sad reading about this… Then a cute guy in glasses brought over apple donuts and I felt a little bit better.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

braces progressin’- ONE YEAR!

Thank God for Hip City Veg and their amazing groothies. I have been there every single day this week! Their being on Penn campus makes me life exponentially better, I look forward to lunch all morning. ;)

I had an interesting conversation with a friend about veganism there. He mentioned that it’s important to emphasize that your quality of life does NOT have to decrease while converting to veganism. You can appeal to health benefits, animal cruelty, economic reasons, until the cows come home (I have been loving this phrase lately BTW) but until that person feels their enjoyment of food won’t decrease, you won’t convince her.2013-10-29 12.05.56

Same thing for me. I knew having braces was a good thing. Short term discomfort for a lifetime of perfect teeth. Seems easy enough… until it isn’t. I kept thinking: “what about DURING when I have my braces on? Do I just suffer for two plus something years?”

That’s when I needed to think about eating milkshakes and groothies and mushy apples so I could be happy NOW, instead always looking at “life after braces”.

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Dr. Malerman gave us a lecture on orthodontics & I got to thinking about how my life’s different with braces. (An upperclassman told me about his website when she was getting braces!- it’s really fun and has all these braces-friendly recipes)

I don’t eat salads in public.
I don’t eat chewy milk caramel candies.
I go to the restroom whenever I can.
I carry around floss in my purse.

These are little nuisances but my life isn’t awful with braces. And the positives:

I get to see my lovely orthodontist and hang around the Ortho department at Penn.
I now have had braces… in a profession where almost everyone’s been metal-faced.
I can actually use my incisors to eat! Instead of having to cut up pizzas because I couldn’t bite down on them. (Or worse, tear into them like a wolf or something.)

It’s been a year. If you look at my very FIRST picture, my bit is visibly open. And now?


I tried to find a picture of me smiling instead of taking one now… because I’m still in PJ’s with crazy hair. I bought these onesies at the Penn bookstore and DIED of adorableness. Matching onesies for me and little ones??? (LO???)

Monday, October 28, 2013

pleasant event scheduling!

gethappyThis week I’m supposed to schedule in pleasant events into my daily routine. One thing that always makes me happy is going through old pictures.

Like this bookshelf Tiffany gave me: it made me so happy!Snapshot_20120117_15

My shoebox gap year apartment. I took the couch from my senior year suite.
And I loved my green wooden furniture set. add815a6738c__1315498254000

This picture of me in New Orleans during Mardi Gras in 2009. I had mushroom hair! I kind of liked it…2185_1133081606926_2095_n

And this is waaayyyy back but I found this when I was in Korea:
Appa when he was at the Academy! Driving that Jeep like a boss. DSC_0287 (2)

2012-06-11 16.28.00Mark (who is like a x1.2 magnification of Appa) and Mom.

Okay the last few pictures make me just a little bit sad. These are bittersweet because I’m so far away from them. Anyway, it’s weird looking at old photographs because I remember some of my thoughts when I was back there, looking into the camera lense. And now I’m looking back into my own eyes, years later as someone different- yet the same.