Sunday, April 28, 2013

ran my first nike dc half marathon!

I ran 13.1 miles this weekend for my first half marathon!!! A group of us Penn dental girls traveled from Philadelphia. My suitemate Helen also flew in to run this inaugural Nike women’s half marathon in DC. I signed up for this race about five months in advance but didn’t get to train as much as I wanted/needed to. My longest run was seven miles. I was nervous and anxious leading up to the race about… I don’t know? Not finishing? Cramping up/crying/injuries?

We spent the entire weekend in DC walking around Georgetown and DC famous spots. I brought my anatomy study materials on the bus but spent most of my free time sleeping.

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Then race day. Thirteen miles in the most beautiful 50’s, 60’s weather. I had planned on run/walking but I ended up running the entire thing. There was so much energy in the air! And reading everyone’s shirts and signs gave me that extra push I needed on race day. And at the finish line, my Tiffany’s necklace & finisher’s shirt were waiting for me.


It was a marvelous break from school and Philadelphia. I’m amazed by (and grateful for) what my body can do. 13.1 miles! That’s like Houston to Galveston. I’ve come a long way. And as Jackie mentioned, I’m so grateful for this wonderful community of runners in our dental class. Without our constant “how’s your training going?” chats, I don’t think I would have kept up.

cadaver anatomy time.

I scheduled this post ahead to be published while I’m in DC for my half-marathon. When I come back to Philly, I’ll be a 13.1-finisher! And feeling a little better about this practical exam from all my studying this weekend. I’m going to be reciting anatomy facts as I’m running my miles…. ;)

Here’s a text exchange between me and AQ:

Me: How do I study for anatomy practical?
AQ: Lab. No other way.
AQ: Review structures like there’s no tomorrow.
AQ: Use lab and whatever body/materials you have.

A little extreme. Our anatomy final is next Friday! It’s a whopping 60% of our final grade. One hour, fifty tagged structures in fifty cadavers to identify. Gulp.


Everything smells like formaldehyde after our weekly cadaver lab: my clinical gowns, scrubs, even the handbook and my textbook. Once I fell asleep on my bed after anatomy… loads and loads of laundry the next day. As challenged as I’m feeling about this exam, I am looking forward to be done with this class and the smell of cadaver labs.

You learn so much from looking at real bodies as opposed to pictures. I didn’t know that the epiglottis was that tiny or that you can feel how a nerve differs from arteries/veins. It’s a whole new dimension of learning altogether. And I can’t believe that as dental students we get to use real cadavers.

Friday, April 26, 2013

get happy series: start it up.

Our fitness challenge wrapped up this week! I began this challenge beginning of this semester with my vegetarian transition, maybe a little too ambitiously. With a busy dental school schedule and marathon training, I spent a lot of time stressing out about what I should be doing. I had actually gained weight!

I chatted with Sharon right after my weigh-in. She set me off to deep thought about the way I think about health and fitness. An interview with her, our inaugural SHAPE challenge winner!!!, will be coming up soon- meanwhile, you can read her interview about her HPSP (military scholarship for dental school) here.

Being healthy isn’t just about weighing a certain number or looking a certain way. This is why I’m excited to start this “Get happy series”. (I took this picture on my run crossing the bridge to New Jersey!- Philadelphia looked so beautiful with the sun setting in the background.)


I’ll be write about health, physical fitness, nutrition, dentist ergonomics and emotional health***: many things I should pay more attention to. To start off, here’s my baseline right now with a busy school schedule.

  • I sit on average 8 hours a day at school + 3-5 hours studying/working/writing.
  • I walk about 3000 steps on average on days I don’t run.
  • I snack throughout the day into the night out of fatigue-boredom-stress.

I want to focus more on the mental/emotional health on this dental school journey. Once school lightens up a bit I’m going to organize and structure this blog a bit, so look forward to new changes.

I’m heading to DC tomorrow morning bright and early to tackle 13.1 miles. Sleep tight, everyone! Please send me some badass running vibes!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

keep on keeping on

There’s a picture we took during winter break of us three wearing face masks. I have it on my desktop and I laugh every time I look at it— but the other two would kill me if I posted it here. So here’s another picture that cheers me up: beautiful Philadelphia spring.

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I tackled some writing assignments this weekend and felt like an imposter… because I don’t always follow my own advice. I feel similar sentiments when I’m writing about dental school here on this blog. Sometimes I come off a lot cheerier and carefree than I really feel. But when I emo-write, I look back and cringe that I made my personal struggles so impulsively public.

Struggles and challenges aren’t always well-defined in real life. There’s no evil villains or monsters to fight. Perhaps identifying and deciding what battle to fight is a big enough challenge in itself.

Here’s my personal battles until end of April:
- Think positive thoughts.
- Celebrate short-term achievements.
- Put in 110% effort into cadaver anatomy final.
- Enjoy my first half marathon.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

dental life lately: photolog.

The Oral Cancer Walk and 5k! Who knew running is twice as fun with colorful balloons? Amazing event hosted by Penn Dental. I woke up early morning to volunteer (and eat many many bagels and cookies). I got to chat with dentists and oral cancer survivors. So inspirational.

GET SCREENED & screen yourself. Look in the mirror around your own mouth when you’re brushing and flossing.

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Oral cancer educational material: stuffed animals with TEETH! With my lovely classmate L.

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My marathon is coming up! I did not think I would be this busy when I signed up last fall… dental school is not the best place to train for a race.

But there’s so much beautiful historic architecture in Philadelphia and getting to see these on your run is a wonderful treat. Running across City Hall.

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What have you done with your handpiece lately? Beth Ann Magnuson (check out her Etsy shop here) creates intricate lace-like egg shells with dental drills.

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How amazing are these cupcakes? A bakery donated them & they were as delicious as they are creative. My mom used to send me all kinds of fondant flowers in my care packages when she was doing competitions. I’d eat a few and save the rest for apartment decoration. Sometimes food can be too pretty to eat.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

heading to nyc for weekend

I went to New York exactly once last semester. Dental school gets in the way. I dug out my MetroCard for tomorrow’s day trip to NYC. It’s pouring tonight in Philly but I have ready my sunglasses and work for the bus ride.


This week’s been full of heartbreaking news. I went to the locker room after a long day of clinic and preclinic to someone asking me, “Did you hear about the Boston marathon?” Just surreal. Sending many prayers to Boston and Texas.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

eyesight help

My eyes are failing on me. Staring inside mannequins all morning and looking at embalmed cadavers in afternoons is doing all sorts of bad things to my vision. I got an eye exam this afternoon and couldn’t believe how bad my sight had gotten. The optometrist had to literally hold up two fingers and ask me how many.

I guess no LASIK for me this summer? I’m a little panicky since I’m going to be relying on my eyesight for my career. I need to be smarter about taking care of myself- eyes, back and all.

This picture isn’t really relevant but I bought some huge strawberries the other day. These were bigger than some apples I had. Similar response of disbelief to my new prescription I guess?


We had an exam this morning and a re-scheduled practical laboratory exam next week. Believing (and speaking in body-languages- watch this Ted talk to learn how you can “fool” your body!!!) that I can do it.

This week I tried quinoa and hemp seeds for the first time this week courtesy of my vegan mentor. I watched Kristina Carillo-Bucaram’s video on Raw Food Empowerment and am motivated to eat healthier, more beautiful foods. What foods are delicious, healthy, and good for your eyes?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fear-Proof Kids: How to Have Great Dental Visits

I recently volunteered at an after school youth program for kids. We talked about oral hygiene and going to the dentist regularly. Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of the kids admitted to not going to the dentist because they are terrified of the dentist. This very relevant (and funny) guest post is written by Sloan Carson, who also wrote this page about kids for these Las Vegas dentists. I think these tips will apply to our more grown-up patients too! 

One bad dentist can ruin it for everybody. 

Kids don’t grow up afraid of the dentist.  They learn it from their first visits, their parents, or their peers.  Grandparents cause trouble, too, by relating the horror stories that they went through in days when pain-killing technology was largely based on grain alcohol.

clip_image001Odontophobia: Fear of dentists (fear of clowns is coulrophobia!).

As a dental student, you don’t need to learn how to relate to scared patients and children.  You can graduate, start your own practice, and make plenty of money tying terrified patients into the chair and forcing their mouths open. You can work in silence, lay out torture tools, and wear a mask constantly.  You can make children into odontophobes for the rest of their lives with just one frightening appointment.  But you shouldn’t.

Here are some of the best ways you can relate to your customers, provide great service, and create friends and people who will spend the rest of their lives visiting the dentist with a smile.

#1: Be a Dentist Who Overcommunicates.

Kids, especially kids on their first dental appointment, have absolutely no frame of reference to understand what you’re doing.  Every weird tool and operatory could be in place only to cause them pain.  Talk to them!  Lay out what you’re going to do before you do it.  Ask if they have questions.  Let them ask their questions.  Find that cartoon that explains what cavities are.  Do whatever it takes to get them to understand your actions and why you’re taking them. 

Talking takes extra time.  It’s a pain… after working a full day of children back to back, you’ll be so sick of explaining what the intraoral camera is you’ll want to quit to become pet psychiatrist.  But:  If you want to avoid creating terrified kids for life, you’ll do it.  Just start talking.  It’s the best thing you can do.

#2: Be Present With That Child.

If you’re in the room, be in the room.  Some parents or dentists will be inclined to distract their child with cartoons or movies.  This is a good idea… later.  Initially, a scared patient is going to be full of questions.  Be there with them.  Tell them what’s happening.  Your nurses need to be fully on board with this idea… it’s not enough for you to be a rock when you’re in the room, only to have your assistant ignore the patient while you’re gone. 

Once a patient has some awareness of what’s going to happen and what kind of person you are, you can let them try to distract themselves if that’s what they want.  That’s the time to turn on the cartoons and let them drift.

#3: Be On Time, In the Dental Offices Waiting Room

Okay, it’s not always possible.  Do your best.  Nothing communicates professionalism and concern like arriving on time to meet a person who has arrived on time.  It’s an act of mutual respect.

Walking into the waiting room to greet your patients also sends a clear message of warmth and concern.  If you never show your face out front, you’ll be an unknown quantity to everyone sitting there in that room full of strangers and the faint smell of burning dentin.  Just go say hi!  Everyone will love you just a little bit more.

#4: The Overall Theme

Everything written here is a variation on one theme: Be a comforting person, and let that shine through.

Put yourself in their shoes, and you’ll know what to do in every situation.  Remember your own childhood, and you’ll have an excellent starting point.  Become the person you wish you’d met then, and let it show.

Monday, April 15, 2013

all in (no multitasking allowed)

I wrote about why working at the museum wore me out so much: it was the constant multitasking. Because your brain can’t truly do more than one task at a time, you need to constantly switch from one task to another, which takes energy and effort.

When something is constantly bothering me in the back of my head, I cannot dive into one task alone. I waste a lot of time getting small tasks completed before I can tackle on the big project at hand- this is something I need to work on: prioritizing so that I focus on the most important task for that moment.

I took this mini test to see how well I can multitask. By completing some simple tasks to measure how well you focus on multiple tasks and how well you switch, this test gives you an idea of how good of a multi-tasker you are.


Here’s what I noticed: I may do okay, but I get so flustered taking these tests! I was jumping out of my chair clicking away on my keyboard. When I’m studying for multiple things, I get equally frustrated. I don’t think to prioritize different tasks. Instead I wear myself out thinking about the many different things I should be doing.

In thinking about the bigger picture, I have too many goals I’m working on right now. Bruce suggested it but I dismissed it earlier, thinking I can do it. I’m telling you that I’m feeling overwhelmed from everything I’ve signed up for, thinking it’s all equally very important. And when those goals come into direct conflict with one another (Be productive in the mornings!- but without coffee?) it’s a struggle. Priorities- either in life goals or in studying day to day- are very important. Especially if you are like me and don’t deal well with juggling multiple things.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

on happiness and dental school

This weekend I watched Happy on Netflix and thought about happiness a bit.


All anyone wants to be is happy. And I think staying happy is so important, even when you are dealing with hardships. Because you can be miserable and worried about upcoming exams and dental school tidbits… but if someone were to ask you, “Okay, but are you happy?” you should be able to answer “YES!” and remember how lucky and happy you actually are.

I was tempted to click on this option while buying bus tickets for a weekend trip:


I went swing dancing this weekend. I forget how much I enjoy dancing! We used to go salsa dancing in sketchy underground clubs in Houston and laugh so much.

I’ve been neglecting things that make me happy. I thought/think: I’m in dental school, I’m going to graduate in a few years and start living my life! Have you heard the story of the Mexican Fisherman? You can work for years to get… where? You can live that life right now.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

walk the walk

The thing about our dentistry lab course is this: you know exactly what needs to be done. You just can’t do it yourself- or jut don’t know the best way to do that task. Make the walls convergent. Depth at 1.5mm and width of the 1P condenser. I can rattle off the criteria at the top of my head. It doesn’t mean I can do these things: you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?

Last week was a major struggle. I failed almost every single assignment due in lab (each time I made a different critical mistake). It was frustrating. It really sucks to be bad at something. It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something. I get that it takes a lot of time- but can I please start at at least an amateur level?

And after almost losing my high speed drill (and beating myself up for doing something so stupid) I was off my game for the rest of the week.


Someone said something shocking to me this week: “If I knew how difficult dental school was going to be, I would have never come.” But the thing is, you don’t know anything until you’re here.

I asked myself three big questions about starting dental school this summer. I know I want it! I told myself I would give it 110% and go for it no matter how hard dental school gets. No cost is too great for something you love.

But I’m only scribbling words in dust. I’m not walking the walk. I think this is a common theme in my life right now. Knowing exactly what needs to be done but failing to do them. I need to put my head in the game and get through April first.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I’m feeling twenty-two (or twenty-three)

My first week of college AQ who quickly became my best friend won a preview screening of Gossip Girl. We actually bonded over the book series when we first met! Fast forward five years: Gossip Girl’s ended and I’m now older, living in a brand new city and yet sometimes I feel like I haven’t changed at all.

Meanwhile, these characters on Gossip Girl got married, discovered half-siblings, built corporate empires, got caught up in political scandals…GOSSIP GIRLPicture

In high school, I couldn’t wait to be in college. The college students I met were so confident, like they knew what they were doing. Not just in that moment, but also what they were doing with their lives.

Some of my friends are taking major grown-up steps (One of my suitemates got married this year! Another friend from Boston just had a baby!!). And seeing the old Glee cast transition from high school to real life college is making me think- where am I on this life timeline? But I don’t want to rush growing up yet.

Does anyone else have conflicted feelings about their twenties? This adult-transition-grow-up-phase can be some weird times. I love this song because it captures that feeling in the best way (the way only Taylor Swift can)


Pop culture does good things sometimes.

Do you like “22” by Taylor Swift…. or do you love it?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

signing permission slips

I signed a work dismissal pass for a patient this week.

He needed someone from the dental school to verify that he had been at a dental appointment. So I checked the box and printed my name on the line.


Picture source

I know that as a dentist I’ll be doing a lot of permission slip/dismissal slip signing. So this was my first of many to come! Little profound moments.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

working with new Designs for Vision loupes

Starting with our restorative procedures, we are required to use our dental loupes. I’ve been using my new Designs for Vision loupes and I love them (I wrote about choosing and ordering them earlier this semester). Using magnification took some time for me to get used to. I had originally considered buying a higher magnification but I’m glad I stuck with 2.5x for now.

Please excuse my messy desk. I took everything out of the box and played with my new toys inside as soon as I received my package.


One way loupes can help is by making sure you have great posture. Before using the loupes, by the end of the class I would be five inches away from the mannequin twisting my neck to look inside. At my working distance of 19 inches, the image is most crisp when I’m working ergonomically with good posture.

I also love my LED lights because I can actually see what I am doing. And since these lights weigh very little I always have the light on, even when I’m just using a hatchet to smooth out our drilled surface.

While getting ready to write this post earlier this week, I actually broke the nosepiece on my loupes! I emailed Kevin (our dental school representative) in panic who arranged for my loupes to be sent out for repair the very next day. (And you know this was fortunate timing since we took an unexpected break from lab…)

My loupes came back safe and sound with the repair completed the next week.

Every now and then I’ll wish I had my loupes at that moment. When I was trying to take out a splinter or looking for something under my bed I thought, “I should really carry my loupes 24/7.” #dentistproblems.


Using and working with dental magnification is an important skill we need to learn, and I’m glad I got these Designs for Vision loupes, especially with my repair incident. ;) Plus with the newly repaired nose pad, my loupes feel so much better on my nose and on my ears.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Easter caries

Chick Peeps are my favorite. You know it’s spring when you see these neon marshmallows show up on grocery shelves. I didn’t have any this year with my new diet change, but I miss the seasonal sweetness only fluffy Peeps can bring.

I saw this huge chocolate bunny this weekend. This bunny came with instructions on how to cut- using an electronic knife. I am not even going to guess how many caries this bunny will be responsible for.


I’m craving a lot of salty this week! Since we now have lab in the afternoons, I work right through dinner and come home starving. All I want to eat are pretzels and cookie butter.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

check out my interview at brush or die

I am featured in an interview at Brush or Die (link will take you there) this week!

David is a soon-to-be dental student at University of Colorado and writes great tips for pre-dents on his website, including tips for studying for the DAT (Have you heard of Chad’s videos? Or thought about using MCAT study books for the DAT?) and different options for paying for dental school.

Go check out Brush or Die! David will have more great content as he begins dental school (and have some vlogs about his dental school life).

And check out my interview here. I talk about my plans to specialize after dental school and taking a gap year before dental school.

drop the box: class II amalgam prep.

Drop the box

…. is not the newest high school slang. It means drilling into the interproximal (in-between teeth surfaces where you floss) to gain access into caries underneath the contact surface. We’re learning to make the external outline on the occlusal (biting) surface, then to drop the box.

Picture source


This is why flossing is so important! Since food can get caught in between your teeth, you need to floss daily so that this area doesn’t become a sugar party for oral bacteria. Brushing your teeth alone won’t keep this area clean. Floss! Or dentists will get all up in your mouth and drop that box.


Our faculty say it like it’s nothing funny but I find it hilarious. But there’s nothing funny about Class II amalgam preparations- they are hard! Getting the right depth and the distinct angles on the box sides is difficult, especially so when you are working on the molars far back inside the mouth.

We learned that in practice clinically, interproximal caries are tricky because once you start drilling, you might see that the caries is much bigger than seen visually or radiographically. You might go in thinking it’s a little divet and instead dig up a whole taco shell.

So floss! It’s especially time-consuming with braces. Someone else with braces said it best: “if you have braces on, flossing is like a part-time job.” But if you don’t, caries will sneak up on you.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March: thank you for the rain (and snow!)

It’s end of another month. Here we go!

1. Surviving no coffee.
I went from drinking four cups a day to zero. I listened to my body more, to see when I needed to go to bed versus when I needed to eat something hearty, for example. This is also the first year I gave up something I love for Lent.

2. My first amalgam filling.
Lab is tricky. Learning all the dental procedures is great for feeling like I’m finally in dental school but can be oh-so-frustrating. I’ve had so many frustrated moments in lab.


When I’m on my sixth tooth and I make another irreversible mistake I want to give myself a honey chestnut (Korean reference). But sometimes I take a deep breath, pack up my dental kit, and tell myself that tomorrow is another day.

We’ve moved onto Class II amalgam preps and amalgam fillings. I filled my first amalgam(s) this month= super exciting! Well, if I took three hours on every prep and another three on every amalgam filling, I’d never have any happy patients… but I’m only a D1.

3. Philadelphia food heaven.
I think I’m going to move to Chinatown next year! Or maybe that’s a bad idea because I’d sip on tea and Vietnamese coffee and eat pastries every day.


I love Philadelphia’s Chinatown for its vegetarian-friendly options, ridiculously cheap fresh produce, and childhood comfort foods in grocery stores. Plus Trader Joe’s and the many vegan restaurants on my to-eat list (Hip City Veg, Blackbird) make me glad to be living in Philly.

4. A year of D is for Dentist.
One year ago I decided to start this blog- it’s been a long crazy year. And this blog has been a creative outlet and a great people-connector. I love hearing from people in various stages of dental school (pre-dental, dental students and alums aka dentists!) and talking about our different dental school experiences.

Now that it’s officially spring, you know what they say about spring rain:


What was the happiest moment in your March?
What’s your favorite thing about preclinical lab?
(Mine is dressing up in masks, gowns and loupes to look all official)