Sunday, August 31, 2014

when do you feel grown-up?

Do you ever feel like your age just catches up to you? I've been feeling very old-soul this weekend. I used to listen to NPR at my 6AM lifeguarding shifts. One of the coaches always teased me, asking "Do you also hate chocolate chip cookies?" He would ask, "Do you also hate fluffy puppies?"

Lately I've been feeling it a lot. I think it's my new apartment and my new grown-up responsibilities. I'm reading this book "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking" by Allen Carr.  A friend successfully quit smoking cold turkey with this book and recommended it to me the future dentist. Reading it, I've been asking myself... I have my own bad habits and vices I can't break. Who am I to tell someone what to do (or not to do)?

Now I'm finding myself shopping for a matching dinner set (!!!!) and looking up home deco tips. All while yawning at 10PM on a weekend night.

It's that customer service phone call (assertive and courteous!), finding the perfect gift for your brother, pulling off a home-cooked meal for two. Looking forward to early Sunday mornings and celebrating with some wine (not shots). Sometimes I feel very 25 going on 50. I think what I miss most about being young is the careless laughter. Making a big mess and not worrying hours ahead about the clean-up...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

money talk: the latte factor

Did you hear that Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte is returning early this year? (fall 2014 is going to be so wonderful!) To be honest, I don't think I've had one since forever... but I might just grab one this week and pretend it's fall.

Let's talk the catchy-termed "latte factor". Latte factor is the idea that little everyday purchases can add up to a big lump sum. If you spend $5 a day on these, your lattes are costing you around $25,000 in ten years.

I set up my budget in weekly increments. Since I have a rough idea how much I spend a week (it's mostly groceries and restaurants) I give myself little wiggle room for treats at coffee shops and trinkets like nail polish and hand creams (a dental student can never have enough of those!!!).

I'm sure if I saved up these loose changes I would save thousands of dollars a year. But these little buys are my treats, a little bit of luxury in my dental school budget.

So I'm curious... what's your "latte"? Are you a stickler when it comes to saving as much as possible or do you allow little indulgences now and then? Do you like to buy small treats or save up for the big buffalo?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pre-dent advice from Dave: 3. DAT test day & interpreting your DAT score

Here we are on a Tuesday night again. Dave talks about the actual DAT testing day and what to do once you get your score. I know tons of you are working on your applications and some of you have even gone on interviews! Keep up the great work, you'll get there. -Yesle

Check out the entire Pre-dent advice series from Dave:
1. The basic application checklist
2. DAT study material tips 

Gearing up and getting ready for the D-A-T
  • Only sit through a test like this once: I understand this exam takes endurance, but don't torture yourself by taking entire Topscore, Achiever, etc. exams in one day. If you must do entire tests, consider taking pauses for understanding or doing the sections untimed. I suggest doing practice exams in parts and perfecting every question/example asked. You will be honed in on test day for 5 hours, don't worry! - there is NO need to do this experience for a practice exam!

  • Don't believe the hype: You will have friends and colleagues begin to take the exam around the same time you do, professing high scores and miracle study aids. There will be people who brag on SDN about a score of 23 or higher and while they may be smart, remember to live in your own circumstances. Maybe these people handcuffed themselves to a desk and studied, but I couldn't live that way and you don't have to either. Study the amount of time you feel comfortable with (for me, not marathons) and with the materials you prefer and can afford. Don't go buy things and spend time on methods that might only work for other people.
  • Strategize for each section: Using your mentors, the Internet, and review classes, start to strategize for taking the different sections (especially PAT). For example, for reading comprehension, some people prefer to “road map” and others prefer to “search and destroy”. For the hole punches, a lot of people use a tic-tac-toe board. For cube counting, many draw a tally on the white board. For the QR section, some learn to use the mouse with their non-dominant hand to have the best writing speed with their dominant hand. There are a myriad of other strategies you investigate and test if they work for you. Make sure they enable you to score highly with enough time in each section to review.

 Good morning, it's test day!
  • Test Day at Prometrics: Prometrics usually seats on time or early, so I recommend getting there early – plan ahead for driving or public transport. If you are a coffee person, drink coffee. People in that center had to put up with my hair scratching and other nervous motions, but for me coffee was totally worth the wakeup! Eat a good breakfast and bring a snack for your 15 minute break. The center will be quiet, clean, a good temperature, and the computer will be ready for you with their exam software. It really is no thrills and no frills – it will be a multiple choice, exactly as you expect it.
  • Your Standard Score. Finally, a word about your numerical score. When you’re done with the exam, you will click through a few screens and it will pop up on the screen. Try to control your emotions/reaction by setting some goals based on your abilities before you enter the testing center. For example:

Notice you can give yourself one standard score leeway to be happy with. Set your goals realistically based on your academic strengths and the schools you are applying to. When you leave the testing center, make sure to treat yourself for finishing a major exam! If you don’t meet your goal, do not despair – the exam does not define you as a person, and you can re-take in three months - Treat yourself anyway.

This score is a major milestone in your professional life – congratulations on coming this far!!! Good Luck! If you have any questions, you can read about my own DAT experience on SDN here [] or reach out to me via Yesle's email or my twitter!

Friday, August 22, 2014

are you ready for back to school?

It's time to go back to school. Can you believe I'm starting my third year of dental school in a few days? Officially starting our second half here. The first years at Penn had their orientation earlier this week and other schools around the country are starting up too- welcome to the world of dental school world everybody! 

Meanwhile, I'm loving going through old pictures from this summer. I think the best part of vacations is the remembering part. Somehow you forget the aching feet or the too-long airplane ride...  everything is peachy in the rearview mirror. (Fun fact- if they had to take an amnesiac pill to forget all memories related to their future theoretical vacation, people would rather not experience the vacation at all!) What is your favorite moment from this summer?

beautiful Perelman square: coffee, bagel, and reading material.

I think this day I just sat and drank water all day. 

I made paneer! I'm obsessed with my neighborhood grocery store.

hosted my housewarming party....

...with tons of yums by my talented part-time chef friends

love these sweet kitten siblings (photo by my personal photographer Lan)

Magic Gardens on South Street

I'm going back-to-school shopping today and packing my backpack for my (thirtieth) first day of school. I'm trying to find more pens because I lose about half the pens I buy. I'm constantly re-stocking my pen supply...  I think they walk away when I'm not looking.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pre-dent advice from Dave: 2. DAT study material

Dave’s back at it again! Here’s his tips on how to study effectively for the DAT so you can ace it! This is SO thorough and the kind of information I would have shared with other dental school applying friends going through the application process together.

Check out the entire Pre-dent advice series from Dave:
1. The basic application checklist

I hope the first pre-dental advice post helped! The topic of this post is the dreaded DAT: four major sections, one small break in between, five hours total. The experience is exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time, and you can conquer it with the right preparation and execution on test day.

Preparing for the exam:
  • Get the logistics out of the waysides early: You should read the testing guidelines on, apply for a Dentpin, acquire two forms of ID, and schedule through a Prometrics testing center well in advance. Make sure to have the money ($385) set aside for the exam. You can stop by Prometrics to tour the test center and have them check your IDs if you would like, too – a “dry run”, if you will.
  • Decide on a study schedule or review class. Buy a planner or print out calendar pages and put down a study schedule on paper. You can create your own, glean one from student doctor network, or study while you take a review class.  
Review courses such as Kaplan and Princeton Review cost about $1400. My personal suggestion is to use Chad’s Videos to review instead as they are much cheaper. See more suggestions below!

No matter what you do, set aside some days for review and some days for practice exams. Mix in practicing for the PAT throughout your schedule, and study for the reading comprehension if English is your second language. Fit a study schedule that fits your needs; some are compressed into under a month, others spread out for 2+ months. Only you know how you like to study.

In addition to scheduling your time, make sure to gather all study CDs, books, and other materials early. Set aside study cards, quick references, a calculator, periodic table of the elements, etc. before starting. Having everything in place is helpful!

Dave- guess who took this picture? His very talented pre-dent boyfriend.

The DAT study resources:

  • Practice tests are key: Get your hands on as many as possible and get messy with the material in the form of practice questions. I answer the argument "Achiever or Topscore?" with BOTH! More practice is better. There are many other practice test companies such as datqvault, Crack the DAT, et cetera. Kaplan and other review courses give diagnostic tests with their courses. Make sure to schedule practice exams into your studying, as they get your brain into problem-solving mode.
  • Chad knows best: Chad’s Videos, now marketed and sold through the website Coursesaver, are probably the best study bang you will get for your buck. Chad is an excellent professor (he actually teaches in Arizona!) and his class video recordings can be watched and re-watched for however many months you purchase a subscription. You can review for chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and quantitative reasoning with his videos. Also included are quiz questions and helpful outlines you can print. I cannot recommend a study product more highly than Chad’s videos! I recommend taking notes like a real college course and using them as a reference during studying.
  • Destroy the DAT with Orgoman’s Destroyer: Whoever said this book will help you “destroy” the exam wasn't kidding. I took this book to work, to class, in the car, while on the pot pooping…everywhere. I wrote the solutions in right next to the question. I read the question, looked how to solve the problem, and analyzed why the other choices were wrong. This book is expensive and difficult but will help you immensely.
Yesle here- I know many of you are gearing up for your application cycle. If you are a dental student already, what study resources/tips have you found hopeful? I'd love to hear about them. Stay posted for more dental school admissions tips including DAT study tips from Dave! 

money talk: little money-saving tricks (like clicking unsubscribe!!)

Good morning! I'm sipping on the green tea I rediscovered during my move as I write this. It was hidden away in the back of my pantry and this morning, it's the perfect mellow caffeine nudge I'm looking for...

Let's talk more money. I want to be a smart dental student who not only rocks her biochemistry exam but is also smart with her dollars. I love reading about money tips & advice online and here's a comprehensive list I found of little tips to save your cents from StyleCaster. Here's some of my favorite money tips:

101. Unsubscribe from flash sale emails and sale alerts. Go directly the retailer’s sites if you want, but you’d be surprised how little you impulse buy without the pressure of limited-time emails being hand-delivered to your inbox all day. 
71. Never go grocery shopping when you’re super-hungry. Everything looks good, so you’ll undoubtedly start throwing in items you normally would never buy. 
42. Another easy money-saving tip: Stash healthy snacks at work so you won’t have to hit the vending machine or Starbucks. 
12. Unsure about buying something? Calculate the cost per wear or use: Total cost of the item divided by the estimated number of times you’ll wear or use it.

Do you have money rules for yourself? I live by #71. I'll come home with three boxes of cereal and ten yogurt cartons and be like oops... I also love the concept of "cost per wear". I have beautiful dresses I've bought impulsively and worn only once. I love having them hang beautifully in my closet but every time I look I think "oh, I should really wear that next time..." It's like I'm paying for them in guilt!

My absolute favorite rule is #101. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. Sometimes when there's a shopping email in my inbox, I find myself clicking away and scrolling lustfully. I have absolutely no plan (or need) to buy any of those small pretty things but I pretty soon find myself filling up the online shopping cart! So for August, I unsubscribed myself from every shopping email. Now I'm not so tempted by those pretty shiny things in my inbox.


Here's my question: do you talk money with your friends? With the recent recession, people talk more openly about personal finances. Sheryl Sandberg and the recent spotlight on career women are helping us talk about salary and money as well. My family never discussed money growing up, so specific information with specific numbers (often unprompted) make me uncomfortable.

I do love discussing general ideas and tips, especially with my fellow dental school students. We gush about student discounts on Broadway tickets or good sales for our (future) grown-up wardrobe. But sometimes I wonder, what exactly is "too much" or "cheap enough"? Money talk is hard without bringing in numbers. Do you have tips for easing into money talk?

Friday, August 15, 2014

passed my NBDE Part I!!!

Do you ever feel so happy you just want to jump up and down? Unfortunately my bed frame is a little too unsteady (or I'm too grown-up sized)...

I am so happy, relieved, joyful: I passed the boards!!! All those mornings and evenings spend with coffee by my side feel worth it! Results came sooner for me than I thought- just two weeks after my NBDE Part I I received my letter in the mail. I think it depends on what batch of results letters I got sent out in... SO happy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

would you make a dentist your protagonist?

Alex, my writer friend and informer of all things literary, alerted me to this new novel by Joshua Ferris titled "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour". The main character is a dentist! Ferris explains to Seth Myers that he decided to make a dentist his protagonists because dentists seem so happy.

The actual description of his main character however, does not seem so happy. He is "obsessed with decay and death" from looking at mouths all day. I listened to this NPR interview with Terry Gross and the first bits read like a public announcement to floss- Ferris himself was nudged to floss after his having bleeding gums in college.

I am tempted to read this only to see how his main character- the dentist- is portrayed. Also! One of the main conflicts in the book is that our main guy refuses to set up a website for his dental practice (and you and I know how BIG social media presence is)... and someone else does FOR him.

Are we, as dentists, looking at "mortality in the face everyday"?- as Terry Gross so poetically puts it?

I'm curious. Does this feed into that stereotype about dentists being inflictors of pain/unhappy/suicidal? As a dentist/future dentist, what stereotypes do you have about fellow dentists? Would you read this book? Also- did you spot the cute little tooth on book cover?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pre-dent advice from Dave: 1. The basic application checklist

When I heard Dave was helping his special someone with the dental application process, I knew I had to get him to guest post! So here's Dave Maciborski, giving you all his pre-dental, dental school applications wisdom. This is stuff I wish I knew when I was applying to dental school! You can reach Dave on twitter here or read more of his famous posts on Student Doctor Network (he's dantemac!!). Here’s Dave- telling it like it is.

Dave will be writing about how to study for the DAT! Check back next Tuesday for his advice.

Yesle asked me to weigh in on pre-dental matters, which was great timing because I am dating a pre-dental student going through the dental school application process right now. I remember on our first date (nearly one year ago!), I grabbed a napkin and wrote down a basic list of how to be competitive dental school applicant. It’s a funny memento of our first date, but I also think it’s a great start for any pre-dent preparations:

  • Keep your GPA competitive (Ideally above a 3.5).  Enough said.

  • Start to plan out when you will want to study for the DAT. The DAT is taken summer after junior year normally, but a lot of people take it after senior year (or later!) if they want some gap years off. Alternatively, it can be taken after sophomore year (early) if you want that organic chemistry and physics fresh in your head.
  • Try to job shadow at least 150 hours! Most schools don’t require a specific number of shadowing hours, but this should do the trick. My boyfriend shadowed at a public health clinic I set him up with. It doesn’t need to be all private practices!
  • Ask for letters of recommendation early! I asked for letters a full six months before filling out AADSAS. I heard a quote once saying there are only two types of letters: Excellent letters, or terrible ones you shouldn’t be asking for. I agree with this sentiment – only ask from writers who can give you their strongest recommendation. Anything less will not help you. I recommend asking in person.
  • Start to collect unofficial transcripts from all the schools attended- including community colleges, studying abroad, transfers. You’ll need them to fill out AADSAS. Official copies will be sent later when you apply.
  • Make a list of schools. This is a difficult task, as it requires a glimpse into your future life as a dental student. Use the ADEA Guide to Dental Schools book (Hey, Dr. Sheridan from Penn is featured on this year’s cover!), the dental schools’ websites, and your own considerations of where you see yourself living and working for four years. Most pre-dents apply to ~10 schools. If your GPA and DAT scores are less competitive, I suggest applying to at least 15 schools. 
  • Start working on your personal statement. I could write a novel about the good, bad, and ugly personal statements I’ve read over the years, but I’ll save that for another blog post. Suffice it to say, make yours unique – show some humanity, some passion for your career, explain how you have prepared and why you think dentistry is for you, and write in the active tense with good verb choice. It’s a personal statement, so it’s alright to be a little conceited – always be discussing your accomplishments and preparations for your career.
  • If you are a junior, take some upper level biology classes senior year. Many schools any combination of basic sciences. Some also require psychology. Using the ADEA guide to Dental schools, make sure you fulfill the requirement of all dental schools you are applying to! If you are a biology or chemistry major, take higher level classes to show you can excel with loads of scientific material. If you are not a science major, I suggest at least taking biochemistry, as ~75% of dental schools require it.
  • Continue to volunteer, research, or work. Dental schools just want to see involvement, so find something you are passionate about and keep doing it. I honestly do not think that research is better than volunteering, or vice versa. 

This is my boyfriend, tired of studying for his DAT, feeling how any pre-dent probably feels. He ended up with above a 20! Keep going, success is right around the corner!

Obviously, my boyfriend didn’t get all these descriptors on his napkin list but he did get another date ;-). If all of this seems daunting now, don’t panic; life moves you right along, and you have come so far already! Before you know it, you will be submitting AADSAS and completing your DAT. After that, interviews will be just right around the corner.

Stay tuned for more in the pre-dental series!

Yesle: Whew- thank you Dave! I wish I had someone like Dave coaching me through my own dental application process. ;-) More of his advice on dental school admissions coming soon!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I definitely needed braces...

In going through old pictures I realized something: I definitely needed these braces.

Exhibit 1: Summer 2012. 
If all you see is yummy food, look closer.

This is what my bite looked like completely biting down on the posterior molars. I have an open bite, so you see a dark gap between the top and bottom teeth. There is where the teeth do not overlap (or touch at all).

Exhibit 2: April 2014.

The picture is after 18 months of ortho treatment. My bite has completely closed down and you can't see the gap between my teeth at all. My braces has also straightened out my crooked teeth on the top and gotten rid of the gaps in my bottom teeth. These are minor things compared to my open bite, but as a future dentist, I know these would have bothered me.

So in looking at my old pictures, I realized that I benefited a LOT from my braces. It's funny because I didn't think I needed braces when my dentist first suggested them. As a dental student (with two years of finest dental education under my belt) I can see the problems in my teeth/occlusion- those I was completely blind to before starting dental school. Also I now have nerdy things like "cavity fighter" stickers on my water bottles.

I'm now 22 months into my orthodontic treatment! It's been a long time but looking at those old pictures, it was totally worth it. I think I'm going on a diet of chocolate fudge and kettle corn once these come off...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

money talk: new budget for starting dental school

With the new year starting, I've been getting a lot of emails about budgeting from new dental students (congratulations and good luck, by the way!). I've briefly talked about budgeting and finances here, but I found that the questions go beyond the general tips I've discussed in those posts. Like these:

  • Are the dental school budgets and spending estimates accurate?
  • How do you set up an accurate spending budget for dental school?
  • How do you keep track of your spendings in dental school?

Money talk isn't fun, but it's necessary. Plus it will be satisfying when you hit those financial goals- I promise. I'm assuming we know the basics of budgeting (your usual balancing in's and out's), so we'll start with how to modify our existing budget. Not only are you moving to a new city, you also have a new dental school lifestyle. For example, when I moved to Philadelphia I spent more money on groceries and now zero on car insurance and gas, having sold my car.

Dental schools do publish spending estimates/budgets. However, sometimes the published budget is for ten or eleven months only while school is in session. Or, you may find that the budget (which assumes you are a single 20-something without major financial commitments) does not fit your lifestyle. So here's my tips on creating a budget for your new fabulous dental school life.

1. Spend money comfortably- for first few months.
To get a good idea of how much you'll be spending with this new lifestyle/location, spend like you normally do. This way, you can get a realistic idea of what it is like to be living "comfortably"- whatever this means to you. If you want to cut down on your spendings, you will have this realistic baseline number to go off of.

2. Allocate correctly between one-time spendings and recurrences.
There'll be TONS of new things to buy as you move in. These will be one-time expenses you won't repeat next month- such as furniture, deposit for apartment, and pantry stocking necessities. I like using to track all my spendings. Differentiate between these so you'll know what your month-to-month spending will be like.

3. Be honest about all your spendings!
As painful as it may be, don't "hide" your impulsive buys or irresponsible purchases. I had a blanket "education" budget for all things school-related and I've hidden many flats underneath that category... . If you find yourself spending tons of money on something, it might be a better idea to actually create a budget for this item- so you can spend money responsibly and predictably.

Hopefully after a few months, you'll have a better idea of how much you should budget for your spendings as a newly white-coated dental student. That's it!

Keep your eyes out for personal finance tips in the ASDA publications- I love reading these in our monthly publications. Click ahead and read this one about how to budget for couples when one is in dental school- hint: try the envelope method.

What money tips have you found helpful?
What app's or systems do you use to track your spendings?

checking in with MJ: what's in my (dental school) bag

I have a treat for you guys today! I love learning about the every day things of people I admire. Like what Arianna Huffington ate for breakfast or what Jenna Lyons is having for lunch

I asked my classmate MJ Anderson to show me what's inside her dental school bag for the summer! We traveled to DC together twice (first for Nike Women's Half and second for ASDA Lobby Day) and she's always confident & put together. So here's a peak inside MJ's bag- I'm loving the colorful prints...

Between caring for patients in clinic, balancing classwork and studying, fitting in a quick workout, and dashing across town to run an errand, some days it feels like I live out of my bag! My sister teases me that every time she calls, I'm power walking to or from school. Recognizing our busy schedule as dental students, my sister gave me an awesome Vera Bradley laptop backpack in a cheerful yellow print that conveniently hides how well-loved it is.

Inside I tote more than a few staples, including (clockwise from upper right):

1. My daily stack of dental decks for the NDBE Part I
2. Post-it notes, for those pesky cards that I don't know as well
3. Papermate Ink Joy pens (my classmates have instilled a bad habit)
4. A flash drive in case I want to travel light without my laptop
5. A pack of tissues for overly air conditioned classrooms
6. Earplugs for days that I want to study in a buzzing coffee shop
7. Band-aids, because you never know!
8. Septa subway tokens in case I want to escape downtown after a long day
9. Ear buds, in case I was to study in a library while pretending it's a buzzing coffee shop
10. Trident gum, because 9/10 dentists recommending sugar free gum (kidding! sort of)
11. Burt's Bees chapstick and Julep lip gloss
12. An iPad, because I love to travel light
13. Healthy snacks; Chiobani yogurt, Simple bars, and Perfect Fit are all favorites
14. My student ID
15. It's handy to carry a few spare tea bags for the student on a budget
16. A cloth to clean my eyeglasses- which also comes in handy for my iPad
17. A water bottle- I love the collapsible ones that you can roll up from Platypus

With this level of preparedness, I feel like I would make the Boy Scouts proud; but at least I'm always ready what whatever the day throws my way.

As much as I love seeing patients in clinic, I'm not complaining about having a little break this month. I am home in Upstate NY for the month of August, relaxing with my family.  I am embracing not having a schedule and am spending as much time as possible outside; I've been doing a lot of hiking in the Adirondacks this summer and have begun preparing for a few upcoming races this fall.  I've also found time to pick up my paintbrushes again, which I normally don't find time for during the academic year. I wholeheartedly believe we all need time off to tap into our creative, energetic sides again.