Sunday, December 6, 2015

Post orthodontics match day.

December. Here we are.

The beautiful Rittenhouse Square

I’ve been sick since Thanksgiving and slowly turning into a sloth. Last weekend I woke up at 2PM and took a nap three hours later. Then I was worried I'd be seriously sick for my interviews and worrying myself sick... it's a bad cycle.

December 3rd came and went! For those of you not around a dental student, it's the MATCH DAY for Orthodontic residencies. Having close future orthodontist friends, I spent weeks leading up to December 3rd talking about nothing but match day: what to do if don't match, how to rank the programs, should I have sent a thank you card sooner? In the end, happy news for many people.

Seeing my friends who matched for orthodontic residencies last week brought up a lot of feelings. I was happy for my friends first and foremost, but I felt a lot of other emotions as well. I felt nervous for my own match day (January 25th!) and envious of those who had landed yet another certain stepping stone. I was also amazed that these people knew precisely what they wanted and made it happen. I still feel very young at 26 and anytime someone my age shows immense self-knowledge or self-awareness, I'm in awe.

And the questions I have about my own future: where to work? (anyone hiring in May 2017?) Should I have applied to more residencies? Maybe I should have done my externship elsewhere...

Throw in this emotion soup mix, that Adele album, and that stubborn sickness and you got yourself a sniffly Yesle. Here's to dreaming the impossible and being grateful for what I have today.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Application progress update

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Every day this long weekend I woke up and thought, I don’t have school again? A treat every morning. I also got to catsit this beauty for a classmate.

Interviews are coming along! My classmate and I had a happy conversation about how interviews encourage us to reflect back on our time at Penn Dental. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we filled our days with meaningful moments and now they want us!

Fourth year itself is great. It’s the getting-ready-for-next-year part that’s been hectic. Like Bri warned me, there are pockets of stressful moments, a series of roller coaster up’s and down’s throughout the entire year. Nothing is too stressful yet, but everything requires a little bit of fuss.

And then the little things. I had an incident in clinic couple of weeks ago, which reminded me of two things: 1) not everything happens for a reason, but you can assign that reason and 2) bad s- happens to good people. The second point let the event roll off my back because I was mostly plagued by this question: “How could this happen to me?” (That is me singing this Maroon 5 song) Because I didn’t deserve to be treated like that.

And then I thought about resilience and grit. How can you become stronger in face of adversaries? By introducing mini challenges then facing progressively bigger ones (just like weight training). Better to have things happen early in my dental career and learn from them.

Bay window or balcony?
Deck or backyard?
(All my free time's now spent looking at apartments in my candidate cities....)

Monday, November 2, 2015

self-discovery in residency interviews

Central Pennsylvania is SO beautiful this time of the year. Winding roads, single lane highways, mountains in the background and all. that. deer. This weekend I got to drive around Pennsylvania and see the beautiful fall scenery. Oh, and attend an interview. The entire hospital team showed up on a Saturday in full Halloween gear for us applicants, it was an unbelievable atmosphere altogether. I could work in a place like this.

I woke up the morning of my interview to this. I had to dig out my hotel key and scrape through the ice before driving to the hospital. There is a first time for everything but I am glad this little pup was with me for this moment.
I'm realizing how exploratory and self-reflective interviews are. I got asked some interesting questions that made me reconsider facts about myself. For example, I was asked about my “city girl background”. I have never thought of myself as a "city girl" and yet I've only lived in cities- is it going to be strange for me to live in a small town? Yet I am confident I know what I like about cities and that I can translate those components into my life elsewhere.

Trying ginger beers at the country's fourth oldest brewery

Also, as I unpacked my toiletries for my two-night stay, I thought to myself maybe I'm not so low-maintenance. As much as I wish I were a rugged ("crunchy") outdoors-loving cool girl who can rough it up in the woods, I am not. 

Some other facts I've learned this weekend: I am a bit of a speed demon, ahem, I'll leave it at that... I also love grocery shopping (First stop of any vacation: the local grocery store!). I took full advantage of having a car and dropped by ~*WEGMANS*~ on my way home. Being able to buy tons of groceries and effortlessly wheel it into the trunk is such a wonderful luxury I missed from Houston. 

I also love house shopping. I asked every applicant about their living situation, the size of their backyard, the architecture style of their houses, porches and roofs, all those wonderful details that get me going. Oh, and the lush wallpaper at the brewery- I was in heaven. 

As a solo driver, this is the one photo I was able to snap in slow traffic.

I passed the mannequin portion of my licensing exam! Just got the email. Now I'm going to slather on some Egyptian Magic and go to sleep. Celebration in all forms, and for me, it's the cozy warm bed.

What interview question really made you stop and think?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

one thing I'm going to look for in residency

I reluctantly call myself a runner: I rarely run races, I don't time myself, and I rarely know how far I'm running. Each run is spontaneous, unplanned. But when I find myself turning to my running shoes- to decompress, to breathe- I remember how lucky I am to be a runner.

Like last weekend after the phone call when we decided it was all over, next morning I found myself lacing up for a run. Instead of sleeping in, my body needed to go running and blast music in my ears as I was sprinting onward.

I didn't know how much I would turn to running in dental school. I ran my first 5k in my gap year with Enstin and decided that this was kind of fun. I ran my first half marathon in first year of dental school and gradually learned to embrace running as part of my life.

Running is time for myself. I like running alone because I can be spontaneous. Feeling strong and there's a cute dog? I'll follow it up to Fairmount. I remember crossing the Franklin Bridge to New Jersey during one training season and feeling so empowered. The idea I can carry myself to a different state was incredible. (Now I can always run away to New Jersey.)

Philadelphia is just incredibly beautiful. I'm so lucky that Penn happens to be located in Philadelphia because I did not know how much I would love this city. I took that photo on our very last date. We went to the zoo by walking our way up the river. There was a rowing competition that day. It was so beautiful out and I remember wishing we had run up instead of walking.

As I begin my interview trail, I'm looking for a place I can call home, where I can run and be me. The happy, strong, and empowered Yesle to power through her residency program. And you guys know my life motto can be summed up like this: good dentists are happy dentists.

A good running trail, the open air, music in my ears. A personal escape, just one pair of running shoes away.

Friday, October 9, 2015

interview season begins.

I'm already getting a little nostalgic about Philadelphia. We survived Pope Weekend 2015!!! People running/biking on the empty streets with military cars along the side felt surreal. Listening to mass amplified over the speakers (through the security fences, a mile away from the Pope) was sorta cool.  I was running around the city thinking: I might not be in this place in seven months. 

Interviews have begun for GPR/AEGD programs! I'm well on my way to preparing for this crazy hectic thing we call interview season. My classmates have already attended their ninth, tenth interviews and have been offered positions for their specialties. 

After I got my first interview invite, I pulled out my interview outfit from 2012 - I wore the basic pantsuit/blazer with silk ribbon top. Everything still fits but I don't have the abs of a 22 y/o babysitter anymore... Dental school will do that to you. I think it's fun to have a completely new outfit for this new phase of my life. I have a new navy blazer I LOVE and it would make me so happy to wear this to my interviews. And happy = confident.

In other life news, I did evening night clinic with my favorite patient... the one who brought me a HUGE chocolate bar at her last appointment. Things got out of control until we were the last ones on the clinic floor, laughing at the absurdity of the situation at 8:30PM with nobody around us and our amazingly patient faculty reading his newspaper. I learned a big lesson: temporary provisionals play a big role in gum health.

I got this shade guide from the instrument window and everything was organized so nicely in order. I had to snap a picture. Little things that are just so satisfying, ya know?

It's incredibly fun to imagine my new life in a new city somewhere. Even if that happens to be Philadelphia, I want to move to a new apartment (more in the city) and get a meow-y roommate. But I may be living in a spare bedroom in Texas or waking up from my tiny NYC shoebox to take the subway every morning. The possibilities! But first, I need to put in the work. 

What big project are you working on right now?
What's your perfect interview outfit?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Running around (literally)

Dental bits: 
1. Your bone starts to resorb once teeth are lost. Wearing dentures (and applying constant pressure) adds to this resorption. This is why we encourage patients to get root canals to save the teeth or get implants.
2. If you don't have enough bone, you can't place implants. Think of bone as the foundation for implants!

All of a sudden, the weather's become gorgeous. The heat in the air is gone and Philadelphia evenings hold the perfect running weather. Philadelphia is gearing up for the upcoming Pope Francis visit! Penn is officially closed on Friday but everyone is nervous about Monday too. The traffic is being rerouted all over the city (as far west as 38th street!) and people are told to prep for the weekend as if for hurricanes/snow emergencies.

Look at this new stage! Mark Wahlberg is hosting the concert on Saturday. Unexpected choice to say the least...

The essentials lined up on Chestnut St. 

After an entire summer of studying for the boards and seeing patients 3.5 days/week, I had crazy back pain when I first got to Botswana. I couldn't even do some of the moves in Zumba! I've been determined to move around more and enjoy the beautiful Philadelphia nature before I (possibly) move next year. Besides, it is SUCH a luxury to be running around outdoors- with music, in the dark, along spontaneous routes- none of which I could do safely in Botswana.

Inspired by our Zumba song: "Whistle "While You Work It", I'm trying to have more fun. For example, one day I went on a hunt around the dental school to find triple trays. These trays which eliminate the need to take three impressions: PVS final impression, bite registration, and counter model. We don't have any in our regular clinics, so after peeking my head into several clinics, I was super tickled when I finally found one. We ended up not using it (plastic is too flexible), but this mini treasure hunt was super fun.

I will say: fourth year has been pretty crazy so far. I've been busier time-wise my first two years of dental school. But there are tons of things to keep track of: residency deadlines, licensing exams, competency exams, patient things, that are solely my responsibility. I can't turn to my classmate and ask when X is due... because everything is different for everyone. For example, my residency app deadlines are just coming up while my classmates have either gotten accepted (!!!) or are interviewing right now.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Botswana recap 1: everyday life.

I'm thankful for this long weekend. I got to sleep in, stock up my fridge, and have a little breather before this semester begins in full throttle. It's a strange feeling knowing I'm nine months away from graduation. A lot is going to happen in those nine months though: residency interviews, ADEX NERBS, Match day!

First, the dental bits in my life:
1. How many times can you take a PVS impression of the same prep? I believe I set a new record for number of impressions taken last week. I'm extremely lucky to have a teacher who holds me to a high standards and lets me fail... all the while having my back.
2. The importance of 47 degrees: My biggest role in operating theatre was irrigation with saline solution. Pronounced sah-LINE in Botswana. As I learned during studying for boards, bone starts to necrotize at 47 degrees, making the use of irrigation essential during drills.

About my dental externship: I'm still processing my Botswana experience. The dental clinic, my travels, patients and surgeries I saw, HIV-related pathologies, being different from everyone else, life without wifi or hot water...  I wrote briefly before here about my life in Botswana, but now I have pictures whoop!

I stayed in the Penn flats- hosted through a partnership between UPenn and University of Botswana. The house also houses medical students doing elective internal medicine rotations, residents working in various specialty clinics, and physicians. For the majority of my time, there were six students staying in one unit, with various doctors going in and out of the other unit. This entire unit sits on a "plot" (addresses are given as plot numbers) and surrounded by a wall with an electric fence.

The students were amazing: adventurous, positive, compassionate, open-minded... Best part of my experience was living with the students going through similar experience and emotions. Oh! And Zumba in the evenings at the school across the street.

The final E's are long in Setswana, making Pilane "pill-LAH-ni" and Gaborone "Hah-bo-RO-ni".

Princess Marina Hospital was a 15 minute walk from our flats. Most days I was at the hospital by 7:30AM. On way to the hospital was Main Mall, a sprawling strip mall with an outdoor market. Main Mall also had the grocery store Spar, Nando's (a fast food chicken place every Motswana was obsessed with!), and cheap lunch vendor options.

This is inside Spar. Botswana's official language is English. People mix up Setswana and English in conversation, but newspapers and hospital documents were in English. Grocery stores had everything an American could want, including peanut butter, yogurt, and TUBS of vaseline. Vaseline is the chapstick in Botswana. There were tons of produce: tiny apples, cheap avocados (less than 50 cents each), and oranges/nectarines/naartjies. Much more than I expected for a country in drought.

Botswana has great beef: this is Seswaa, the traditional marinated dish. 

The country is in a severe drought, with the dam at 4-5% of full capacity as of this summer. The med students and I went running at the yacht club on Wednesdays where the lake is now a dry dusty bowl.

We often didn't leave the flats after dark. As foreigners we definitely stood out and attracted a lot of attention. We had a handful of stories about people getting mugged after dark, getting phones and cash stolen. Instead, we stayed inside to cook (or went out to dinners in a cab), read (there were tons of books around the flats), and sleep at 9PM. On weekends I traveled- which is another post altogether- but during the days, especially if the power was out, I went to sleep when the sun went down. On the days clinic ended early, I explored places around Gaborone, including this cute outdoor coffee shop in the Village named after Alexander McCall Smith's book: No. 1 Ladies Coffee House. I got the red latte with rooibos tea, another extremely popular Botswana thing.

This photo is the last one that got uploaded before my phone was stolen. A friend from Baylor med (thanks Kathryn for connecting us!!!) and I went to Sanita's, a nursery with beautiful greens and yummy lunches. The place reminded me of my other favorite nursery: Tiny Boxwoods in Houston. I almost cried upon seeing so much greenery in one place, because rest of Gaborone is dusty, cactus-ey, and lawn-less.

It is bizarre and strange to be home in Philadelphia writing this, because I can walk around at night, I don't attract stares everywhere I go, and I'm spending dollars. Botswana's currency is called Pula, which tellingly means rain. Sometimes the entire August feels like a dream then I remember waking up to the sunlight coming in through the curtains, roosters crowing in the background, the metal gate to our flats clanking open and shut...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dumela from Botswana! The high's and low's

I wish I were writing with better news, but it's the afternoon and I have calmed down a bit. My stuff has been stolen... I'll save the chilling details. After spending all morning filing a police report and breathing deep, emailing people, and crying some more, I'm still here. In Gaborone, in Botswana.

Besides this incident, life in the dusty Gaborone winter is great. I live in the Penn flats with other Penn med students working in various hospitals. Zumba in the evenings, "seswaa" (braised beef in traditional Gaborone style) with South African wine, running in the dirt trails at the completely dried-out yacht club, having "sundowners" watching the sunset then the stars... Sometimes we don't have electricity or power in the evenings but even this I try to see as a unique experience (baby wipe showers, anyone?).

During the weekdays as part of my Penn dental externship, I work at Princess Marina Hospital, a government hospital in Gaborone 15 minutes walk away from our flats. I follow the oral surgeons on our rounds, and go into surgery in the "operating theatre". There is currently no dental school in Botswana so all our dentists have been trained abroad. I saw my first cleft lip repair in my first week!

English is the official language of Botswana so people speak English albeit using British terms such as "chips" for French fries. It's winter here but during the daytime, sun feels amazing even in shorts and a T-shirt. If I had my phone I'd have a photo here.

Anyway, just wanted to peek in and say hello so my blog isn't completely abandoned. I love that dentistry is relevant in all corners of the world. Meeting others interested in global healthcare and specifically Africa has been amazing. I've had tons of time to think, relax, eat good food... all in all I'm doing great, considering. (Did I really write that? Because two hours ago I was a mess.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

aisle or window?

In a few hours, I'll be well on my way to Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana. Botswana is right above South Africa (yes it'll be winter) and the sand is red there (says the Internet). I am excited to smell the air and taste the foods, two senses that can't be delighted via online photos. And you know the excitement is real when my emoji game goes a little overboard.

Over the years, I've gone from preferring window to aisle. It might be my friend Kathryn whose deep fear of deep vein thrombosis inspired my own... but I get so angsty on airplanes, especially when flying alone. I need to get up and walk around.

The bright-line rule in packing for this trip: Don't bring anything I'd be devastated about losing. Leave anything I could buy in Botswana. 

I went into dental school today to run some errands and ran into Dave! Who told me that his beau asked him this: "why are you so cranky all the time?" We laughed and agreed that every person dating a dental student might wonder that.

I am SO EXCITED to see dentistry in Botswana (there's currently no dental schools in Botswana), dental health of the people there, and fun dental culture bits (like in Korea how every toothpaste has bamboo salt). My flight itinerary is a little insane... so I won't be in Botswana until Sunday afternoon (gulp). Until then, beautiful peoples, please have a great week of orientation/ back-to-school/ rotations/ work/ camp etc.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Studying for the NBDE Part 2

NBDE Part 2. It's a two-day exam with a total of 500 questions in 10.5 hours. Now that clinic is over, my main focus is studying for & passing the boards. Some of my classmates took the exam in our final weeks of clinic, but I gave myself the weekend to study after clinic ended. My exam will be Tuesday and Wednesday, then I'm flying out on Friday (yay!). 

I like to pack my bag for the entire day and hop from place to place with study breaks in between (CVS run, grabbing iced coffee etc). Thankfully Penn has beautiful study spaces (that are open in the summer!) with huge tables, not to mention that our dental school is technically open 24/7. On Saturday, I packed a little too much and quickly learned my lesson. The subtle hills of West Philadelphia are mountains when you're carrying fifteen pounds of books-laptop-notes...

My care package arrived just in time to brighten up my studying! Chocolate from Mark (note written in his characteristic stick-pile handwriting) and this one mechanical pencil from dad... The lead comes out when you shake it! We're easily amused.

Studying for boards has been a wonderful process of polishing up what I already know. For example, dental materials becomes much more interesting after you've used them! Now I know the reasons for using certain cements for specific restorations. My weaknesses are very clear on practice tests: pharmacology and oral pathology. More practice tests & First Aid for this last final stretch.

If you're studying for your boards- Part 1, Part 2, or USMLE steps- best of luck! I was told that the hardest thing about my last year of dental school will be juggling the many projects, coming in sequence month after month: Boards. Residency app's. Mock mannequin, then real mannequin exam. (All the while traveling for interviews), Screening for NERB then actual NERB, MATCH DAY, CCE's, points and requirements for graduation. Then hey, May has arrived.

One day at a time.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

exciting & eventful end to summer session

I woke up yesterday with a big smile. Last day of summer session, last day before I go on vacation. All day long, I kept announcing to everyone (as if they did not know already!!!) "today's the last day!" And later, recalling this week's events to Bri: "I can't believe I made it!"...

Dental school couldn't let me go without one last ba-bam. I had my first pulp exposure. This is the event every dental student fears: chasing the decay until the pulp is exposed. It's the Pandora's box that opens up to fun possibilities like root canal therapy, crown lengthening, extraction... But no demon jumped out at me- in fact, we had no bleeding.

I also got a concussion contusion and had to have Lan chaperone me to Student Health clinic. Not my first time crying in clinic... Sometimes all I can is laugh at the ridiculous things that happen to me.

Third is that my crowns did not fit. This is the first time that something from the dental lab didn't fit in the patient's mouth. We decided to send it back to the lab to be re-made. This is also where I recognize what I don't know: my faculty took one look and said, "we're sending it back." Recognizing when things can be fixed chairside versus re-made in the lab, that comes from experience.

Funny tidbit: when I went to the clinic to get my head checked out, the doctor asked me about POINTS. The dental students and their points-obsession, I had to laugh. I did not hit my points goal for the summer (no shirt for Yesle) but gosh I learned so much. I officially have nine months of school left (really eight, since we have winter break and things). I want to welcome criticism, keep a happy attitude, and become a creative problem solver.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Start on: residency applications

I've added a new tag to my labels: Residency applications! I'll be applying to GPR/AEGD programs for the 2016 cycle. I pride myself on having a good grip on this whole dental school application thing but this Sunday evening, I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

I finally decided over the last few weeks: I am going to do a residency program. And commit to it too! The indecision was tiring: I was so set on working straight out of dental school one moment, then nope, definitely doing a residency. Or not. Add to it the fact that I'm not a U.S. citizen, and everything gets a bit more complicated... But this is it. I'm going to do a general practice residency.

Gretchen Rubin has the best stage presence. 

Clarity. Recognizing I want a stress-free externship month. So I'm asking myself to work extra hard this month of July to wrap up residency applications and ace my boards-NBDE-part-II (what a mouthful). Here I'm going to pretend Gretchen Rubin and I are best friends and that she reminded me about the Strategy of Clarity over lunch.

The whole point of working hard is to have fun, right? After all, all we have are relationships. This weekend I got to meet a newborn baby full of hair (most darling eyes), watch Inside Out with the boyfriend (survived without caffeine for the 10PM show!), and laugh over pizza with new/old friends. Being able to work hard in one moment so when I'm with loved ones, I'm able to fully embrace it (sans guilt and constant time-watching). Another moment of clarity.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Busy month ahead

Last month passed by with one post. Rather than feeling bad, I have accepted that writing will be slow during this part of my life. I've been tweeting a lot more instead! After all, this month I'm looking forward to wrapping up three things: summer session of clinic, NBDE boards II, and application (some). I'll be out of the country before this month is over.

In our group, we have a fun little tradition for the seniors. Those who hit 700 points by the summer party get a celebratory Group 58 T-shirt. Last week, my professor was joking that he didn't have to put in too many orders for the senior shirt this year (implying that not many people had hit 700 points...) The thing is, my group has been HUSTLING. Every time I go to grab a professor, I peek into the mouths my friends are working on- amazing work.

Group 58 at the 2014 holiday party

Having dentistry nightmares has become a regular thing. Last night, I dreamt that the composite balls were literally walking out of my preparation, defying all laws of gravity. Just the other day, my favorite hygienist walked over. "Do you remember last summer when you sat in that same chair? And had a real difficult time with your first cleaning?" I've forgotten chunks of last summer- perhaps deliberately. I remember feeling very nervous and trying very hard to hide that in front of my faculty and my patients. 

According to the Dalai Lama (who's visiting Philly this fall), since hardships are rare in most peoples' lives, these can be important opportunities to examine self, develop traits, and build karma. Then Taylor Swift says in an interview that her job is easy. As a happy and comfortable dental student, my struggles are not really real (board tests can be retaken, graduation happens- eventually) ... in this controlled context, I can still accept my challenges head-on and use these to grow. Now I wonder how many cavities the Dalai Lama and Taylor Swift have had.

This week I want to finish 40 pages of Mosby's, finalize my residency list, and finish my denture consults. I'm also giving myself a pat on the back for writing this! Off I go to plan out my Monday.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

my tooth extraction experience

It's the summer! Going to school in bright sunshine makes everything better. Even when we're leaving early to prepare for that 8AM patient, nothing's bad when you're sipping on iced coffee. I'm slowly nibbling my way through my summer to-do list, all the things to be checked off before leaving to externship. Update tidbits:

- Pottery is going wonderfully. Now that cylinders have become easy, I want to leave my comfort zone and push myself to fail (sometimes). Pottery has been such a metaphor for personal growth in my life.

- For the first time, I signed up for a CSA share. Every week this summer, I get a box of surprise vegetable and fruits from a local farm. I've been getting my three servings a day with fun new veggies such as rhubarb, fennel, garlic scapes...

- The career trifecta of patients, boards, and post-graduation plans. This could be another post in itself because I have nightmares about one of those three any given night: "what do you mean I didn't submit a preauthrotization?" One step at a time, with lots of sticky notes, planning sessions, and cheeky pens. And tons of support from friends. 

- Losing that pesky #16. My teeth are all sorts of weird, you know, so my third molar started giving me trouble at age 26 when I was out of town. Huge perk about being a dental student: you can extract your own wisdom tooth! Nah, but I got a consult for myself ("patient is a 26 y/o Asian female...") and scheduled an extraction in our oral surgery clinic. In and out in minutes, with the help of three wonderful dental student assistants who did my work-up, gave me moral support, took sneaky photos... 

Isn't this the cutest little tooth pebble you've seen?

- Being a lion. There was a time I couldn't sleep well on Monday and Tuesday nights, my head filling up with all the details of next day's appointments. Being a lion means having that swagger, not because you got the fanciest mane or the sharpest teeth, but because you know in your heart of hearts that you can do this. As Dr. N says, "don't let a tooth beat you." 

Also remembering to laugh through it all. Because (okay, maybe my boyfriend is right and I am obsessed with our Group 58 Lion #cult) as Dr. N says, "what's the point if you're not having fun?"

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Now we're the seniors.

It’s the craziest thing. The seniors are all gone. The seniors that looked so confident and so cool, were rumored to not spend hours poring over next day’s procedure (what!), and were on the verge of graduation. Now that’s us- the seniors.

My chair says "senior" so that must mean I'm one...

As Dr. N says, the train is coming and you feel the wind blowing in your face. 

Just call me Midas.

I’m graduating in less than year, you guys. My friend sent me a snapchat of this year’s graduation and I had an emotional moment. Sharon and I talk about this all the time: we’re going to graduate! We’re going to get out of here! This is impermanent! That giant toothbrush is coming for us!

I still have a checklist of procedures I want to do. But last week while doing a tricky procedure, I felt strangely calm and confident. Sometimes your ambitious day (I’m delivering FOUR inlays today! whoop!) is your humbling moment (it’s 6PM and I delivered all of one inlay, yay.) I have a good working knowledge of how materials work, what to look for when doing final cementations, and how to find relevant information (product catalogs and older/experienced dentists). The good days build on my confidence, the worse days keep me humble. Everything I do matters.

Thanks for sending me on a tearfest with this snap.

I'm still working on that swagger thing though. Can you believe that a key word of my dental school experience will be swagger? Among all the dentally relevant ones: convergence, retention, "slaking", pulp health... swagger.

Monday, May 25, 2015

pause here: getaway weekend

I'm at a coffee shop on a sunny morning & just fell off my chair trying to grab a pen under the table. Still feeling a little sick and dizzy. Time to go home after hitting that publish button? Definitely yes.

One sign of being burnt out: you can’t stop talking about work. Put a BIG RED checkmark on that because I’ve been singing the POINTS song in my sleep. Every time I fell quiet and looked pensive, my boyfriend didn’t have to ask what I was thinking about: dental school.

Last weekend, a group of us took a vacation to New Jersey. Huge grassy backyard, pool with a diving board, dinosaur mint leaves in the backyard, and the beach twenty minutes away.

For the long weekend, I read by the pool, slept in, ate amazing food (French toast and clams grilled over open fire), and melted into a sunny, non-dental bliss. Oh! And we went to Target. Very important.

I brought along Quiet by Susan Cain. Between this and Gretchen Rubin, I keep thinking about what GRubin says: “unique, just like everyone else”. Not everyone thinks the way I do, nor do they feel the things I do. Marcel sent me this thought-provoking link about universality of human experiences- more specifically, how they aren't. People experience reality in different ways. I’m experiencing this profoundly with Marcel, that we think in fundamentally different ways and prefer different activities (morning or night? dinner parties or drinks at a bar?).

This is what it comes down to: I might envy those who can work nonstop. Wake up at 5AM and write for two hours before work every day. Do it again the next day and the day after. But for me? As much as I admire this trait in others, I don’t function that way, I need to recharge and relax.

I must have smiled like an idiot the following week. I found myself daydreaming my way back to that happy place. Waking up at 7AM sans an alarm. Rest of the house is sleeping, so I tiptoe downstairs and step outside, barefoot. Sitting by the pool, hearing the birds calling and the sky so blue.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I laugh at my own dentist jokes

I'm going to tell you a dental joke. Here's why you should become an endodontist: no patient is gonna come to you and say, “I don’t like this color gutta percha.”

If you don''t get it, the joke is this: gutta percha is the rubber that goes inside the tooth during a root canal procedure & no one ever sees it. Color matching is an art in dentistry, especially for crowns and veneers... but not for gutta percha. 

Trying to convince your non-dentist boyfriend that you're actually funny- is one thing. Explaining specific dental procedures to interested patients is another- perhaps more real- challenge. 

try not to laugh when you find dental burs on the bathroom floor

I assume people know things: implants, fillings (simple versus inlays/onlays), and crowns. But to be honest with you, I didn't know the difference before dental school. What is a "prep"? (when you cut the tooth to prepare it for the filling). What is a "prophy"? (prophylactic cleaning, the usual 6 month visit to the dentist.) 

So when a patient asks me, "what are implants exactly?" I have to pause and consciously use those simple terms. Not too scary, but not condescending. Because sometimes, I am so darn impressed at myself using those fancy words: "sub-gingival chamfer needs to be more apical". Best thing: when you start using abbreviations like a badass. Sub gingival? Sub-G, dudes.

Everything becomes interesting in small pieces. For example, I'm learning all about the finance world thanks to my boyfriend and his roommate. I'm finally getting a grip on what seemed so hazy and mysterious to me. Analogies help. So do patience and humor.

my huge Texas grocery bag now carries all my dental lab goodies (and makes me smile)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Some smiles, some tears.

AQ reminded me that it's been a month since I last posted! To be completely honest, blogging just fell through the cracks while I was hosting some lovely ladies, riding through our exam marathon, and catching up on clinic. Third year of dental school is such a roller coaster ride. Some days I am joyous. Other days, I want to crawl on the floor and put my hot cheeks on the cold, cold ground.

Some noteworthy things have happened though, like me burning my hand in clinic. This was a silly freak accident! I had to leave my patient, file an incident report, and walk to Student Health while crying and laughing. My hand hurt SO bad but I couldn't believe what had happened- and that this had happened to me.

Even just last week, my faculty was asking me about "your hurt" and "the trauma". Such dramatic words but for five minutes that afternoon, I was sitting on my chair just dripping tears onto my lap. The memory makes me laugh (and cry) because ridiculous things happening = just part of dental school life. Now my colleagues have seen the worst of me...

I keep thinking about why I'm in dental school. Besides the main reason that I'm not a senior yet (gotta hit that 1500 points!), what am I trying to learn here? I want to have a deliberate reason for coming to 40th and Locust every morning. 

Dental school experience can be isolating. It's hard for me to speak to my non-dental friends because everything I do has become so technical! For example, I can't explain to my boyfriend why a last-minute change from resin to amalgam was frustrating. Or the difficulties of trying to do a Class III on a crowded anterior. 

My classmate made this foil flower for me in clinic. 

It's an emotional roller coaster. I'm trying my best to be patient with those around me & to grant them attention and love. When I'm freaking out about the number of fillings I've done this month (ONE) and how many denture cases I need (SEVEN), I remember what my faculty said: "There's class, clinic, and the real important stuff."

But it's spring. My favorite flower vendor is back at the Farmer's Market. And it's impossible to be sad when there are literally flowers raining all over you on your walk home. I'm also finally getting this pottery stuff. I just threw a cupcake holder this afternoon & have the cutest plate on my coffee table now- I actually teared up when I saw that plate. Yeah, that emotional roller coaster (aka dental school) leaves your emotion meter all confused.

Iced coffee, running in shorts, pink, and orange. Everything is good.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

speaking of happiness

It's official! I'm dedicated to all things happy & joyful. As soon as Gretchen Rubin's new book arrived in the mail and I read the back cover: "she lives with her husband and two kids" I yelled "Eliza and Eleanor!!!" I wish she were my happiness bully. Here's my happiness gold stars.

1. Pottery continues to make me happy- although I've got a long way to go.  Today I made a pot for my succulents and pressed fun patterns into it! So fun. It's the mix of working with my hands (back to kindergarden!) and creating something practical. I spend a lot of time brainstorming what I could make next.

I could spend my Sundays in lab, doing patient work but... nah. This makes me happier. Happy people make better dentists.

open studio hours after work = blue scrubs

2. Pediatric dentistry. I had my peds block last week (one full week of just seeing pediatric patients aka baby teeth party). A classmate casually remarked "I haven't seen you this happy in a while!" I did notice that I felt happier lifted during the day. After all, we get to be silly at work saying funny things ("tooth shampoo", "tooth vitamins", "get your tooth to sleep!"- tell me you didn't smile reading those things.) I have never considered specializing in peds but the work environment seems too fun! Specializing is coming back on the table.

My heart melted when I saw this towel holder low on the ground...
 because little teeth, little hands, short people.

3. How far I've come. In a few months, we're back to the summer schedule where clinic begins at 8AM. For a second I was all, "8 hours of patient work? Yikes." Then I remembered last summer when we first started seeing patients. We did exactly that. I was so lost then! My first filling? My loupes kept fogging up from a bundle of nerves/excitement/fear. I'll probably do that for my first root canal but... every day I'm getting better at dentistry. I'm gaining that quiet self confidence.

I used to believe it was somewhat self-indulgent to make HAPPINESS a focus of my life. But when I'm happier, I am better to others. I'm more patient, empathetic, and understanding. It's that conscious decision to BE happy and deliberately seek out things that bring joy. And this week, a big thing making me smile: these flowers from my boyfriend all over my apartment. He'll read this and think I'm exaggerating but it really is everything. And I stop here to save you guys from all the mushy stuff I could write.

Go read Dave's post! Because if dating/relationship matter to you, being in dental school shouldn't stop that. Even if you decide now isn't the time, Dave mentions great points you can ponder on, such as your ideal career/others balance ratio.