Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The initial (lag) phase:
Seriously, it is like jet lag, read my post on orientation week and you will get the idea. Since all classes are just beginning and it is the very first semester – things begin at a reasonable pace. Our first three weeks or so were test free.
Wake up: 7am
Lunch: Usually would go home
The end time was quite variable actually, on Fridays we had no class after noon, and other days we would often get out early. However on more than one occasion, I found myself in the anatomy lab or stuck in the pre-clinic till 5 or 6pm.
Relaxing, 1-2 hours studying: 5-11pm
Sleep – 11-7
As you can see, life is quite manageable during the lag portion of the D1 semester. This is also a great time to participate in class-wide events and social activities. Ultimately, you make friends through these experiences coupled with small group work at school. I have already made more ‘good’ friends at this school than I did in 4 years of undergrad. Partially because we are all subjected to the same torturous lifestyle, and partially because we have no other options (yea I know that sounds bad, but it isn’t meant to be).
Use this lag phase to be social, find your class niche.. I can’t imagine doing this by myself (although I usually do study solo). You need people to vent with, people to drink with, people to just shoot the breeze with, and really, you need people that understand WHY you are so busy. The public has NO idea that dental school is actually difficult and explaining things is impossible; you need to live it, or be close friends/spouse with someone who is living it.
A note about the lag phase – DON’T get behind. Read ahead if you can, go to class, pay attention, the shit is about to hit the fan.
Also note all dental schools are not created equal and neither are the students. The gunners will already be living in the library; you will rarely see them out with the class on weekends. This doesn’t make them assholes; it just makes them gunners (always exceptions). However, you will find that the most intelligent kids in the class usually are quite sociable as well because they are aware that networking pulls some serious weight in getting residencies or just a decent a job straight out of school.
Generally the entire class gets along during this phase as well; everyone is helping each other out.
The first whippings:
Here comes the first wave of tests. We were pretty fortunate to have only 1-2 tests a week as the classes managed to spread them out. Everyone is nervous before the first exam, but you start getting used to it right away. My schedule remains the same except I am spending closer to 3-4 hours a night studying. Obviously this fluctuates with test proximity…but I generally begin reviewing lecture material a week in advance during the first whippings because there still is time to do so.
I was chugging along just fine until that first anatomy practical..whew, go to lab a LOT people, and try to orient your cadaver in many views because those instructors will try to confuse the hell out of you by simply orienting the cadaver or random appendage in a really strange way.
During the first whippings, you will see the class going out after big tests, but smaller groups are now beginning to form and little niches are developing ala highschool. There are jocks, class clowns, cheerleaders, band nerds, strangebees, cool kids (like me), and total slackers/moochers.
Of course since we are ‘adults’ there is a lot more intermingling between castes, but don’t get me wrong, it still feels highschooly. You may also notice during the first whippings that people are starting to get on each other’s nerves. There is also an abhorrent amount of gossip flying around, about who is sleeping with who, and who is the most annoying, and on and on and on – like a soap opera, except in real time and minus commercials. I did a pretty good job distancing myself from rumor mongering, and I am relatively under the radar in terms of class talk. This is good.
The stress comes and goes in waves, much like your intestinal tract after eating white castle sliders. Generally, there will be at least one test of some sort every week during the first whippings. Weekends are still spent doing whatever with some light studying (unless there is a Monday test). The end of this phase usually cumulates with a massive week of tests, followed by a nice 1-2 week break from tests.
The calm before the storm:
This title is misleading, only because it makes one believe that there is nothing really going on. Trust me, there is plenty – but there still are a few breaks intermingled. We had a week of no tests somewhere in mid-October which almost felt like summer vacation. There still are tests, but they feel even more spread out.
My schedule still remains the same, although I am going out to eat lunch with classmates rather than home – partly because there are a TON of food options out here, and partly because I don’t have time to grocery shop.
The main difference is that I am now devoting a lot more weekend time to studying. This is still a calm though because I am now used to sacrificing weekends for the glory of arbitrary grades. You also begin to realize how your grades might shape up. This serves as both moral-breaking, and boosting at the same time. Knowing you are still in ‘A’ range is nice…but knowing you have so much more to study and perform on is still mentally draining. You may notice many of your classmates no longer attending lectures, a strategy I would not recommend – although it works out fine for many of them. People are beginning to ‘freak’ out a little bit more often because the threat of finals is looming nearer and nearer. This stage of the semester ended with a beautiful 2 weeks of no tests including thanksgiving break.
The Clout of Doom (Finals)
As far as I’m concerned, finals lasted for four weeks, straight after thanksgiving. A total of 13 tests - 10 of which are in the final 2 weeks.
Now that number is rather subjective, because some of those tests did not involve much studying. They ALL do have an impact on your grade though, and they all still involve showing up, and performing. Taking this many tests is physically and mentally draining. You just get tired…and instead of being able to unwind, you have to get ready for the next test. I cleaned off my kitchen table last weekend and spread out all the anatomy notes for the final…the table is COVERED in crap.
As soon as I got home from the THREE HOUR written anatomy final, I just threw all the papers off the table (literally) and piled up my micro notes because that test is next.
Another problem now that I didn’t have until this phase is keeping your studying straight. It is very difficult to only study ONE subject because there are too many exams. I can’t pull 14 days of all-nighters…hell I can’t even pull one. Different strokes for different folks of course, but I will not retain anything if I only have one day to prepare. This however, makes finals really challenging because I am juggling all these courses and trying to divide my time effectively.
Oh and schedule wise, it is essentially school/study/sleep every day. I don’t have time to do much else. I only have time for this post because I have been slowly typing it up over the last week and I’ve been using this post as a ‘break’ in between bouts with anatomy and BHD. I haven’t even touched the histo pile yet. Can’t leave out micro either…bleh.
You may notice that many of your classmates (including yourself) are looking quite disheveled, even zombie-like. I love looking at our class composite, when we were all fresh and eager..then going to school and looking at how worn down everyone looks. Physical appearance is no longer really a concern at this point. AND THIS IS ONLY ONE SEMESTER!!
My apartment looks so shitty too it is depressing me. I just have papers and dust balls and garbage piled up everywhere. I simply haven't found the time to tidy up. Luckily, come Friday, I will have 2 full weeks to get this place looking spit-spot.
As you get closer to the end, things just get harder. The anatomy final literally felt like it sucked my soul from my body. I am having trouble focusing on anything. We have no class this last week which means I can’t use time as an excuse. I just find myself looking at the pages and blurring out. Yea I’m bitching a lot, but this is probably the most difficult challenge I have ever faced in terms of sheer work and mental fortitude. I’m GOING to make it, as many before me have, and many more to follow – but you cannot imagine how insane this much school feels.
This just forces me to reiterate a very important value since this is a post geared towards pre-dents. Once you get that first acceptance, for the love of god, do NOT start asking me what books you should be reading to ‘get a head start.’ I will reach through my monitor and throttle you. If I could redo one thing from last dec 1st – present day; it would have been how I spent that time. I would have gone out more, celebrated more, read more books (of the non-science persuasion), and LIVED more. Once you start school, your life will change – and change fast. Before you know it, you will be passing on sagely advice to the next batch of pre-dents while thinking…wow, has it already been a year?
I could go on, but I must return to the table of knowledge and continue to memorize random factoids. Hopefully I won’t just start watching TV or sneak off to the 3 minute-walk-from-here bar.
Almost 1/11 of the way done!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Had a micro exam after thanksgiving, then a Tooth ID, and physio exam the next week (the final physio exam actually). So now I get to at least sleep in a little without physio. So yea, 3 tests in two weeks isn't all that bad - but there is plenty on the horizon. There was a bit of extra pressure on the physio exam because I was quite on the borderlands of 'B' and 'A' so I naturally put in a lot of effort in hopes to squeeze the tops.
So with physio done and in the art of procratination, I will explain why I despise multiple choice exams. Physiology should be a breeze for a biology major right? I mean, I took so many courses that dealt with the material..it should have been easy. This semester we did basics on action potentials, muscle, heart/circulation, and respiration - ALL REVIEW for me. Yet, I still am floundering between B/A. I also studied a good deal for the exams too - despite already having a firm grasp of the material. Yet every test, there would be some question convoluted in such a way as to test my knowledge of minutia rather than concepts. In undergrad, I would take tests with an MC component, but there would be fill in the blanks, and short answer/essay.
Here you live and die by questions that were created for the sole purpose of tricking the student, not helping them learn.
I KNOW that type II alveolar epithelial cells are responsible for producing surfactant - it was covered in lecture, it was covered in my previous coursework, I know it. Yet I still get twisted up on a test question. (not exactly how it appeared cuz I can't remember)
What cell secretes surfactant?
A. Alveolar cells
B. Type II epithelial cells
C. Type I pnemocytes
E. None of the Above
I circled none of the above. Why? Because it is called Type II ALVEOLAR epithelial cell..yet I think I got this question wrong because apparently you can be lazy and leave out the alveolar. I also stuck with this choice because the VERY next question used the term type II alveolar epithelial cell. If there was no 'none of the above' option, I would have simply eliminated the others - but because of this horrible excuse for a test option - I am already 1/3 of the way out of 'A' range.
Regardless, these are the types of questions that drive me insane. I know the answer, but because I can't write it myself - I can get it wrong. It wouldn't be a huge deal if there were more questions though...but when your test is only 30 MC long, you need to be on the ball to get an 'A.'
I had my first performance exam today. We had to cut an occlusal prep on #19 and evaluate our work based on UIC's critique sheet. Be prepared for things to go wrong folks. The light at my station had a bad fuse and all the other spots were taken by classmates. Not a huge setback beacuse we are graded on our self-evaluation and not the actual product (only this semester). So it ended up looking fairly crappy, but I knew WHAT was crappy about it - so I should end up doing allright. It was kinda funny when the maintenance guy showed up as I was cleaning up - and fixed the light in 30 seconds....man, where were you an hour ago?
The instructor told me to write NO LIGHT on top of my sheet - so maybe I will get a pity point!! The pre-clinic is really my only hardcore gripe with the school so far..it is just too crowded and awkwardly set up. As I have said millions of times though, it isn't KEEPING me from learning. I really did enjoy the instructors in our restorative/perio classes. They were easy-going, patient, and helpful.
Tomorrow we have our final anatomy practical of the semester!!! Thursday we have a combined perio/general dentistry final exam in the morning, and a final wax-up on #13 in the afternoon.
Next week we have an anatomy final monday, micro final wedneday, tooth ID final and biology human dentiton written final thursday, and histo final friday.
It really isn't THAT bad given the sheer number of exams..but it is mentally draining. Like I should be studying for anatomy...but I have been looking over all this crap since friday afternoon and I just can't mentally go through it again. This is my problem - I hit a wall, and while I still manage to do fairly well on most tests - I could be having an easier time if I could just put in a few more solid hours - which I am going to attempt after this post goes up.
Once I finish the anatomy practical tomorrow afternoon...I pretty much have to lock down and go through an entire semester worth of general dentistry/perio info for thursday's final. It is tough because they just keep coming..but again - I haven't lost my mind yet. I've heard the exam should be fairly straightforward though because we really haven't learned anything beyond the realms of common sense.
As frustrating as Anatomy is, it is truly a cool feeling to have that epiphany moment when a ton of random information suddenly just 'CLICKS.' Knowing how the facial nerve somehow gets some autonomic fibers into the lingual nerve of the V3 branch of trigeminal is just interesting. But it really is a good feeling when you finally go 'AH-HAH!' The skull is absolutely amazing based on its complexity alone. This class was definitely the most difficult and involved. I will probably get the worst grade compared to my other classes - but I actually enjoyed it for the most part. Not saying I want to take it again - but if you know what I mean.
Speaking of anatomy...I really need to go back to the books - I CAN see the end of the tunnel...1/2 way done with the first year!!!!
Ps. Chorda Tympani is the bee's knees
Monday, December 3, 2007
I’m beginning to feel that grades aren’t AS important to me as originally thought. Sure I want to do my best, but my current aspirations don't revolve around ortho or oral surgery. However, I am well aware that things change, so I’m simply trying not to burn the bridge.
I also came to the realization last night that I am actually more social than I was in college which sounds outrageous, but is oddly true. I think this turn in events is correlated to how little free time I have and the fact that all my classmates are on pretty much the same schedule. So when I actually do have some free time, I want to embrace and enjoy it. In the same vein, being social feels almost necessary to help bear the rigors of non-stop exams and lab work. In undergrad, I had too much time on my hands and the actual social opportunities were limited to binges and bro gatherings. Living in a huge city clearly offers a new brand of entertainment. Or at least offers options beyond your run-of-the-mill college party.
Another interesting development is that pretty much all of my d-school friends are 25+. I remember making a post many months ago relating my concerns of feeling too young, now I figured it out. I’m not THAT much younger (23), but I feel like most of my classmates didn’t jump straight from undergrad. The younger kids in my class feel all too much like the rabble I tended to avoid in undergrad. Of course I am generalizing, and I honestly think most of my classmates are pretty cool in general. There are exceptions as always, but this blog is not meant to spiral in teenage directions, and it won’t.
So how are finals shaping out? Well I just had a micro test last week, this week we have a tooth ID test, and our final physio exam. I am excited that we finish physio so early. We have a couple papers due for epi and ethics but I have pretty much finished them. Next week we have our performance exam in restorative, a final written exam for restorative/perio, a final tooth wax up practical, and an anatomy practical…(this week will blow). The final week we have the beastly anatomy lecture final, micro final, BHD final, and histo final. This week is not as bad as it appears because there is NO class..which will be amazing – especially because I feel like this last histo test is going to be much more difficult than the others and I’m gonna need lots of time to study.
So yea this post is rather scattered..but that is kinda how my life is right now. My apartment is horribly messy. I just can’t keep things clean and organized. I am just holding out till break..then I will be exorcizing the dirty demons.
School has been tough, but not horrible. It is about what you might expect. I have only recently come to realize just how much I have learned without even thinking about it. When I look at a non-dental friend and say “you some broccoli stuck between nine and ten,” they look at me like I’m some sort of psychopath. I don’t blame them, but it is still cool. The fun part is that I never sat down and learned the teeth numbering, it just happened amongst all the other activities.
There are other examples, but I really gotta hit the bed.
I will try my best to put up one more post before the next semester begins celebrating the half-way point through my D-1 year.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Now I promised candid posts regarding difficulty, and I intend to own up to that. Dental school is manageable – it really is, however – if you are unwilling to compromise your social life somewhat and make major sacrifices in personal free time, you may think otherwise. The material is NOT difficult to wrap your brain around. HOWEVER, the QUANTITY of material is staggering. I have never learned so much, yet felt so ignorant at the same time in my entire life.
Yes, we can question the validity of some courses and some material. Shigella probably isn’t going to be a big dental issue, neither is knowing what muscles the ulnar nerve handles, but there is still a bigger picture to grasp. All the extra stuff simply makes you appreciate the intricate complexities of the human body, and leaves you completely astounded at how insanely fascinating the entire body is. How we get sick, how we move our thumbs, how our skull develops – it is all unbelievable.
My point – if you sit through all these didactics wondering WHY (and I have at times) you won’t get anything out of it. Your desire and motivation to learn is a trait you MUST nourish and embrace, or else you will drown in a sea of seemingly useless factoids.
I’ve gotten used to having at least one major exam per week…anatomy practical tomorrow…histo exam Friday. The only thing I haven’t adapted to is not having time for all the ‘extra stuff.’ Ya know, groceries, cleaning the kitchen floors, vacuuming all the freaking cat hair that accumulates, teaching the cat how to use the toilet (ha bet you thought I forgot about that)taking out the garbage..ectera. I seriously haven’t cleaned anything forever..it's just that when I finally get a night off from studying…I am very unlikely to bust out the mop.
I’m single in a world full of non-single women. I know the 80% of my classmates that are in relationships/engaged/married will state otherwise, but I think being single is fine. This is a time in my life when I need to be selfish; I need to look out for me. I wouldn’t turn away a great opportunity of course, but I’m not out hunting like many of my peers. This is rarity for me – the eternal pessimist, to actually be optimistic and a ‘glass-is-half-full’ kinda guy. You have to be optimistic about as much as possible – or else school will destroy you.
In summary: School is hard. It is mentally draining. It is physically draining. You will get pissed off. But you will be alright. You will learn stuff...lots of stuff. And if you feel like you can’t remember something very important..just repeat after me.
Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel Veronica’s Glossy Vagina, Ah, Heaven
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I started this post a few weeks ago but couldn’t finish and then forgot to finish…oops. So I have the 2nd of 4 microbiology tests tomorrow and while I feel good about it – there definitely will be several hours of studying after I get this post up. I am about to finish my 8th week of actual classes..and it has been quite an 8 weeks.
This post will focus my thoughts on the current D-1 curriculum. Enjoy.
-We have this course three times a week, at 8am. Strictly lecture based, and straightforward. Being a biology major actually DOES have perks I suppose as most of this course is review for me so far. Well, they do go into a bit more detail – but it is not so hard to grasp given a strong foundation in basic physio. Note to predents – TAKE A PHYSIOLOGY COURSE.
I did very well on the first exam but sorta sputtered on the second. Still in great shape, but not as well as my type-A personality would prefer.
-This class confuses me. The lecturers so far have all been VERY difficult to understand- partly because English is not their primary language, and partly because they are unorganized. I also question the validity of WHAT we are learning. I understand the systemic impacts of dentistry in general, but do I really need to spend hours memorizing how to diagnose someone with bloody diarrhea and exactly what bacterium is involved?
However, the perk I do get out of the class is diagnosis itself. The tests have many questions that simply state “patient presents with so and so condition, lab results show diplococci gram negative blah blah, what do you treat with?” Yea, we aren’t training to be physicians, but diagnosis is a VERY important aspect of dentistry; you could very well kill someone if you don’t understand their medical history completely. Allergies, heart conditions, diabetes, medications, ectera all interplay and correlate to our own treatment plans. The thought process itself, rather than the actual material, is something I am enjoying in this class.
I did well on our first exam, but I feel like the next one is going to be much more difficult. We have pages and pages of different diseases with their accompanying bacteria to memorize and understand. And the test is tomorrow…gulp.
This class meets 4 times a week.
Anatomy –upper thorax/appendages and Head/Neck
-Hard. Very hard. We only meet on Mondays and Wednesdays. But we still get 8 hours of combined lecture/lab per week. This is not including all the extra lab time you MUST clock in order to have a shot at passing, let alone doing well.
I honestly thought I failed the first practical – but ended up doing a LOT better than I thought. Still not as well as I originally wanted coming into school, but definitely a great pick-me up after thinking I failed the thing. Conversely, I did a lot worse on the lecture exam than I thought I did – which is disappointing. All I can do at this point is work harder and see what happens.
Anatomy cannot be explained in text, it must be experienced. To all the up and coming classes; be ready to spend a LOT of time. Be ready to get frustrated. Be ready to struggle. Most importantly, appreciate what you are learning. We just started head and neck..and this stuff is VERY relevant to dentistry.
As one of our professors so aptly put it (and actually yelled it out about 3 times during the first lecture) “The skull is the foundation of dentistry.”
And to all those worried about cutting into dead people…trust me. After the first week, you will still be scared to go to anatomy lab…but it will be because of the massive load of information you must process, not because of cadavers.
The professors pretty much expect you to already know all the anatomy language right off the bat too..as in superior/inferior, dorsal/ventral, proximal/distal, ectera. So if you have never taken anatomy, I suggest you figure the language out BEFORE starting dental school.
There is plenty more I could say, but there really is no way to put it into words. It is a fascinating, frustrating, unique, and excruciating experience all at the same time.
Histology – general
-I love this class. Well, I love histology in general too. Another big tip to pre-dents…TAKE HISTO. The professor is by far, the best we have had so far and actually makes the class quite entertaining. This class requires a lot of lab time if you haven’t had it already. The concepts aren’t too hard to grasp..but recognizing slides can be troublesome to the inexperienced. Still, this is one of the only didactic classes I look forward to.
Comprehensive Care IA
-This class really makes you feel like you are in dental school. It is broken into 7 modules. My only gripe is the lack of organization. Seeing as it difficult to cram 68 D-1’s into a pre-clinic, we are initially divided into one of 6 groups (which eventually determines the actual clinic we will work in down the road). Comp care is ALL day Tuesdays (8-5) and pretty much all day Thursdays (except 10-12:00). On Tuesdays we have a morning session and an afternoon session. We all go through the same stuff, but our group number determines WHEN we go through it. This makes things a bit confusing at times. I know I have an ethics project to do, but we haven’t met since the last week of august..so I don’t really remember WHAT we were doing. I also have to go teach 1st graders about dental hygiene for another module. We wrote the lesson plan three weeks ago, but I’m not actually GOING to teach until mid-November. See where I am going?
There is a TON of stuff crammed in, and this course is worth a whopping 6 credits..so doing well is a must.
A lot of the modules are pretty boring to me and feel like that time could be better spent. However, the portions that actually count towards the final grade (general dentistry/restorative, human dentition, and periodontics) are quite interesting and fun. Just this last week, I got to use the high-speed for the first time and create my first prep. It was awful. Every day, I am realizing why dental school is 4 years long.
I will dedicate a future post to the dentistry part of this course in the future. Because that is probably what most people want to hear about anyways.
There you have it - my ½-way through the first semester impressions on the curriculum. The traditional curriculum is a dying-breed. And while it is far from perfect, I know it works better for me than PBL ever would.
And to anyone interested, UIC is planning to incorporate PBL into its curriculum by 2009. Good thing I’ll already be in the clinics! WOO.
Time to hit the micro. Enjoy your lives people, so that I can at least live vicariously through you.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Five weeks in, and I already feel pretty drained - although the weekends do help. Unfortunately, I spend those weekends studying a lot more than I would like. I have been meaning to post an impression on the curriculum thus far but just haven't had the drive/time. Rest assured, such a post will be forthcoming after the next lull in testing. We have three exams this week (should be four, but our class managed to get the physio test bumped back a week).
So briefly, I started out on fire as it were. I did quite well on my first two exams in physio and microbiology...and was just chugging along until the first anatomy practical last week. Calling it a disaster would be putting it mildly. Granted, I haven't actually gotten the grade back, but I know it will be awful..hopefully passing though (>70)..we will see. I thought I had prepared really well too, but wow... you would be surprised how hard it is to get your perspective right on a cadaver, identify a few structures, AND answer some questions regarding said structures in a paltry 2 minutes.
I could go in depth..but I will do it later because I'm tired.
I just wanted to quickly get a post in before september 07' vanished forever. Be patient, I promise more eventually.
1/3 of the way through the first of eleven semesters.... loooong way to go.
Friday, August 24, 2007
So without further adieu:
I wake up around 6:30am simply because I am a bit edgy and out of sorts. I can’t fall back asleep so I get up and get ready. I arrive at the school around 8:15. For the next fifteen minutes I mingled as best I could at 8am and met a few new faces. We luckily had to wear name tags which helped immensely. We also got a nice free backpack sponsored by Listerine full of products…YAY!
Around 8:30, we are all herded into one of the lecture halls where the day truly began. Several deans and various chair heads introduced themselves briefly and did the ol’ congrats speech. About 9:00 they all cleared out and a clinical professor came in to give a presentation called “the roots of dentistry.” This actually turned into a “get-to-know-you” exercise…except far more entertaining than the lame stuff from undergrad. The presenter had taken the names of all of the class and grouped them according to whatever similarities he found. For example, there was a “cute names” category and “law firm sounding names” ectera. It really helped lighten the mood and let everyone sort of relax. As the names were listed, he had us stand up and answer some random question about ourselves. Afterwards, he talked for a bit about dentistry and its history. He also made fun of the Cubs a lot, which I enjoyed greatly.
10am we were given a presentation by the admissions director. She simply gave all the various demographic and academic statistics of the entering class. Our class average GPA was above a 3.5 which is fairly high for most dental school. While this gave me a sense of gratification to be amongst such a strong group, it was also a little intimidating. I’ve never been around so many overachievers outside of myself of course.
10:15 is when things got boring. A loooong tedious presentation that just covered a bunch of academic affairs stuff. Dress code…honesty policy, ethics….ectera ectera ectera. I zoned out so I can’t really comment. The next presentation was no better and quite frightening actually. We were essentially told that tuition will continue to escalate and that government loans will most likely not cover everything…as in we will max out. Crap?
The Associate Dean of Student Affairs then came in and gave a threatening speech about academic honesty and how there is a zero tolerance policy on cheating. Clearly the recent cheating scandals at other schools prompted the heavy emphasis.
Finally noon rolls around and we get to go eat lunch. Unfortunately, it is sponsored by the U.S. Army so we are forced back into the hall by 12:15 to listen to a recruiter attempt to convince us to sacrifice many years of our lives to get army scholarships. Yea, getting tuition paid for would be nice…but being a slave to the army for at least 4 additional years is NOT something I am interested in.
1:00pm the Dean comes in and gives a - you guessed it - speech about student professionalism and how we should not cheat.
1:30 – things get interesting. There is a 2.5 hour time block scheduled for “student coaching.” The D-1s are all getting assigned to faculty to serve as ‘’coaches” or mentors throughout our collegiate career. We didn’t actually meet our coaches though, this presentation just turned into one giant trippy-fest about communication and philosophy and all sorts of stuff. Activities ranged from us listening to a girl sing an opera aria with no accompaniment, to students playing “machine” (a fairly ridiculous game involving making random noises and doing moves in unison). The presentation was creative, no doubt, but I felt it was a bit too childish for me to really get into it. However, the purpose was to have the class interact…and we certainly did. The time went by pretty fast too because we were actually doing stuff.
4:00pm we get to meet a handful of D-2s that have generously made a ‘survival’ guide for the first year and talked about many of the student organizations available to join. They answered many of our questions and threw out quite a healthy supply of advice. They are even going to arrange a mock anatomy practical before our first real one.
5:00pm official business is over…it is now party time. The true difference between undergrad and dental orientation – alcohol is provided! Dinner/drinks were free at a local bar/restaurant and most of the class showed up I think. I sorta migrated to the people I already knew, but other minglers sat with us from time to time so I met many people. The dean even sat down at our table for a good 20 minutes and asked where we were all from and we all just chatted away for awhile. Alcohol really does ease the awkwardness of making conversation with people you just met – including DEANS! Everything everyone says just becomes more interesting.
I got home around 8…quite exhausted and yet I still am typing up this overview. You readers better appreciate my zeal. I hope to do another one of these for each day..and release them in one or two long posts. We will see.
This day was a lot easier to swallow than the first. I arrived around 8:20 and promptly decided that I will come earlier the next day. All the seats in the initial gathering area fill up pretty quickly and standing around looming over people is not enjoyable in the least. I really wish I could eat breakfast in the mornings… food just doesn’t appeal to me at all if I haven’t been up for at least 2 hours. It is so hard to turn down FREE food though.
Breakfast was sponsored by the Illinois State Dental Society and we registered with ASDA (American Student Dental Association) which will be paid for in full by the ISDS – I am happy with this. Afterwards we were greeted by the president of the ISDS and he gave another speech about how proud we should be and that our futures are bright.
From 9:00 until 11:30 was rather a free-for-all. The time was designated as a tour/photo ID session – but many of us already had our I.Ds (either from attending UIC undergrad or being in the research program). However, there is a magical card known as the U-Pass which makes all rides on the CTA FREE!!!!!!! So about 15 of us took the intercampus bus over to the east side of campus and collected our U-Passes while everyone else was forced to smile and get their IDs. We still had a lot of time to kill, so we all just walked around the undergrad campus and visited their amazing gym. I doubt I will have much time to exercise, let alone go out to the east campus, but this place was really nice.
Afterwards a small group of us investigated an old museum across the street which was pretty much just an ancient house that still stands but is now a museum. After gaining some culture, we hopped back on the bus to return to the school for lunch.
We were supposed to meet our coaches during this lunch session but maybe 10 of them showed up, so we ended up just talking amongst ourselves. The school is on break right now, so that explains why many professors probably weren’t around. I am really not sure how I will utilize a ‘coach’ either. I have always been a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of student, but I’ll be open and give it a try.
1:00 we were stuffed back into the lecture hall where we were given a presentation about the glories of research and the DDS/PhD program. I really wouldn’t have minded so much if I hadn’t already heard the presentation a few weeks ago. Bleh.
At 2:00 we were treated to a trippy presentation about ethics. We watched some clip about how hardships make you stronger and help your grow (into a beautiful flower of course). We also were treated to an O.K. Go video of the band dancing in their back yard. There was a lot of other stuff but it was just another ‘activity seminar’ meant to make us ‘think’ and get us participating and knowing one another.
Bottom line : FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT CHEAT IN DENTAL SCHOOL!
The session ended early and we got out around 3:15 – I was happy with this turn in events. The class seems to be unifying as we all filled out an email/phone list so that emails can be sent to ONLY the class and not the faculty. A few classmates also arranged a get-together at another bar tonight. I’m feeling pretty tired, but I think I’ll go just to mingle some more.
This day was particularly rough – namely because I was out late with a bunch of classmates the previous evening. I am actually really impressed with my class; I haven’t found one person that I dislike yet. Sure it is only the third day…but ya’d think there woulda been a few obnoxious people already. Not the case at all.
I didn’t arrive until about 9:10 today (later start thankfully). Once again I arrived too late to have a seat but it was late enough to where we pretty much had to move to the lecture hall right away – I’ll TRY harder to get up tomorrow.
The morning kicked off with a welcome from the Chicago Dental Society. All of these welcomes sound the same – someone congratulates you, explains their organization, then leaves. We next listened to a long presentation about financial aid – talking about filing FAFSA and signing your MPN…uh..stuff we all should have done already. Nothing new was covered. It was extremely boring.
The next presentation was from the office of financial services. Basically telling us how to pay bills and why you better pay them….OR ELSE. The speaker was very jovial and animated which actually made the presentation far better than it would sound on paper. We next were talked to by a psychologist about the counseling service at our school and how it is free (even though it is a mandatory charge on our bill). Blah blah…suicidal? Come chat! Feeling depressed or stressed? Come chat! I hope to never need it, but it seems like a useful asset to a graduate school. Stress will surely become commonplace.
We next had a great presentation about access and equity which = harassment. We learned not to call our classmates “sweet cheeks” or make obscene tongue and/or hand gestures when they walk by. The speaker was hilarious which made the presentation fun. The absurdity of it all just made me smile.
ANOTHER presentation was made about how we should prepare for school….how we should study…when /where we should study. How to prepare for tests…stuff most students in dental school should probably already know. I guess some of the tips were useful…but I was too hungry to pay attention.
Lunch was at 12:30 but was sponsored by U.S. Navy. The food was great…but we were forced back into the lecture hall to listen to the same speech we heard on Monday…except the guy was in a different uniform. Air force tomorrow!!
Afterwards we were treated to a brief talk on campus safety…I had already heard all of this for the summer program so I zoned out. We next stepped out again for composite photos. SMILE! I think we all get a copy…so that will really help me finalize remembering all the names of my classmates.
The rest of the day was spent with our anatomy professor. He explained that this class will be HARD..and that you MUST NOT fall behind. He gave us a binder with all of the lab outlines. I must admit, the grading scale sounds way better here than at my undergrad. A 90+ is an ‘A.’ They don’t do minuses or pluses. I prefer it that way seeing as I got soooo many A-‘s in undergrad. This class is NOT curved but he hinted that borderline cases will be bumped favorably if the student was clearly working his/her ass off.
We next went to the lab itself which is about a 1.5 blocks west of the dental school in the medical building. I could have sworn I was in a resident evil game. The building was archaic, creepy, cold clanky elevators. We must ascend to the 7th (and top) floor of the building. You step out into a dimly lit corridor with two locked doors. One leads to a locker room, the other leads to the tanks. PT and Med students also share this lab…and it isn’t very big – so I can imagine things getting VERY loud. We walked amongst a sea of metal ‘coffins’ on top of dissecting tables all the way to the far end (where dental students go). The professor entered and opened one of the tanks. A huge bag is inside. He unzips the bag and voila! The cadaver has just made his first appearance. I was a little anxious to get this over with, but it really is more surreal than creepy. The body doesn’t look anything like a human since it is pumped full of preservatives – just a shell of what used to be a vibrant, breathing person.
Nobody got sick or passed out. The professor next explained that scalpels are sharp.. so don’t cut yourself or others! He talked a bit about cleaning, where various things are, and finished.
I’m sure actually cutting into the cadaver will be an experience…but I am far more afraid of the massive amount of work involved than cutting up a human a body. We get to pick our group which is cool, because my super-team is already assembled. Five-strong, we shall DOMINATE!
Now I must silently pray not to get a fat cadaver. Because there is no way to tell until you open the tank. The day finished with us fleeing the scene and all walking back to our various homes. It was also sweltering outside…so I am just exhausted. ONLY TWO MORE DAYS OF THIS LEFT!
Then the real fun can begin.
A fairly straightforward day. I arrived around 8:25 (yea..missed out on seats again) and we soon were back in the ol’ familiar lecture hall. For the next four hours we went through CPR training. The course instructor was quite hilarious and really livened up a rather tedious, long, and awkward program. But if your baby starts choking on food, I can fix it now…well maybe. We were tested at the end and given our cards.
12:30 was lunch sponsored by the U.S. Air Force. The presenter didn’t make us go back into the lecture hall, he just talked while we sat in the commons. All three of these military presentations use the same tactics – fear. Specifically, fear of inexperience upon graduation, and fear of debt. While I do admit these programs offer a very nice deal, it needs to fit YOU as a person to really enroll. I could never see myself as an officer in any branch of the military – simple as that. I’d rather do a GPR than get sucked into 3+ years of military service.
At 1:30 we were given a presentation about student health insurance which is automatically charged to our accounts. This sucks for me, seeing as I am fortunate enough to still be with the parent’s insurance until I hit 25. So I need to opt out of it and get my 400 dollars back.
At 2:15 we all boarded buses to Navy Piere where we hoped on the Spirit of Chicago for a nice little boat cruise. The boat was REALLY fancy with a dance floor, bar, dining, and two floors. Unfortunately the weather was horrible so nobody could go outside. We made the most of things though as many of my classmates participated in karaoke, group dancing, and in one case – AMAZING BREAKDANCING. Seriously, this kid was really skilled – so to all you pre-dents – learn to breakdance, it can’t hurt.
After drinking a 10 dollar scotch, I was feeling pretty good – although not enough to go embarrass myself in front of a room of people. The DJ was fairly obnoxious so I wasn’t depressed when it all ended.
Got back home around 6pm…yet another exhausting day. Several classmates plan on hitting up another club tonight. I shant be joining them on the basis that the weather is atrocious and I don’t want to regret myself at 6:30 am tomorrow when I will have to rise. Plus it is hard to really hang out with anyone when music is blasting…meh, my body will appreciate this decision more than my mind.
ONE MORE LEFT!
Home stretch. I arrive at 8:00. I know, you are thinking…YEA, he finally showed up early! WRONG! We had to be there by 8:00 today so I just barely made it. Oh well. We were quickly herded into the lecture hall where we were given a whirlwind explanation about equipment distribution and sterilization. I was overwhelmed and a bit upset at how fast and unclear this presentation was. However, we probably go into the necessary details once we start our comp care classes.
Now today we split into our designated practice groups. There are six total, and we split into groups of two. My group was sent to one of the clinics to receive our initial equipment. We got a TON of crap. After checking out, we found our third floor lockers and checked all the lists to make sure every item was accounted for. I got everything, hooray.
I’m not going to give a complete list rundown because I honestly don’t even know what most of the stuff is. There were a bunch of burs, a handpiece that needs assembling, a case with a bunch of dental instruments, a case full of carbides, a pair of model teeth, and a lot more. If we lose anything, we must pay. But if it breaks, we get it replaced charge free.
So while they allotted 2 hours for this task, we finished in 30 minutes. So we all just sorta wandered around the school and hungout in the lounge until our next event – library orientation. This was perhaps the most boring presentation of the entire week. We had to practice using pubmed and all the other search functions that pretty much everyone knew already. Granted, there were a few cool tricks to learn, but I really had trouble staying focused. Another 2 hours was allotted, but we finished in one.
So now we just all sat around waiting for lunch. The D-2’s came by to sell scrubs for 5 dollars. Did I mention these scrubs are old and used solely in anatomy lab? They still reeked. I had already bought a few, so I didn’t indulge. The price is right though, and we are gonna get smelly no matter what.
Now food arrives and we sit around and eat. 1:30 eventually ticks up and my group proceeds back into the lecture hall for a cultural diversity seminar. The presentation was done very well, and it really made you think. Unfortunately, our group was just sooo worn down from the week that we weren’t very lively or active in participating.
FINALLY, at 3:30 we are done. I had to get a new locker key for the wet lab because my assigned cubby was busted. After that, I was out like the flash.
ORIENTATION IS OVER!!!!
I can assure all incoming future students, that this is an important week. Not for all the administrative bullshit, but for meeting your peers. Our class seems to be unifying quite nicely although I won’t be drawing any conclusions until later on. We already are setting up a note-taking and recording service. I enjoyed the social events, but I was truly exhausted by the end. If I had to ask one more person “Where did you go to undergrad?” I would have flipped-out. Just meeting people can be tiring. Remembering names…ooo. I actually am doing a lot better than I thought.
I am too tired to go on. This post is already long enough anyways. I am so relieved that I will NEVER have to endure an orientation like this EVER again. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I am just ready for some class.
Time to go enjoy a night out and hopefully a relaxing weekend.
Friday, August 17, 2007
This post is an assortment of my most recent thoughts mainly concerning the start of school.
Talking to some of my other friends going through similar transitions, it is nice to realize that feeling out of sorts is quite normal. I almost feel paralyzed – not so much with fear, but with doubt and reconsiderations. Do I honestly want to spend the next four years of my life consumed with school? Is dentistry REALLY where it’s at? Obviously I won’t back out; I’ve worked too hard and really have no other career aspirations outside of music – which isn’t exactly high on the job-security list.
It truly is intimidating though, I don’t feel worldly or confident enough in my own abilities at this point to tackle a profession that caters to human health. However, I do realize that is WHY I get to go to school for four more years – to acquire such skills and confidence.
I do believe the scariest part is the loans though. I have never owed anyone any money – and I’m already taking 50K out through next August (we go year round here). Yea it isn’t as much as many other dental students, but it is not a pleasant feeling.
I still feel like a little kid at times. Most of my friends are in long-term relationships, engaged/and or married and planning careers and starting families. I almost feel as if I’m falling behind the spectrum simply because I got stuck in school and out of the real world for even longer. I’m now going to professional school, hoping for enough free time to meet someone and make friends at the same time. Quite a hefty order for a rather introverted personality-type.
I still have the pre-dental factor going though, where I really have NO idea how hard things will be, but I assume it will be the worst. I guarantee my future posts will be forthright and true to my experience. If I find dental school is not nearly as impossible as others would have you believe, I will tell you. I actually look forward to relaying real experience as opposed to pure speculation…which is pretty much all I have been doing.
This post is quite scatter-brained, but I think it captures what most anyone would and should be going through on the cusp of a major commitment.
I become a D-1 in three days.
FREAKED OUT? Yes
Ready to just get on with it? Hell Yes.
Thanks to all who have kept up with my adventures thus far, I promise I will not vanish forever.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Good news about teeth though! Another perk of hanging around the school all summer was meeting a few D-2. Currently, I have a 'hook-up' for plenty of teeth. This should be next spring...YAY!
Aside from polishing up the immunity forms, I still need to get a lot of odds and ends sorted out. I lack any sort of ‘bookcase’ in my apartment, and am going to try to install shelves above my desk. Of course by ‘try to install’ I mean have my dad do it because he knows his way around a hammer. Speaking of books, I just smacked down around 500 dollars for this semester – and that was on the cheaper scale because I got them through amazon and not a bookstore. I still need to find the right edition of a physiology book too…so may as well say 600$ and call it a day. In all honesty though, that isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I bought every ‘recommended’ book just because I’m insane. Hell, I even went out of my way and added Netters anatomy to the pile despite it not being mentioned on the booklist. Everyone says it is ‘da bomb’ and another 70 bucks didn’t feel like too much after a certain point. Plus I have a feeling anatomy is going to be really hard and I am going to need the extra help to survive. The real kicker is that this booklist is subject to change before school starts..which is bullshit. I shouldn't figure out and have to buy my books the day class starts. Have you ever gone into a bookstore on day 1? It is awful...not to mention everything sells out and you end up being bookless for 1/4 of the semester. So whatever, if I get the wrong edition, I'll work around it...they don't change much anyways.
I also ordered some sweet dissection equipment from INDIA! Only cost 15 bucks and has a ton of instruments and a nice little pouch that would look really fashionable worn on a belt –but I’m not going to wear it, what kinda freak do you think I am?
The anticipation of school is slowly creeping up. I have always been a good student, but I am truly concerned that this will be an insurmountable amount of work. I suppose nobody knows until they start. Everyone also tends to exaggerate their troubles simply because bitching is a form of therapy. I can’t wait to see what sort of posts I will be throwing up here in three months…
Now onto the real meat of this post – I got the official orientation schedule that starts August 20th, and lasts all week. Let me tell you, orientation is serious business. It appears as if orientation will be more jam-packed than a normal week of class. Considering the awkward nature of being thrown into a room with 65 strangers and being forced to go through all those monotonous ‘nice to meet you’ routines – I am less than thrilled. I am just glad I met 9 of them already so I won’t feel completely isolated.
Here is a complete rundown for those who just like the details and I know you are out there:
Keep in mind that each day goes from about 8 am – 5 pm.
-check-in and breakfast
-presentation (The Roots of Dentistry…sounds awesome right?)
-presentation (academic affairs)
-presentation (student services)
-Presentation (student professionalism…guess I better start shaving and getting hair-cuts)
-Coaching (D1s get paired up with faculty to act as mentors I think..this lasts for 3 hours)
-Meet D2s (Big/Little pairing…WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?)
Annnd finish…but there is a diner that goes from 5-7 at a local restaurant –not mandatory but I’ll be going! FOOD AND BEER ON THE HOUSE!
-Registration and breakfast
-Meet some other people
-ID photos (DONE) and student tour
-Lunch with coaches
-Presentation (research opportunities….yea, this is something I’ll have seen already)
-Presentation (student ethics)
-registration and breakfast
-Welcome by CDS (???)
-Presentation (financial aid)
-Presentation (more financial aid)
-Presentation (counseling center)
-Presentation (Access and equity)
-Presentation (Academic Center for Excellence)
-Presentation (Safety…already saw this one too)
-Presentation (disability services)
-Anatomy Open House!
-Registration and Breakfast
-CPR….ahh haven’t used those dummies since high school!
-Presentation (Campus Care)
-Sprit of Chicago Boat Cruise…sounds interesting..I hope there are refreshments
-Registration and Breakfast
-Overview of Clinics
At this point we break into three different groups going through the same presentations in different orders.
Here is an example if I end up in group A:
-Cultural Competency Training
Does that not look like a full rich week? I’m sure I will have a better evaluation once I actually start…though I doubt I will be commenting on each day. I have a feeling it is going to be rather boring as orientations usually are.
Still, only 17 days stand between me and becoming a D-1, depositing the first of many loans, and wearing scrubs all the time. Hard to believe how time has flown..especially since I can look back at my January posts…ahhh to be six months older.
I promise some more fun writing in the future…but am busy with other hobbies currently. I shall return! This is also my 50th post...that is a lot. Time to pat myself on the back.
Friday, July 27, 2007
So enough about the clear advantages to any summer integration, what about the actual research? Well, my project got plenty of results – however they were nowhere near the original hypothesis. Such is the nature of research. Let me simplify things further. Here are the pros:
-Get left alone for the most part by ‘the man’
-Working on something to better human understanding of health and the body
-Actually applying 4 years of biology trivia into something cohesive
-Use nifty technology
Now on to the cons:
-Nobody respects other people’s property/space
-Nobody picks up after themselves
-Easy to lose your box in the freezer when other lackeys rummage around and misplace things
-monotonous as hell
-easy to make untraceable mistakes
OK. So after eight weeks of running PCR after PCR, what do I have? Not much – a simple ‘further investigation required’ will suffice. I have the beginnings or even hints to possible significance in a few figures, but overall nada. All of my work is pretty much just preliminary data for other projects now so it is unlikely I will be pursuing or getting mentioned towards any publications. I didn’t expect to get any though, so it is hard to be disappointed.
Nothing was conclusive, but this is also the way research is supposed to go. I’m glad I didn’t get a sugar-coated, everything-works-out-in-the-end version this summer. Otherwise I might have been more inclined to pursue the PhD. Ultimately, I just don’t have the ‘it’ factor to go into research full-time. I would love to help out in the lab over the next four years whenever I can, but I don’t see myself putting research in front of everything else. It is just too final of a decision; one I am not willing to make at this stage in my budding career.
The lab I worked in was great, aside from a few weirdoes; the people were extremely nice and great to work around. If I could contribute to future research done in this lab, I would be thrilled. Realistically though, I doubt I will have time unless I can naturally manhandle dental school (yea..right).
Nonetheless, research was something I wanted to experience while in dental school. It is great that I was able to do it before class even started. And while I still have to present this research at clinic and research day next February, I have gotten the majority of the work done already. It’s Just a matter of refining and rewriting everything so that it makes sense to the brainy scientific community.
I know UIC isn’t the only dental school that offers a summer research program or any program for that matter to incoming students. I mentioned way back that I could retract my encouragement for these deals at any point during the next 8 weeks. Well, eight weeks have gone by, and I stand by the early statement. Get out there if you have the chance. It is a great experience and will really ease the transition that is sure to rock the foundations of your life.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
On the return trip, I didn’t even see a doctor (they still charged me money of course), but a nurse who verified my goodliness. She ran off with the form and had the doctor quickly scribble down his signature so that I might secure my summer employment. So merrily I walk away, unaware of the horrible time-bomb that was planted that day.
Yes, yes, today a year’s worth of time has elapsed, yet I still can’t seem to get these bastards to sign my TB test on UIC’s medical immunization form. I mentioned this form many months ago, and I had it dropped off at this office over my spring break. They signed off on EVERYTHING except the TB. You know what is amazing though? Everything else was done somewhere else. The only test I had done in this office is the only thing they have no record of.
So what is the deal? Did the dumb nurse just not write everything down and get things figured out? Oh wait, perhaps the nurse is not to blame at all. Maybe the smart nurse simply has too much other shit to do or maybe it wasn’t her job. Was it a dumb secretary? Was it a dumb doctor? Was it a dumb me? Did I never actually get a TB test? That is what these idiots would have me believe.
So while I tend to get agitated when people claim I am lying, I was quite friendly over the phone. The lady had no idea what to do and kept pretending to look for things. “Oh, but feel free to come and get another TB test anytime.” Hah, I could probably sue them for malpractice seeing as it is illegal to not keep records. But I suppose the problem with that is that I don’t have any actual records. Oh yea, and I’m not a douchebag either; I wouldn’t join our lawsuit-happy society over something as dumb as this.
But wait! What if my employer from last summer held onto the only proof that exists!? Ah-hah, the plot thickens. If I can get my hands on this document, I will smugly strut into that office and state, “Give me TB, or give me death.” No I don’t mean the actual illness, you know what I mean, stop trying to dissect my rant – I’m on a roll.
I bet this paper won’t count as proof somehow anyways though – because they ultimately just want me to pay them for another test. Screw that, I’ll get it done for free at one of the medical schools here if I have to. Hell, forging the signature would have saved sooooo much time. Damn me and my scruples. I am one signature away from completing all this paperwork; no incompetent office shall stand in my way!
In all seriousness though, this really isn’t that big of a deal. But it sure is annoying, and simply reinforces my already negative opinion on our healthcare system. It sucks.
You win this round TB, but I have not lost the war.
In other news, research ends next week and I have to give an oral presentation on what I have done. While my results were not what I was looking for, they are still legitimate results. I’ll dedicate a future post to the research program. Oh yea, and we get the other half of our stipend at the end too….MONEY!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
However, the best part of this trip was the actual experience of walking into this building. It reminded me of the headquarters of some evil mastermind from a Bond movie. We were herded into a MASSIVE conference room that was the ritziest looking conference room I have ever laid eyes on. The desk was a giant and U-shaped. If you looked at the face of the desk across from your spot, there were giant flat screen TV’s every 15 feet. These were used to display presentations and insure we all could see. There were also microphones at every spot, and little electronic pads used to in voting and having ‘the floor.’ Hell, even the clicker used to move to the next slide looked like it cost a couple hundred bucks. I couldn’t help but wonder if there were secret trap doors under the chairs ala Austin Powers that could dump naysayers into an incinerator… it would not have really surprised me.
I also regret signing the ‘consent to photography’ form during our first week of research. The faculty at UIC are like paparazzi – taking shots left and right. A few more would have sent me into a seizure. But hey, check out the next ADA quarterly or JADA issue. You may just see a bunch of awkward dental students standing in a giant conference room trying to look important.
Following the tour, we were treated to free lunch at Gino’s – apparently the birthplace of pizza in Chicago. I would have liked it a lot more if every pizza wasn’t smothered in mushrooms. I just can’t stand to eat fungus…or is it fungi?
And what would a trip to the ADA headquarters be without FREE STUFF? Yes I was treated to a bag with two different brands of toothpaste, some Listerine (cool mint of course), a fancy pen, toothbrush, and most importantly, denture ointment.
Ah, I love freebies.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Places to be, faces to see – public transportation is for saps
No need to signal, thats why the person in your blind spot has brakes.
Traffic traffic everywhere
Get mad at the slowskies, honk and tailgate – flipping the bird is an art
Rudeness is a prerequisite, acting infantile a required stipulation
Rage is extra credit.
Traffic traffic everywhere
Scared as hell to be with your thoughts for more than 1 minute – pick up the cell
Call, call, blah blah, dial dial, hello hello
Now note that the only difference between driving drunk and driving while on a cell is that one is legal.
Traffic traffic everywhere
Let this guy in? NO! Gotta go faster
Faster, faster, slow is for losers
Left lane closing in 1 mile? Merge left, speed as far as possible and force somebody to brake when you run out of lane – everybody does it – why can’t I?
Traffic traffic everywhere
The bigger your car, the cooler you are
Hybrids are for liberal pansies - more gas, more power please
Step on it – go go.
Traffic traffic everywhere
A depressing commentary on society in general
Selfishness, Greed, Hatred, Disregard, Rage, Waste, Stupidity
A multitude of man’s faults and negativity conglomerate in one dangerous atmosphere.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
For me it hasn’t been bad at all. Anyone who knows me will quickly remember how much I hated undergrad by the end – and despite being a creature of habit, I welcomed this change with open arms. As I mentioned before, your time as a D-0 will be completely dependent on whom you are as an individual. We aren’t IN school yet, but I can already smell the formaldehyde.
I have noticed recently that several schools seem to offer summer activities for their incoming class. Some, like UIC, offer a research program, some have get-togethers, and others appear to have mini boot camps. Regardless of the situation, I would recommend seriously considering signing up for anything your school offers. But again, that is dependent on you.
If you are married and/or have kids, you probably have a lot more responsibility and obligation than others. The transition still exists, but you are a team, not a solo flyer – adapting is not your responsibility alone.
However, if you are like me – in your early 20s, single, and living alone – these summer deals are great. I grew up in the suburbs around Chicago, that didn’t make much of a difference in terms of getting used to living IN Chicago. By moving out here earlier, I am already comfortable. I know how to get to good places, the school takes exactly 12.5 minutes to walk to at an average pace, and Fridays = 5.00 Foster oil cans at the local tabernacle. What else could one ask for? Maybe Cheaper Guinness.
I went out with a few fellow dentites the other night to a White Sox game. Of course they blew the game, but it was still a fun time. If the rest of my classmates are this great to hang around, then these next four years just might not suck as much as they could.
I don’t care who you are, or what type of school you attend – professional school is going to be a TON of work. Making some good friends is a pure necessity simply to have people to lean on when you need it most. I could not imagine trying to get through this journey alone – I don’t think I could do it.
So yea, what about ‘the other?’ Ya know, those imminent feelings of dread. Please note, I am not trying to say that this D-0 time is really stressful – because it isn’t. But there is some other feeling afoot, one that can’t be compared with school-related pressure. A culmination of your entire life spun into this decision because once you take out those loans – there is no turning back. Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? If you haven’t asked yourself this question, then you must be a robot. The best way to stay sane is to ask yourself: “Well, what else would I rather do?” I seriously can’t come up with anything realistic. Yea rockstar or astronaut would be fun, but I prefer to be grounded in reality. Besides, rockstar dentist sounds better.
I am not the first, and will not be the last pre-dent to think that all my worries will vanish once I got that acceptance. They did for a week or so, but the mental shift is quite a dramatic twist.
I am 50% done with this summer research program. As mentioned before, I still have the right to say it was not worth it at any point until completion. However, I still stand by my original statement – getting out here early was a great idea.
Happy 4th of July to one and all.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I have 2 bathrooms, one of them is now Rupert’s – only the brave will use it for human needs. I need to get a camera, because this journey really needs visuals..but I guess text will have to do for now. The bathroom is really long, with a tub and toilet at the far end. The litterbox is currently residing in the bath tub – in a vain attempt to capture the messy bastard's litter trail as he exits. Seriously, do most cats kick the litter all over the place or is it just this little freak?
I was a little leary to really get going as the cat took a few days to get acclimated to my place. Ya know, freaked out and cowering behind furniture thinking he was going to die. Fortunately my downstairs neighbor has two cats, one of them has become Rupert’s new BFF. His name is Pootie (hahahah). Now that he is comfortable, I will try inching the litterbox closer to the toilet.
I hope by next week to have the box out of the tub and directly adjacent to the toilet – keep your fingers crossed loyal readers.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
-In case ambivalent is too difficult of a word to understand, feel free to insert ‘flip-flopper’ as it is commonly used by our country’s leaders.
ephemeral – Lasting a very short time.
-My positive attitude towards the White Sox 2007 campaign was quite ephemeral.
thermocline – The region in a body of water that divides the warmer, oxygen-rich surface layer from the colder, oxygen-poor deep water.
-Never, ever, swim below the thermocline. (Not very practical..but it just sounds cool.. you could use it to insult someone too….damn frank, you are such a thermocline – he won’t know what hit him.
polyglot – One who can speak or write several languages.
-I wish I was a polyglot. Wait! Donde esta la carnacia? No se senor. That’s all I got.
polyphony – Music consisting of two or more independent but harmonious melodies.
-You don’t actually need an example of polyphony do you? Go pick up a Bach CD and prepare to get blown away. FUGUE!
primiparous – Bearing a first offspring
-The purpose of the study was to compare the average duration of labor for primiparous women with that of multiparous women. (2 for the price of 1).
primordial – Existing in or from the very beginning.
-Larry King is a primordial talk show host.
homonym – One of two or more words pronounced and/or spelled alike but different in meaning.
-I like swimming in the pool. I like playing pool. Get it? Pool is such a homonym.
ad hominem – Marked by an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the arguments made or the issues raised.
-Watch the democratic or republican candidate debates, you will get a enormous serving of ad hominem abuse.
ex post facto – Done, made, or formulated after the fact.
-Most of Carl’s so-called reasons are merely ex post facto excuses for impulsive behavior. What a stroke.
And of course, your reward!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
She approaches the register and immediately begins yelling – I mean wild incoherent blah yelling. The place is really loud, and we weren’t THAT close, so I couldn’t make anything out, but you didn’t need audio to get the picture. This woman was given the wrong dish – heaven forbid. The part that annoys me is that she doesn’t even try to be polite about, she immediately flips shit. I know how hard it must be to not get your precious order just perfect, but statistically speaking, it is bound to happen several times a day in a place THAT busy. Speaking of food, I don’t think this lady needed to be stuffing her face with anymore Pompei for awhile, hell, I thought she was going to have a heart attack – I could envision her choked arteries screaming for mercy.
No more they say, no more.
So the teller says something, backs off – and the crazy woman moves on to her next victim. I felt so bad for this guy. Not only is he trying to get tons of orders put in the right spot for pickups, but he has to deal with an insane behemoth breathing down his neck. It truly is not hard at all to politely say, ‘excuse me, this is not right, could I please get it redone.’
It reminded me of my days working in retail, the time I realized that adults can be just as infantile and absurd as a five-year old. A truly unsettling thought - and unfortunately quite true.
So my friend and I began talking about the perils of running our own practices. I would not be surprised to see someone going nuts after seeing a bill they weren’t prepared for. Now being frustrated is one thing, but there is never a cause for the explosion I witnessed today. I could care less if I lose a few patients that are completely insane. If they are legitimately upset or were mislead, then I will work with them, but if they attempt to belittle myself or the staff, then I will kindly show them the door.
I know you can’t discriminate patients based on health issues, but I don’t know what the rule is about assholes. I might have to look something up.
I will leave you with an immortal quote:
"We're living....IN A SOCIETY!!"
Sunday, June 10, 2007
We are no longer called freshmen. Incoming students are referred to as the D-1 entering class. I like it because it sounds like something out of a terminator movie. Ultimately though, it is just a fancy way of saying freshmen, because it is still the ‘first’ year and we are the newbies in town.
So why does my title say D-0!? Well, because some people refer to the time between acceptance and matriculation as D-0. There truly is a lot more to being a D-0 than one might assume. All the busy work, stress, gopher running, and old-fashioned anxiety rolled into one are a good start. I have already mentioned several of the odd-ball tasks like filing mounds of paperwork, verifying this and that, taking out a sea of loans, and collecting teeth to boot. I have recently been asked to provide final transcripts, and pay for a background check to be sent to the school. Separately, all of the above mentioned tasks are really not bad at all, but they snowball into one hell of monster when you add them up. Add moving and working into the mix, and summer vacation really doesn’t even exist. Might I add the last summer vacation ever.
The D-0 portion of dental school will probably be the biggest variable amongst incoming students. Some take vacations, others work, some have changes of heart, and others fail to matriculate by not completing anything and everything required by their respective school. My experience has been fairly straightforward thus far.
In all actuality, I am probably doing myself a huge favor by participating in this summer research program. I have my residence located and partially set-up, although there is still PLENTY to do. I am beginning to familiarize myself with the surrounding neighborhood/city as well as the dental school itself.
I have met several of my classmates although we really haven’t had much of a chance to get to know one another. I am hoping this changes before orientation so that I’ll already have a few friends to ease the gigantic clusterfuck that is “school orientation.” Ya know, when everyone is supposed to somehow get to know an entire class in one week.
So what am I doing at the school? Not much yet, the first week of this eight week program was an orientation in of itself. I have gotten to know everyone who works in my mentor’s lab and what all of their responsibilities are. I feel bad for the primary PhD responsible for giving me something to do because she didn’t even know I was coming until I walked in the door. She is also responsible for ANOTHER student in a different lab.
However, they have lined up a project for me to start, although I still have a lot of basic training to go through. Ever listen to a 2-hour online lecture about HIPAA? I don’t recommend it; your eyes just may start to bleed from utter demoralizing boredom. Ever take a pair of 2 hour courses involving the basics of lab safety? Oh the joys of research orientation.
The first week really involved me reading a lot. I will be doing work with wound healing so while at the lab, I either observed/practiced some technical ability, or read a journal article contextually beefing up my wound healing repertoire. I began extracting RNA on Friday, but only got about half finished. The problem is that I need supervision and all the lab folks have other responsibilities as well. I am hoping to solo RNA extraction by Tuesday – but we will see.
The entire process really is no different than cooking – you loosely follow some protocol, pay attention to things in bold, definitely take advice from the veterans, and go nuts. It isn’t all shits and giggles though. For example, there is one point when we spin the sample down into three layers. The top layer is where the RNA is contained, but YOU CANNOT PIPETTE ANY OF THE SECOND LAYER OR YOUR SAMPLE IS RUINED. So now I have to eyeball everything perfectly, and slowly pull this top layer out because you need to get pretty much all of it. I fucked up one of the two samples at this point – luckily these were going to get tossed anyways.
I have a feeling this type of technical research is just like any other monotonous job, you are clunky at first, than eventually perform like a well-oiled machine.
Why am I extracting RNA? Briefly, the lab has samples of human tissue from past experiments. Some of it is wounded, some of it is healthy. My mentor also does a lot of work on how stress effects wound healing. Some of his results are actually quite remarkable. Let’s just say stress has an effect – and it isn’t good. But I digress; my job is to find out what is going on with the Mast cells or eosinophils. They produce all sorts of cytokines/chemokines that assist/call in other cells to assist the haywire process known as wound healing. I could go grab my notes and get really technical…but I choose not to. Email me if you are DYING to find out and I can link you some papers.
We want to know what is being produced at what stages during wound healing as well as in healthy tissue. Another side project is to figure out why oral mucosa heals SO much better than other tissue – some people think it has something to do with mast cells – so I am going to help in those discoveries by first extracting some RNA from the various samples.
I still need to learn the ins and outs about real time PCR to quantify exactly what the RNA is expressing, but that will probably happen later this week. I find research interesting, but I am 95% confident that I will not be enrolling in the DDS/PhD program come next year – I just don’t want to limit myself to academia and research before I even experience clinical dentistry.
My advice to fellow D-0’s or any that are to follow – do what you want to do. I chose to participate in this program so that I could move into the city early and get comfortable before school started. I also am not a big traveler, so backpacking through Europe just ain’t my thing. I know people that are doing all sorts of activities, but I am completely content working and exploring my new home. To each his own.
If your school does offer a summer research program, I highly recommend looking into it – the experience thus far has been positive. I of course still hold the right to retract this statement at anytime over the next seven weeks.
Oh and to my readers not interested in dentistry – if you see ‘D-anything’ in the title followed by a roman numeral, I am gearing the post towards fellow dentites – so read at your own discretion. Haha, I bet you wish I put this paragraph at the beginning.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Don't you dare close your eyes - because you might get run over by a truck.
Remember Super Mario Brothers Three? When you were young, and you finally..FINALLY get past the first world. You thought you beat the game, right? Then all of sudden, you are in some fucking desert with MORE goombas to jump on and turtle shells to kick.
Sure it isn’t that creative..but this is what it feels like to me right now. I graduated a week ago, feeling like a wise old man amongst a sea of undergrads. Now I find myself in Chicago, a plethora of new faces, places, and all of the above. I still haven’t gotten used to the traffic or random people asking me for money, but I guess that comes with the territory. I feel little again, lost, terrified - yet content with the change.
Learn by doing - it's my new motto. Can't fit your car in the spot? Keep trying, that is what bumpers are for. Can't find an address? Go around again. Can't find your research mentor's office while being stared at by a hordes of dental students on lunch break? Suck it up- you will be making an ass out of yourself eventually anyways, may as well begin early and get used to it.
You know what makes you stand out in a room full of people wearing scrubs? Oh I know, not wearing scrubs...gah!
Nestled away within a maze of concrete and drywall, I did eventually find my research Mentor – a periodontist whose work revolves around wound healing. He seems friendly, although I felt completely out of place once we visited the lab. I am the only pre-doc working in the lab and will be surrounded by PhDs and DDS/PhDs – so much for being ‘at the top.’ Everyone seems nice, but the place just seems a bit unfriendly for newcomers – simply because I have no experience and will probably end having to be babysat by a post-doc to make sure I don’t destroy some expensive piece of equipment. They have had students before though, so hopefully I will get assimilated without too much trouble.
It sounds as if I will be doing some rather rudimentary tasks, but hopefully I will find the work interesting. My mentor also made it sound as if I could work on a number of different projects, so who knows what will happen.
I felt like a total idiot when he talked with all his other lab workers, they were just throwing around terminology left and right that was clearly above my current level of understanding.
Luckily (or maybe not), I was provided with about 10 articles relating to the lab research that will “bring me up to speed.” I fortunately did learn how to read in college, so mayhaps I won’t be as clueless on Monday.
Orientation is Thursday and lab work begins on Monday. The best part about this orientation is that it will get me out of some of the D1 orientation business in August (or so I was told).
I have also declared that moving will be a summer long process. I already have the essential stuff set up…but there is still much to do. Having the TV just sitting on the floor is soooo very un-cool.
As mentioned in a previous post, I have been pretty busy moving and tying up loose ends, but fear not, I have stories to tell when I have time to tell them. So do not forsake me.
Now I need to transfer the last of my money so that I can survive until loans arrive.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
In 24 hour hours, I will officially be a college graduate.
-end college sentimentality-
Yesterday I was in Chicago, at an introductory research mentors meeting. I met 9 of my future classmates and they all seemed quite amiable – I hope this sample is representative of the rest. I also met several research-oriented doctors at the school – some with dual DDS, PhD; and some with the solo PhD.
Everyone was extremely friendly – and the faculty as a whole seems to have a great temperament with a sprinkling of humor. While I must admit, the presentations began to drag on around hour number four, but I still am glad I attended. I am hoping to either do research in biomaterials or wound healing. Keep reading for future updates.
BUT – I almost did not make it to the meeting at all. As I was begrudgingly navigating through morning traffic on I-290, I was almost destroyed by two things that truly disgust me. Separately, I can barely stand the site of either, but together…wow.
Pulling up to my left side was a Hummer – perhaps the greatest symbol of American vanity and waste. This wasn’t altogether surprising; lots of folk seem to think driving something outrageously huge through the packed streets of Chicago is a GOOD idea. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, but Carlos Zambrano was behind the wheel. I am admittedly a Sox fan, although I really don’t mind the Cubs, but I CANNOT stand Zambrano. He is over-emotional, provides idiotic quotes for the media-whores, and of course, drives a Hummer.
Oh well, at least he didn’t plow me off the road or anything – even though I should have forced some sort of accident that could be blamed on him. Then I wouldn’t have any debt after dental school. Damn me and my morals.
-return to college sentimentality –
We had a final party with all the graduating pre-professional students. Our pre-health advisor has been invaluable, and of course provided some quality booze. She has a great back yard where everyone sat around a fire pit, drank, laughed, and drank into the wee hours of the morning. It is hard to believe that only ten of us are actually going forward in life with what we set out to do many years ago. We used to have damn close to 100 students (a lot for a small school) freshmen year, but those weed out classes get the name for a reason.
Today we had to “practice” graduating. It reminded of me of being in elementary school again. We all had to pretty much take orders like a bunch of dogs as some scary old lady yelled at us. If she told me to pee on the kid standing next to me, I probably would have. She was just THAT intimidating. Then of course, the students were not much better. After we sat down, nobody paid any attention and everyone was just being immature (yours truly included). Really though, what do they expect – the entire exercise was just idiotic. There has got to be an easier way.
What is the deal with graduation anyway? We wear some goofy outfit and stand around in a very hot room listening to a bunch of boring speeches telling us about this and that and blah. I suppose it would be more meaningful if I knew there wasn’t ANOTHER graduation to go to in four years. Let’s face it; the second movie in a trilogy usually sucks the most.
Ah, but such is life – one giant hoop after another.
Well, I wanted to get off this last post before leaving, because I may be away for a bit. The process of moving is never smooth-going, and I only have about 10 days to get everything squared away in Chicago. To make matters worse, my brother and dad will be out of town for most of that time, taking with them the valuable truck needed to help in the move. I am NOT getting a U-Haul.
But I digress, I am off to clean up the oven, empty the fridge, and drink some beers with the gang.
Until next time.
Ride the snake, ride the snake.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Some of you may recall that I applied for a summer research program about 1.5 months ago. I hadn’t heard anything and was assuming that I wasn’t selected. BUT WAIT, I actually have been invited to join the program, and if I hadn’t been checking the “junk mail” box, I would have missed THE MANDATORY MEETING THIS FRIDAY.
Thankfully, I caught this invitation just in time and have sent off a very late confirmation. If they replaced my sorry ass, I will be less than thrilled.
Regardless, I don’t think they will dump me unless I don’t show up for the meeting. This program is definitely going to kill my last summer ever, but I really think it will be beneficial in the long run. I don’t honestly think research is my calling, but I have never done any REAL research, so I want to try. Worst case scenario is that I dislike it. At least I can check research off of my things to do list early in my dental career as opposed to later. Doesn’t hurt to have a little research experience on the CV either.
Essentially, I’ll be working 8:30-5 M-F from June 4th, July 27th. So I still get about three weeks of pure vacation, which isn’t too shabby at all. The only REAL drawback is that I have to really scramble to get settled in my new apartment. I was also sent a list of all the different projects available to the students. I forgot that almost all research involves torturing mice, which I don’t particularly enjoy. I really am interested in oral cancer development though, so I may just have to suck it up. I also saw some pretty interesting projects regarding biomaterials which would most likely help my overall understanding of human dentition.
Supposed to be a pre-professional party on Friday too, hopefully I will be able to get back before everyone is plastered.