Friday, August 24, 2007

Orientation is serious business (A massive post)

While I have read many medical and dental blogs, I have noted that orientation is rarely covered in depth aside from “I met a lot of people.” I have decided to pioneer an in-depth look at just what exactly dental orientation feels like. First off, UIC is a bit over the top in that we have an ENTIRE week of orientation from essentially 8-5. Many schools only have a few days of orientation. I figure I can muster the energy to recap each day as it passes quickly, than revise a lil’ and put a massive orientation post up. Please note that you probably will have trouble getting through this all in one sitting. It is a record for post length as I just kept adding more daily. I just didn’t feel like cluttering my blog with a bunch of posts about essentially ONE experience that I will (hopefully) never endure again.

So without further adieu:

Day 1:
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.

Day 2:
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.

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.

Day 3:
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.

Day 4:
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.


Day 5:
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.


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.