Friday, March 21, 2008

The D-1 Experience IV

About 80% of the way through my first year of dental school – and it is time for another reflective installment as to what the first year is all about.

I would like to emphasize that you don’t really feel like you are in dental school most of the time. I am serious. I feel like a grad student of some sort just taking more biology courses so that I can get into dental school. Most of my hours are consumed memorizing signaling pathways for post-translational regulation, or memorizing what the spleen looks like both grossly and microscopically. I understand that we need to be competent health care providers, but am I honestly going to remember 95% of the details I am tested on? The answer is no. All of this first year feels very similar to getting into dental school in the first place - an arbitrary series of hoops to jump through, a rite of passage, whatever. I would be horribly screwed if they put in me in a room to even talk with a patient let alone diagnose anything. Granted, we haven’t taken any courses on patient management yet, but I don’t know how biochemistry will help me recognize caries. All of this studying also dampens your social skills. I feel a bit isolated, in a bubble of factoids and dark rooms with giant projectors. I really wish I could get out more, I hope I remember how to say hello and smile when I start treating real patients.

Again, this is all complaining, and I am downplaying how much I actually HAVE learned. Many things that are so natural now were completely foreign a few short months ago. The hilarity of saying “you got some spinach between 9 and 10” never ceases to amuse. The dental material we have learned so far HAS been quite interesting for the most part - cutting preps, placing restorations, taking gingival plaque indices, and just getting a feel for the many instruments. I wish we spent more time doing that stuff, and my prayers will be answered D-2 year. Granted, I am much better at traditional lecture based classes (because that is all I have ever done), but I enjoy the dentistry aspect so much more..despite struggling in comparison.

In another note, dental radiology is pretty cool. They unfortunately cram too much into our once a week lecture. I am far more interested than I thought I would be, which is great – the lecturers are very engaging as well. I remember bringing my own radiographs in for comp care last semester and wondering…what the hell can you get out of this? It is pretty amazing how the little subtleties and landmarks glare out after a few short weeks of lecture.

Another note is that you are bound to get tired of being the ‘little guy.’ The sterilization people are not the friendliest of people, especially to people that don’t know all the rules. Communication between sterilization and the instructors is also not so hot as we have gotten yelled at for not returning instruments we were told to keep all semester…sigh. It has gotten better, and I haven’t personally had any issues, but I still feel like a lost child sometimes. And yea, setting up your operatory becomes easier, cutting preps becomes smoother, and putting the damn gown on by yourself becomes second nature. Despite all of this, you still feel completely helpless most of the time.

All of the upperclassmen claim how great it feels when the next batch of newbies arrive…I will be taking my board exam around that time too..I can imagine I will feel MUCH older. I coincidentally turn 24 right at the end of august as well, how appropriate.

So at this final stretch point, motivation is the only real road block towards success. There is a lot to do, and time is not abundant. The looming glare of finals also creeps ever closer. It is also fucking snowing and April is one week away. C’mon! I mean, I’m not surprised because I have lived near Chicago most of my life, but you never really get used to it.

So as boring as some of this material can get, it behooves you to pay attention and retain as much as you can. The only reason we take most of these classes is because there is a board exam that is required before one can advance to patient care. Did I mention this exam has changed in the last year or so to be harder (in my opinion). I plan on keeping an NBDE I log when I actually start studying an earnest, but it will suck. I have 3 review books and the dental decks just staring at me from the across the desk…whispering…taunting…NO!

It is just one subject after another this semester, no breaks. Just finished a histo exam, so now I get to celebrate by cramming biochem all weekend. Finished physio last week, treated myself to reading a bunch of required articles, studying for three quizes and the histo test I just took. You get the picture. You really DO get used to it though - which is all the more depressing. But my dad put it best one afternoon while at lunch - "At least there's an ending." SO TRUE! Some people are stuck in terrible jobs their ENTIRE lives. I have to sacrafice some of my youth consumed with basic really seems a small price given how truly wonderful dentistry is as a profession. This train of though keeps me going through the dark and snowy spring.

Wow, 2 posts in 2 days. Give me a medal. Back to biochem I go….last thing in my way before a week of total bliss.