Sunday, August 16, 2009

The D-3 Experience II

While I am somewhat disappointed that I haven’t kept up to date on all the happenings this summer, I realize that there are so many ‘firsts’ to talk about that I could never find the time to make separate posts about them all. Regardless, now is as good a time as any to lay down another experience post on the third year of dental school.

The semester wrapped up on the 7th of August, which also coincided with an annual festival right on Taylor Street which happens to be the way I walk home. I like to imagine that they are celebrating another semester taken down by this weary dental student. I also enjoy walking down the middle of a street without fear of getting run over.

So where do I begin? Grade-wise, I’m not sure about most of the classes yet – regardless of the outcome though, I am completely satisfied with my progression and could really care less about the arbitrary letter. I feel like I got along with all of the instructors and I did manage to work with everyone in my clinic at least once. I didn’t make any drastic mistakes and I would say I did a decent job for a first semester in terms of speed and efficiency – clearly there is plenty of room to improve of course. The grades seem so out of your control at this point that I just don’t care. A lot of it comes down to luck – who you worked with, the types of cases you got, type of patient, ect. Plain and simple, some instructors give out A’s for free while others are tough as hell. I really don’t know how our ‘clinic’ grade is determined either, but I do know this one score counts for a TON of the percentage value in more than one class. Again, I got a decent score, but it was about 0.5% shy of what I needed. In other words, much like last semester I got hosed on the wrong side of the A/B border. Frustrating yes, but as each semester passes; I realize more and more that I am leaning towards general practice. I’m just getting antsy to ‘begin’ my life – as in, do things that involve me not being in school. Work hard and actually make money, get a house, start a family, all that good stuff. Obviously I don’t know if my passions will change, but I currently see myself possibly doing a GPR and then hitting the private sector.

Enough on the technical stuff, how does it feel? Knowing that I officially passed the half-way point of dental school back in July? Knowing that yet another batch of incoming D-1’s are on the way next tomorrow? Knowing that I can actually accomplish dentistry on real people without horribly butchering them? Everything is great. Six semesters down, five to go. Seeing new D-1s roaming about made me feel older LAST year, this time around I will likely feel like an ancient relic.

There is a lot changing in the clinics right now, the construction should be finished by October (of course they were supposed to be done by the end of august so this obviously might change again), so we are still all squished together and disjointed. Pre-clinic chairs will still eat up eight of our live patient chairs on Wednesdays, but the big news is that all the clinics are officially merging. There are three pairs of clinics that are adjacent to one another in the school. They are numbered 1- 6. 1 and 2 merged last fall as the pilot group. Apparently, things ran smoothly enough and they are merging 3 with 4 and 5 with 6. I don’t really mind as we have essentially been merged already this summer. My GP manager is taking over group 5 along with my group (6) so I won’t have to adjust to any change in command. I also think my classmates in GP 5 kick ass overall so we will all get along fine. Yea, it doesn’t really matter at this point. Even with change, you still find a way to manage and learn at the same time.

So what do you DO as a D-3? This summer we had several courses to roll through. Allow me to elaborate:

Dental Ethics – Pretty dull overall, most of the scenarios applied to a realm that we have zero experience with – the real world. I was hoping for a few more dental school based scenarios but I suppose dealing with the real world stuff is important. However, it is sort of pointless to expect a bunch of dental students to have anything really valuable to contribute to discussions that are clearly out of our realm of experience. You simply can’t teach ethics, it is something you must inherently possess or had ingrained as a child. I will encounter plenty of tough situations in my professional career, however, reading a book about it won’t help me solve the problem – I will have to sort through them as they arise and hope that my own morals keep things in check. The course ended with a 5-10 page written final due in early July. Afterwards I got to sleep in on Tuesday mornings. Cha-Ching.

Dental Public Health – Nothing to say really. Free ‘A’ if you showed up and turned in the assignments (super easy I might add) on time. Ended in July, slept in on Mondays thereafter.

Pain Control II – You standard OS-style lecture course. Straight-forward overall. The final tripped me up a little, but it was by no means unfair.

Advanced Oral Surgery –Pretty much everything discussed was way over our heads (as in the specific surgical technique to repair a cleft or nerve or something along those lines). We had an entire lecture devoted to facial cosmetic surgery. Like face-lifts and botox and all that crap. I DON’T CARE. The course director also happens to be the head of the residency program here. He is brilliant no doubt and a top flight surgeon. However, he seemed to consistently talk down to us and make us feel like the insignificant worms that we are. He also tended to lecture past 10:00 which is when our patients expect to be seated. Bear in mind that it takes a good 10-15 minutes to set up your chair and get all your equipment ready. Not to mention the exams were insanely difficult. When the high score on an exam is 43/50 (86%) in a class with several geniuses – you might have to revise your educational strategy.

However, I am being a bit whiny, some of the stuff was interesting and I did learn a lot (particularly about the TMJ).

Comprehensive Care IIIa – Not nearly as bad as IIc. We had a few pointless lectures, but we also a few GOOD lectures. Not to mention they CANCELLED the final exam three days prior which was AWESOME. We had to write a random patient portfolio, business report, and complete a clinical photo project. Otherwise this course was laid back. Of course the grade scale is unforgiving as hell and getting an ‘A’ seems based more on luck than aptitude. I feel bad for the classmates I know that want to specialize. They seem overly-stressed out and I don’t blame them. You really can’t control your grades as easily at this point. There is still plenty you can do, but it is not nearly as clear cut as get 90% of the bubbles filled in correctly.

OK, that ends the classes that had lectures. Now here are the clinical courses.

Endo clinic I – This is my only real big gripe. I cannot get an ‘A’ in this class. You know why? Because I simply didn’t get to do ANY endo this summer. I can’t force someone to need a root canal; and when they do need it, I can’t force them to not opt for the extraction because they can’t afford endo. What is even more annoying is that several of my classmates have done MULTIPLE RCTs. I really feel like the school should do a better job spreading the wealth, because it is bullshit and not an even playing field to be graded in this manner. We have to do a case presentation next semester as well. That will be mighty hard to do if I don’t actually get any patients that need endo.

Restorative Clinic I – Pretty much your entire grade is based on the faculty eval. I have no idea how they determine this grade, but I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job so far. We had two performance exams that were fairly basic. One was on the initial exam appointment and the other was on treatment planning. Nothing where you are under the gun.

Perio Clinic I – No idea how they grade, the performance exams were pass/fail. We had two – initial perio evaluation and oral hygiene instructions. That’s right; we had to take a performance exam on telling the patient to brush their teeth. Ok, it was a little more in depth, but not much. My only real complaint about perio is that several faculty members enjoy grilling the crap out of you with very detailed questions. I’m sorry that I don’t remember the exact name of the bacteria involved in chronic periodontitis, that was 2 years ago and I won’t remember it after I graduate (unless I go into perio). When in doubt – remember that calcium channel blockers have the potential to cause gingival hyperplasia!

So there is the class run down. Really though, this summer was a semester of ‘firsts.’ My first MOD, my first DO, my first F/F denture, my first partial (not really close to done yet), my first class III composite, my first pulp exposure and direct cap, my first palatal injection, I could go on and on. Everything is a first, and it is actually surprising how well things can go. It is also not a shock when you have a rough outing. You still learn from both and that is what really counts.

I still have a long way to go. The next semester won’t be as laid back as the summer, we have a couple of presentations and more class to attend – but it still will feel sweet to just continue treating patients. I get to deliver three arches of dentures in the first week! Hope they fit.

I still have another glorious week of vacation on the horizon as well. Two weeks truly is a HUGE difference from the single we got back in May. I would have posted this earlier, but I truly am enjoying the brief respite from dentistry.

I’ll be back at it full time next week…five semesters left till I finally grab that hard-fought DDS.