For many of us, it’s in our nature to avoid uncomfortable conversations. Whether out of the fear of offending someone, hurting their feelings or being humbled by having to admit a mistake, we put those conversations off. But in our roles as health care providers, we can’t avoid conflict. We must be able to have the uncomfortable or unpleasant, but honest, conversation.
Since I started dental school, the biggest habit I picked up is being a chronic maximizer. As a first year, I was presented with so many new opportunities that I found myself overwhelmed with a desire to take on everything. But, when you’re trying to balance a personal life, academic obligations, extracurriculars and taking care of yourself, time becomes your most precious commodity. Efficiency became the name of the game and before I knew it, every little pocket of time was spent trying to tick off yet another item on my to-do list. Waiting in line at the supermarket? Perfect time to send out an email or two. Got out of class early? Time to call up those vendors for that event we’re planning next month.
I’ve spent the vast majority of my educational career looking towards “the next step.” I spent high school preparing myself for college, and navigated my way through college with dental school in mind. Now, as a second-year dental student, I find myself thinking a lot about what the next step in my career will be. Will I go straight into private practice? Will I choose to specialize? Or will my path take an entirely different trajectory altogether?
When I thought about my involvement within organized dentistry, I found myself with similar questions. I have been an active member of my school’s ASDA chapter since my very first quarter of dental school, and my experience has brought me an incredible amount of personal and professional growth. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder what opportunities were available to continue growing as leaders after graduation. After the many conferences I’ve attended and conversations I’ve had with student leaders, here are some of the things I learned, as well as some words of wisdom…
For me and many of my classmates, it was our initial interest in the arts led us to eventually pursue dentistry. Whether it was handwritten calligraphy, playing musical instruments, photography, or even graphic design, being able to use our creative processes to better serve the oral health needs of our communities was a perfect match. Although our focus has shifted from the aesthetic to the esthetic, we are still able to build and create things for others using our hands. Art led us to dentistry, but sometimes we see the reverse – when science and dentistry become a source inspiration for artists. My curiosity one day led me to a Google search for “dentistry in art,” which yielded several rather interesting results: 17th and 18th century paintings of men surrounding a grimacing patient being treated, carvings of demons and spirits in teeth, and even pairs of shoes lined by human teeth. Yikes.