For any specialty resident, dental school graduation is a tease. While friends leave to begin their careers, you’re off to the trenches of postgraduate education. Residency has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of my professional pursuit. I hope to share five ways that will ease your transition into residency.
1. Relocation: Just like dental school, moving to a new city comes with many unknowns. Cost, location and the type of home are important first considerations. I, for example, live downtown — a 20-minute commute to and from school. I’m steps away from the city center, farmer’s market and most of San Antonio’s restaurants and nightlife. After a lifetime in suburbia, I wanted to spend residency in the heart of a city. If you’re moving with children, school systems, family-friendly neighborhoods and shorter commutes may take priority. It’s easy to compare apartments or homes online via Apartment List, Rent.com or Zillow, and through recommendations of residents and faculty without having to plan an extra trip.
2. Master’s option: For non-oral surgery residents, a master’s degree is mandatory in some but not all programs. I see another two or more years of education certainly worthy of a degree. This may increase tuition cost, but your professional interests should be weighed first. If you have any interest in academia, research or lecturing, the added degree is invaluable and further validates your training. Some programs provide their residents with specific thesis projects, while others do not. Consider a project that is feasible within the span of your residency. An animal study or clinical trial pertinent to a research question you could answer within a few years would suffice.
3. Prior training: Becoming a strong general dentist is important to any specialist. Understanding basic restorative concepts and procedures will improve patient outcomes. Your ability to provide comfortable local anesthesia, diagnose and treatment plan, and communicate with patients, classmates and faculty are key takeaways from dental school. Also consider basics of your specialty that can be improved upon during prior education. For example, performing more extractions for an oral surgery or periodontics residency may benefit your immediate transition, just like more complex fixed work helps a future prosthodontist. Experience from advanced training in general dentistry rounds out your interdisciplinary exposure that much more.
4. Organization: Meeting deadlines for your thesis project, graduation requirements, weekly assignments and daily clinic schedule can be overwhelming. Electronic calendars help organize these tasks across multiple devices. Writing a daily to-do list on a notecard kept in your scrub pocket can help manage and focus your personal and professional life.
5. Relationships: It’s hard to leave friends and loved ones to start completely anew. Entering a long-distance relationship, like I did, also adds challenge. My girlfriend and I FaceTime nightly, visit each other monthly and our relationship has only strengthened in light of my recent move. You also share a similar routine (and late nights) with other specialty residents. Making friends with residents outside of your program is enjoyable and can benefit the scope of your clinical practice, as you work up complex cases together. I also used the app Meetup to meet people in San Antonio with interests similar to mine before my program started. Now, more than six months in, I have a diverse network of friends I can count on.
These five points will ensure your transitional success. Congratulations to those of you who have recently matched. Specialty training is one of the most exciting parts of your professional career!
~ Dr. Adam Saltz, MPH, Nova Southeastern ’17