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How President Clinton gave me perspective on dental school

An audience perspective of President Clinton’s keynote address at ADA Annual Session 2013.

A few months ago, I had the chance to attend the ADA’s Annual Session in the exciting city of New Orleans! Like ASDA’s Annual Session, this was an opportunity to attend CE classes, explore the enormous vendor exhibition and network with dental professionals from across the country. Exploring the city after hours was a chance to sample the fantastic food, listen to some great music and experience Halloween on Bourbon Street. But for me, the standout experience of the trip was seeing President Bill Clinton speak!

Following the presentation of the ADA’s Humanitarian Award to Dr. Sherwin Shinn, President Clinton spoke to a hall with standing-room only. His speech included stories from his childhood growing up in the South, touched on his experience as President, and focused on service through his work with the Clinton Global Initiative. However, what he said that really stuck with me was that, “the main job of everybody as a citizen in the 21st century in the world, either in your neighborhood or state or our country or around the world, is to do what you can to diminish the negative forces of our interdependence and build up the positive ones.”

The central message to his speech was about how close the modern world has become and that opportunities and challenges are shared by everyone. In his speech, President Clinton gave examples of how to “diminish the negative forces of inequality,” from Dr. Shinn’s work to provide oral care to the underserved to President Clinton’s own work in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Dental students can help too!

It’s inevitable as students that our time and energy gets sucked into the black hole we call dental school. At some point, every dental student has felt that their entire world revolves around school. The endless studying, countless tests and competencies make it easy to see how we can lose ourselves. However, with a new year, I challenge you to take a step back from the black hole.

Consider going back to shadow an old mentor to refresh your outlook on dentistry. Consider volunteering on an outreach mission abroad or at a local event like Give Kids a Smile. These experiences will help you remember that dentistry is about service. Or help your community by volunteering at a school, humane society or soup kitchen to counteract the “negative forces” President Clinton talked about. Odds are, these activities will help you reignite your passion for service and help prevent you from getting sucked back into the black hole.

~Kedy Shen, Roseman ’16, Chicago administrative extern

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 8.23.46 AMRead all about dental outreach in the winter issue of Mouth. The issue features articles about domestic outreach versus trips abroad, virtual dental homes using cloud technology and more. Plus, 17 dental schools submitted photos and details about the domestic outreach done at their ASDA chapters. Click here to read the issue now.

Kedy Shen

Kedy Shen is a second year dental student at Roseman University of Health Sciences. Kedy was a 2013 ASDA extern in Chicago and currently serves as Fundraising Chair for the Roseman chapter and the District 10 Cabinet.

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  1. Great post!

  2. Great article regarding President Bill Clinton speech at the ADA annual session and what an impact he made on you that day. We do have to remember that we are a service industry and we need to remember to always give back to our community that has helped us build our practice. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Phyu Pwint Thant says:

    I get a lot of confidence and proud of being a dentist.Thank you for your post.I like it so much.

  4. Erica Katz says:

    Dear Mr. Shen,

    It is undeniable that dental school entails long hours of studying and mastering clinical skills, frequently leading to feeling as though there are not enough hours in one’s day. I know that as an undergraduate pre-dental student, I already experience loads of stress and anguish from juggling my dental prerequisite and major requirements along with working part-time. I cannot begin to express how eager I am to be admitted into dental school, a large step closer to practicing my dream job. Nevertheless, I can only imagine the challenges that await me amongst the infinite hours devoted to mastering my skills as a dental professional. I believe that this concept of the “black hole” you reference seamlessly calls attention to how important it is to make the most of dental school. Rather than making it our mission to simply get good grades, we need to focus on our sanity and overall happiness. You are absolutely right– dwelling on these widespread mindsets of our entire world orbiting around academics will, without a doubt, result in “all our time and energy getting sucked into this black hole.” I think that many dental students feel as though they are obligated to “suffer”, but this most certainly is not the case. In achieving our dreams of becoming amazing dentists, we are indeed destined to sacrifice a great deal of time and energy, but this does not mean we are unable to enjoy our time in school. In fact, the solution that you offer is both practical and promising. Engaging in community outreach programs will shine a positive light on the lives of dental students and dental professionals. I have been volunteering for five consecutive semesters with fellow pre-dental students in Spread the Smile Campaign (SSC). Participating in this community outreach program continuously acts as a reminder as to why I dream of becoming a dentist. I am able to get my mind off the long list of assignments and responsibilities on my agenda during those 50 minutes of giving back to my neighborhood. These relatively short mornings are life changing for both the students and myself. Needless to say, I achieve a sense of serenity each and every time.

    I recognize and agree with your stance on the importance of giving back to one’s community. Your convincing proposal that dental students ought to “refresh their outlooks on dentistry” by countering the adverse forces, mentioned by President Bill Clinton. Do you think that many dental schools fail to encourage and elicit these acts of community involvement? USC’s Ostrow School of Dentistry extensively provides a comprehensive array of community-programs, all of which contribute to the ambitious Trojan network in community-involvement affairs. Your influential outlook and value on such humane activities mirrors that of my own, but I am curious if Roseman University plays a keen role in the ideals that you fervently advocate. I know that prior to becoming a Trojan, I had no sense of community involvement, and volunteering was never something I looked forward to. Today, I find myself arranging my work schedule in away that allocates time to volunteer on Friday mornings. I think that the more we give back to our community, the more we get back as a dental community. I feel that it is beyond valuable for dental schools to raise awareness about community outreach programs, while also making these activities readily available for current students and graduates. This will not only pave way for superior dental professionals, but it will also increase the likelihood of sustaining an ignited passion for the field of dentistry.

    1. Kedy Shen says:

      Hi Erica,

      Congrats on your acceptance! I’m sure you’re stoked about matriculating in the fall and USC is a great school to be attending. Also, thanks for reading and commenting! I’m glad you found this post interesting.

      To answer some of your questions:
      – Everyone has their own goals in dental school and what they want to do. I think it’s fantastic that you’re already cognizant of maximizing your experience in dental school. I don’t think it really matters where you go to dental school. To me, it’s kind of like undergrad. All dental schools will give you the support and training to graduate and practice. However, if you have a passion of community service, as long as you are motivated, you can accomplish amazing things at any school whether it’s USC, Roseman, Florida, or wherever. A lot of these events that you see happening are student driven initiatives. Take your experience volunteering, combine it with your passion for serving, infect others with this desire, and great things will happen.
      – Regarding how Roseman has impacted my ideals on this subject, I think the main benefit of Roseman is that we have a very strong student organization presence in the school. Administration is supportive and encouraging about anyone who wants to start a club or plan an event. A good example would be our first GKAS event we just had. I haven’t seen enough dental schools to really make a judgement about a potential failure in dental education to encourage these kinds of activities. Really, dental students, regardless of where they attend, are likely to be motivated to do something. As long as schools are supportive, encouraging, and non-obstructive, than I’m sure the students will handle the rest.

      Thanks again for your well written post. Best of luck at USC and if you ever have a question or need help, feel free to reach out via email or FB. Cheers!

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