So you are a foreign-trained dentist who completed your Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE) evaluation, received your DENTPIN, passed NBDE parts I and II, got a 100-plus score in TOEFL, and now you think you are all set for CAAPID. Before this part of the process, though, you need to get dental experience in the United States. Whether it’s working as a dental assistant, observing, shadowing or volunteering at a dental clinic, you need to be a competitive applicant for the advanced standing program for foreign-trained dentists. Dental schools value this experience as evidence of commitment to the profession, and a desire to learn and innovate. Here are some ways to get volunteer dental experience in the United States.
1. Community health and not-for-profit clinics: Look up the community dental clinics near you and reach out to them. This way, you not only learn about dentistry but also the “heart” aspect of the profession. When I first moved to the United States, one of the first opportunities I got was at CommunityHealth in Chicago, serving the uninsured adults in the city.
2. Dental schools: You can look for preceptorship/observer opportunities at dental schools. These experiences are highly valued by universities, and it can help you become a better candidate for international dentist programs. You also can reach out to professors at dental schools of your interest to get involved in their research.
3. Private dental clinics: Reach out to private dentists and ask them if you can observe or assist them. Using this method, I was able to get many opportunities to shadow general dentists and dental specialists as well.
4. AMOpportunities: This company partners with U.S. physicians, hospitals and institutions to create clinical rotations such as electives, clerkships, observerships and externships for international medical and dental students and graduates. Physicians take trainees wherever they see patients, including their affiliated hospitals, research sites and clinics. This could be a good opportunity for those who find it difficult to get observership opportunities.
5. Mission of Mercy: This is a great opportunity to get involved in a state-wide dental event and give back to the community. It could also be a good opportunity to network with dentists in your state and beyond. When I took part in the Michigan Mission of Mercy, I was overwhelmed to witness the large scale at which it operates. It’s a completely different experience to volunteer at such a large state dental event where hundreds of volunteers collaborate to deliver oral health care to more than 1,000 patients in just two days.
My volunteer, shadowing and research experiences in the United States helped me gain better insight on oral health care delivery specific to the country. These experiences also helped me become a well-informed candidate for dental school, which helped me submit a competitive application. I believe that the key to getting U.S. dental experience is to reach out and ask. More often than not, dentists will welcome you to shadow them.
~Dr. Ruchi Gupta, international dentist