Management + Leadership

How to succeed in dental school, from a faculty perspective

Your acceptance to dental school indicates that you have a proven record of prior success. You have excelled academically while maintaining a rigorous schedule of extracurricular and volunteer activities. Nonetheless, you may be struggling with the over-saturated dental school curriculum. While tips for achieving success in dental school abound, we’d like to present the faculty perspective.

As former directors, we’ve observed that the students who excel engage in particular behaviors. Based on these observations, we’ve compiled some suggestions below.

Be proactive. Students who demonstrate their ambition to learn more than what is required elevate their status in the eyes of faculty. More importantly, they get more out of their learning experience since they are constantly challenging themselves. Dental school is an excellent opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. Just make sure to seek out a faculty member or department chair for guidance and instruction.

Know and comply with the rules. The easiest way to get on the wrong side of faculty is to disregard the rules, whether explicitly or implicitly. While faculty members are your senior colleagues, during your dental school tenure, they are also tasked with ensuring that you meet the standards for graduation. Professionalism, which is a characteristic you must demonstrate to qualify for graduation, requires an adherence to the agreed upon mores of our largely self-regulated profession. If you don’t comply with the rules in dental school, it will be difficult for faculty to attest to your professionalism.

Understand and track completion of your course requirements. Organizational skills are essential for success in dental school. To complete your requirements, you need to know what they are. We have had misinformed students scramble to complete clinical requirements at the last minute because they relied on information from others or failed to investigate for themselves.

Keep meticulous records, and make sure they’re up to date. If you see you’re falling behind in clinical requirements, alert your faculty and, together, come up with an action plan.

Prepare in advance. You’re waiting in line for your clinical faculty. Your patient has been understanding, but for how much longer? After 10 minutes, the faculty finally gets to the patient, looks at the bracket table and asks for a crown remover. Need we say more?

Volunteer to help others. As faculty, we want to know that the students we graduate are going to be compassionate caregivers. When we see students volunteer to help others during their downtime, we know they are generous of heart and team players. That means a lot.

Be attentive. (Read your emails.) Faculty have to communicate important messages. When they do, they are disheartened to find that some students are not tuned in. Whether in a lecture setting or at home reading emails, pay attention to your faculty’s communications. If you’re out of the loop, you don’t have the information you need to succeed.

Find mentors who excel. We have often noticed that like attracts like. Students who excel find mentors in others who excel, while students who shirk their responsibilities also seem to travel in groups. Seek out mentors, whether upperclassmen or faculty members, who will increase your exposure to information and knowledge, and challenge you in ways that you are not able to challenge yourself. If you are a student who shows dedication, commitment, preparedness and a true desire to learn, your faculty will want to help you get the most you can out of dental school.

~Drs. Ivy Peltz and Eric Studley

Drs. Ivy Peltz & Eric Studley

Dr. Ivy Peltz and Dr. Eric Studley are the co-founders of Doccupations, an algorithmic dental job matching website. In addition, Drs. Peltz and Studley were GP directors and clinical associate professors at New York University College of Dentistry, where Dr. Studley was the director of the practice management curriculum. He also is the CEO of a nationally based insurance brokerage company specializing in the insurance and financial needs of dentists. Dr. Peltz has a private practice in New York City.

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