With dental schools closed across the country, many seniors are navigating what the next steps in their dental career look like. Sandya Athigaman is a fourth-year dental student from Carlsbad, New Mexico, attending Texas A&M. After graduation, she plans to practice as a general dentist, serving in Texas. Here, Athigaman talks about the experience at her school and her tips for staying optimistic during these uncertain times.
How has COVID-19 affected your graduation plans, and what is your school’s contingency plan?
All commencement activities, including our graduation, awards ceremony and awards reception have been canceled. The school is discussing possible alternatives and will relay that information to us as soon as they figure out what works best for everyone.
How has this affected your licensing exam?
The WREB licensing exam for our school has been postponed. WREB and our school administration are working together to confirm logistics for the new exam dates and will send us emails periodically to update us on this matter.
Is there anything you are doing right now to meet requirements you have left?
Elective dental work is to be postponed until after April 21, per the governor’s order. This date may be extended depending on the severity and control of the outbreak. If we are not providing dental care for patients in the clinic, there is no way for us to complete our requirements at this time.
How do you think this will affect your first year on the job?
We don’t know how or when we’re going to become licensed. Undeniably, we will experience a delay in joining the workforce. Currently, many new dentists are being laid off or furloughed due to the government-mandated cessation of elective dental care. Once the pandemic has ended, dental practices will likely take a few months to return to normal operations. A lot of us have jobs lined up, but there is a possibility that these may not be guaranteed anymore.
What are your wellness and self-care tips for other fourth-years out there?
We have worked hard during the past few years, and we’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel; only now, it seems to be getting farther away, and it’s pretty discouraging. It’s OK to feel that way. However, we just have to remember that the light is still there, and it’s still ours to celebrate one day. We can’t let this time of uncertainty bring down our spirits, so we need to stay busy and focus on things we can control: enjoying our hobbies, taking care of our health and contacting our loved ones once in a while.
We also have to remember how incredible it is to have the support of so many different people working diligently 24/7 to slow the progression of this pandemic and allow us to live as normally as possible during this trying time. Ending each day with a little hope and a little thanks is the key to getting through this.
~Shilpa Kudva, Texas A&M ’21, ASDA Electronic Editor