Before entering dental school, I worked as a registered dietitian. My life centered around health and wellness. I woke up at 5:15 a.m. every weekday to go to the gym. I meal-prepped every weekend. I spent a lot of my free time researching new health products, while also coming up with new ways to make traditional comfort foods healthier. My life focused on being healthy and learning new ways to help my patients eat better.
One of the most challenging parts of being a first-year dental student has been figuring out the most efficient and effective study strategies. Unlike in college, in dental school, you are expected to study large amounts of material in short periods of time. For example, a 10-question quiz on two weeks of material for one class might be on 200–300 PowerPoint slides. Is it possible to study this much material, or possibly more for every class, while still doing well? Yes, it is!
If you have seen the meme that compares dental school to riding a bike that’s on fire, that is exactly what dental school was for me before I learned how to stop comparing myself to my classmates.
Do you ever think that your success is just a result of luck, or you didn’t really earn your achievements? Do you feel like you tricked everyone into thinking that you are smarter than you really are, and it is just a matter of time before someone discovers your secret and exposes you as a fake? Do you believe that your accomplishments aren’t that special because you think “anyone could have done that”? If so, you may be dealing with imposter syndrome, like me.
We know a tremendous amount about how our body works. We can identify important landmarks in the oral cavity, distinguish the differences between types of diseases and even recite step-by-step processes of metabolic reactions. With such a great deal to absorb and memorize, we sometimes need a reminder to observe the health of our own bodies. Staying physically and mentally active is an essential part of a student’s everyday life. But with classes, lab projects and a whole lot of studying, it can be easy to skip your standard gym workout or even a mundane run around the block.
There’s no punchline here. When my patient care coordinator Kenna invited me to attend the 100th anniversary of her church, I didn’t know what to say. Should I tell her that I was raised as an atheist? Maybe explain the whole Irish-grandpa-rebelling thing? I decided to spare her the details and accepted the invitation with a smile and an assuring, “I’ll be there!”
Health care providers have a knack for neglecting their own health. We focus on our patients, but we need care, too. Over the last four years, I learned what worked (and what didn’t) to mentally, physically and socially keep myself well. These are my tips as a senior to help you get through school and stay well.