Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My 2017 Dental Match Results.. and Explaining the Match

On January 30th, 2017, at exactly 4:46AM, I got an email that gave me a peek into the next 6 years of my life. That particular Monday, I found out that I will spend the next 6 years training at the University of Washington for residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Match results actually came out about a month ago (1/30/17), but I finally have some time to sit down and write about it. 

A little background on the dental Match.. 

In order to specialize (become a pediatric dentist, endodontist, periodontist, orthodontist, etc..), 4th year dental students need to apply to their respective residencies. After about a month of waiting, interview invites are given out, and candidates will fly themselves all over the country (I spent about $3000 in flights/lyfts..) Once you're done with all your interviews (typically some time in December), candidates have to numerically rank the programs they attended, and eventually submit what is called a "rank list". During that time, programs will also rank all the people that they interviewed (some programs will rank their interviewees on the last day of the interview so they don't forget who's who). Once both parties - the candidates and the residency programs - submit their rank lists, it all goes into some computer algorithm which will spit out 1 specific residency program that you must attend (the match is a binding agreement, and breaking it comes at a cost) - these are your dental match results. 

I repeat, you get one program, and that's where you go

So if you rank 10 programs and you get the 10th program on your list - that's where you're going. Conversely, maybe you rank 10 and you get your first choice. You can never really know - its like this complex matchmaking, next level-Coffee Meets Bagel-system that fairly distributes residency spots based on applicant and program preferences. Apparently, the match algorithm won a Nobel prize.

One nice thing is that applicant preferences are a higher priority than program preferences. 
Side note, the dental match uses the same algorithm as the medical match, but the actual program used is not the same. I say this in case you're wondering if you can couples match across medical and dental specialties.. the short answer is no, because they're not the same program.. but there are ways to overcome this problem as well).

In terms of dental match, residency results and applications are in the following order:

Match Phase I - Ortho and Anesthesiology
Match Phase II - GPR, AEGD, OMFS, Peds

(I think that endo and perio are currently non-Match and use another system, which happens even earlier than the first and second phases of match) 

What's next for Bear2Bruin?

I've decided to try to write a couple posts about applying to oral surgery, and mostly talk about my experience in choosing this path. I felt like I went into this whole process completely blind, so if I can shed some light on the mysteries of applying to OMFS, I would like to do that in my little corner of the internet. 

I will say upfront that I don't think I can offer any secrets about getting in, or anything of that sort.. but I can tell you about my very windy, ridiculous path to oral surgery, and offer the comfort that if it's really what you want, you can do it too. 

Some things I plan to post on in the next couple of months..
  • Taking the CBSE.. what is it, how long do people study for it, etc.
  • Choosing Externships
  • The Interview and Application process
  • The very windy path that led me to OMFS

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dental Specialties: How Do I Decide?!

There are currently 9 recognized dental specialties (and contrary to popular belief, "esthetic dentistry" is not one of them):
Dental public health, endodontics, oral pathology, oral radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, pediatric dentistry, and prosthodontics. 

And as a dental student, you will likely ask yourself this question.

"Should I specialize?"

There are so many components to this question, that it's difficult to hit all of them, but we'll try.
Here are the factors I think you should take into consideration before deciding to make the leap. 

1. Which dental school do you go to?

Each school has a very different track record as far as how many students it sends to specialty programs. There are some that churn out specialists left and right, and I would say that schools like UCLA, UCSF, UPenn, Columbia, Harvard, and Michigan all belong under that umbrella. There are others that really prepare their students to be excellent general dentists - a jack of all trades, if you will. For example, UoP and USC offer a very well-rounded clinical experience. Some schools, like Western Dental, even prepare their students with courses in Invisalign, and have an abundant, diverse patient population, and do not send more difficult student cases to graduate clinics.

I think your school experience is one of the major determinants for students choosing to specialize. In my experience, UCLA is not overflowing with patients and opportunities to learn a lot of dentistry, and I think it was one of the main reasons so many of us chose to specialize. 

2. What post-graduate opportunities do you have? 

Do you have any family that you hope to practice with in the future, someone who will help you get your bearings as a new grad? Do you have any family friends who are waiting for you to get out so you can finally take over their practice? As a current fourth year dental student, I don't know what it feels like to make real money, and after talking to many new grads who are practicing, money can fuel those life dreams - marriage, kids, a house, a private practice, etc. So if the opportunity is there for the taking, do you want to get started on real adulthood ASAP? Or would you rather spend time in residency to learn more?

3. What do you want?

After you've asked yourself these questions, it's time to do some honest soul searching. Some questions I asked myself, are: do you really, truly, want to be in academics? Are you okay with making the sacrifice in terms of salary? Do you want to be in private practice? Do you dream of having your own office, where you make all the rules? Are you better in group settings? Are you more of a lone wolf? Are you business-minded, and if not, do you want to be? Do you want to spend more of your early adult life in school or residency?

4. Identify core faculty, residents, etc. at your school who can help you make some decisions.

I'll start by saying that no one wants to admit that they made a bad life decision. So likely, every person you talk to will tell you that their specialty is the best choice. And to be honest, it probably is - for them. So figure out all those reasons that they were drawn to their particular specialty, find out what a typical work day looks like for them. Ask what traits are necessary in someone who will be successful in that field, and see if these things align with you.

5. Shadow.

Just like those pre-dent years, shadowing is crucial to understanding what you are getting yourself into. And if you are currently a dental student, you may very well know that shadowing was not at ALL indicative of what dental school, and being the actual dental provider, was like. Some specialties provide opportunities to do an externship. An externship is when students basically do rotations at other schools to see what a day in the life of their residents looks like. They are usually 1-2 weeks, and you are typically allowed to start going on them as a 3rd year dental student. 

6. If you anticipate specializing but you don't know what exactly, be prepared, but make your decision by about third year of dental school. (This is what I did)

Keep your grades up. Some specialties are extremely competitive which is why I mentioned #1 on this list, which asked "What dental school do you go to?" If you go to a pass/fail institution like UCLA or UCSF, specializing becomes kind of a free-for-all. Since we don't have ranks, none of us are really "barred" from pursuing any specialties. At other schools with actual grades and ranks, programs will only look at applicants who are in the top 15% of their class, etc, and I will honestly say that this route becomes much more difficult. 

Participate in academic work like research. Being involved in research helps you see how the rest of the professional world makes decisions on how healthcare is delivered. It is important to understand how to read papers and derive concepts from them. Generally, I think that any specialty you apply to will look at research experience favorably - with ortho, perio, and endo all having a particular emphasis on research. 

Be present in your third year clinical rotations. This is when many people finalize their decisions to pursue certain specialties. At most dental schools, the first two years are entirely "pre-clinical", which means that you don't participate in patient care, and are primarily focused on lab work and academics. Neither of these give a good indication of what each specialty looks like, but in your third year, you get to spend days to weeks in a particular specialty, and this may be when you figure it all out. That's what happened to me!

7. Find out if there are any programs at your school to help familiarize you with certain specialties. 

My school has an ortho track, oral surgery track, academic/teaching track, several pediatric and craniofacial selectives, a special endodontic selective, and weekly conferences/rounds where different specialties present cases. These are good opportunities to scope out the field at your school.

In conclusion..

If you're already in dental school, worrying about specializing likely qualifies as a first world problem. Dentistry is overflowing with new things to learn - new clinical techniques, new gadgets, new leadership strategies, etc. If you ask any of our clinical faculty, I think everyone will tell you that dentistry is truly a lifelong practice - one that never gets boring. You've already made the hard decision of deciding which area of the body you want to focus on for the rest of your life by not going to medical school. Good luck! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dentatonix = dentistry + lots of music love :)

When I think back on hobbies that randomly changed my life, two come to mind..

1) high school yearbook
2) acapella

And now when I think about it, I've actually been doing choir/acapella for a longg time now. I started out singing in choir in high school as a freshman, and joined the women's acapella group in my junior year. When I got to Berkeley, one of the major reasons I actually went to Berkeley was that the Golden Overtones, the only women's acapella group, was so so cool. I just wanted to be a tone :) And when I got there, I spent one year living that life, and eventually switched to a co-ed group with a (fortunately for my pre-dent life) decreased time commitment.

So that comes out to... lets see.. add the 2.. carry the 1.. TEN YEARS OF ACAPELLA!!

That is almost half of my life. It's weird, because now, acapella and singing have just become integral parts of my life. Most recently, I decided not to do an event because there's just not enough time to balance everything else that needs to happen in the next couple of months..

But here's a little musical trip down memory lane :)

D1, 2014 - The year Dentatonix was born! ASB Variety Show - One Republic Medley

D2, 2015 - The year we performed at the school's 50th Anniversary Gala, and added "Somebody to Love" to our set

Same set with "Somebody to Love", just a little more comfortable in our scrubs :)

Yup, I'm a huge acapella dork and it's been a lot of fun.. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Maxillary Sinus Lift Workshop

Over the weekend, the periodontal and implant orgs put on an implant workshop where we learned how to do sinus lifts on goat heads.

You may be asking, what is a sinus lift? Well in order to place implants, there needs to be a certain depth of alveolar bone available for the implant to have stability within the jaw bones. The only issue for implant placement in the maxilla (upper jaw) is that there are sinuses, or air-filled spaces, that comprise your midface, and if the floor of the maxillary sinus is too low, then an implant may not have the sufficient height of bone necessary to be placed. So in these instances, a maxillary sinus lift literally goes and lifts the floor of the sinus, and replaces that negative space with bone graft so you can come back and place an implant.

Pretty cool stuff :) It's always nice to take something that you've learned about in class and physically do it. Though random sidenote, an interesting quality you learn to develop as a dental student is to take something that is pure theory/fact in your mind, and learn to execute it with baseline proficiency the first time.. since your test subjects are always people, you don't really have any other choice. It's a strange kind of situation - I mean, we all practiced our first injections on our classmates, learned how to administer nitrous on each other, had to drill on a real tooth for the first time on a live human.. etc.

Fortunately, I think we put enough pressure on ourselves to simply not mess up (too badly), and kind of level up through the years in terms of the ability to bridge that knowledge-to-practice gap a little more seamlessly. Plus, as a student, there's always faculty or someone around to bail you out in case anything does go wrong.. Though I guess this doesn't exist once you start taking CE courses, etc and are responsible for yourself in the "real world".

Speaking of the real world, that's right around the corner for me. I wonder what it will be like..

Monday, March 7, 2016

Third Year Life Thoughts

I was just eating dinner with my roommate when we realized that 1) our kitchen is very messy and 2) our table has a lot of random things on it that don't typically belong on kitchen tables. But it's not weird because it's just our life.
Third year is full of surprises and changes. At UCLA, it's when you start rotating through each of the different specialties and get to see how all the different facets of dentistry fit together. This was one of the most identity-challenging aspects of dental school for me, because this is where I started to see, and maybe even accept, that some aspects of dentistry just aren't for me.

At some point, you finally have to let go of that "hard work" card, and just realize that you're a fish. Sure, being a bird would be wonderful. While hard work may help you feel more and more like a bird, and maybe you'll have small victories where you can propel your body out of the water.. you're simply better as a fish. Maybe it's actually braver to understand that, and use that to your advantage. I have difficulty coming to terms with the idea that hard work doesn't solve everything. Sometimes, happiness is the answer. Probably most times. But then my roommate reminded me that maybe it's better to be mediocre at something you love than amazing at something you don't. (Also, you should check this out because all of it is so real.)

Other third year surprises: You start really caring for your own patients for the first time, and I think its quite life-consuming. I often find myself wondering how that filling I just did is doing. As a student at UCLA, you are operating a one-woman (or one-man) dental office. You are your front desk staff. You are your dental assistant. You are your own in-house psychologist. And of course, you are the dentist. I gotta be honest, it's rough. But.. rewarding. Funny at times. And always very revealing about your character, as well as the nature of people.

Other thought, I've learned its absolutely necessary to find ways to be happy every step of the way or else one day, this huge mountain of expectations will come crumbling down because you've deferred happiness for such a long time.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

And this is how life works

D3 is the year that you start your block schedule. What this means is that you have rotations through different specialties and areas of training so that you can kinda get your hands wet in the different fields of dentistry. Rotations include pediatrics, radiology, oral diagnosis, oral surgery, periodontics, general dentistry at the VA, and a couple others I'm sure I just forgot to mention.

One of those blocks is called the Systems Based Healthcare/Interprofessional Education, where we basically team up third year dental, medical, and nursing students, and all talk about some common themes to our professions.

This past week was our first session, and it was all centered on team building. To be honest, upperclassmen have told me that it just ends up being a therapy/complaining session, and I'd say for the most part it lived up to my expectation. However, one exercise that we did actually had some pretty interesting life applications.

The idea was that we had this box of tinker toys (they're like legos, or K'nex<--I LOVED THAT STUFF) but anyway, we had a bunch of pieces which we were only able to look at (we weren't allowed to try to fit them together) and our team of 9 students had to figure out a plan to build the tallest free-standing structure possible over a 10 minute planning period. Then we had ~5 min to execute.

So we did what students usually do - we came up with a pretty elaborate plan, strategizing ways to scaffold the structure and best utilize the pieces as we saw fit. At the end of the ten minutes, we felt pretty ready to complete the task. I mean, it couldn't be that hard right?

The funny thing was, the moment we could touch the pieces and start fitting them together, we all realized that our plan had some major flaws - pieces didn't fit; some didn't have the correct angulation. Within the first minute, we completely scrapped our plan. Though we thought we knew the pieces well enough to devise a thorough plan - it really didn't work out remotely close to what we thought it would.

Still, at the end of our building time, we created something that was pretty darn tall. One of my classmates kept reminding us, "all that matters is how tall the building is!!!" And we all had to shut down our micromanagement/OCD instincts and keep building it up and up, no matter how funny it looked.

As I sat there, I immediately thought that this exercise really accurately describes how life works. You see all the pieces - you see your role models and you think that is the life you want. You shadow, and volunteer, and ask questions, and investigate and just keep researching. You see how much respect they have. You see what awesome things they are capable of. And then you think to yourself, this must be exactly what I want. I am certain, this is the correct plan to build the tallest building, and I've got to follow it to the end.

What many dental students will probably tell you, however, is that dental school is not at all what they expected it to be. What that means, is that there is so much about dentistry, so much that goes on behind the scenes, that it's really impossible to know what you are truly getting yourself into. If you are a dental student reading this, you might be able to relate - who would have thought that dentures take so damn long? Who would have known that endodontists are the unicorn magicians of dentistry? Who would have known that S-curves and exit angles and convergence and divergence would mean so much? Who would have known how crappy it is to have your amalgam marginal ridge fracture when you're pulling off the matrix band for a class II restoration??

However, if we're going to continue with my cheesy life analogy, here's the cool part.

Even if your perfect plan for a tall building fails, your building can still be tall. 

No matter what you are doing, there is a way to find meaning, purpose, and honor in what you are doing right now. Life has this really funny way of just plopping things in front of you. What I've found, is you just do what you can, and you run with it. And as you look back, there is this magical thread connecting everything together, which you could have never seen without every piece you've got so far.

Anyway, this is just another one of those times where I sit and ponder universe things, so there you go.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Honduras Dental Mission Trip September 2015

Back in 2012, I went to Jamaica as a pre-dental student with dentists and dental students from UCSF, and that was when I first realized how much great work you can do in the world as a dentist. Through dentistry, your hands can give people freedom from pain, shame, and insecurity. So from September 6th-16th, I went with a group of 7 classmates, 2 pre-dental students, and 1 lead dentist to Guaimaca, Honduras to set up shop at a church in Guaimaca.

And now, for some real talk.

This has been a difficult post for me to write because:
1) It's obvious that free dental care in any part of the world will be appreciated and I don't want to make us sound like saints. We're not.
2) While I was completely thrilled by the chance to volunteer, I was also really troubled being in Honduras.. I will reiterate this in the most cliche way out there.. but really, life is just not fair. 

Here's a random word cloud of how I experienced Guaimaca, Honduras:

Donde duele?
Juice bags hanging from people's mouths.
"I have black on my teeth".
Brushing teeth with bottled water.
Bugspray all day, every day.
Stray dogs everywhere that were only skin and bones.
Can't eat fruits or vegetables D:
22 Lempiras to 1 dollar, and apparently, 500 lempiras is a lot of money (do the math, thats only ~$25)
Lots of people sitting on porches, doing nothing.
Unpaved roads.
Pan dulce.
Kids playing with floss because they think it's a toy.
I don't feel safe.
"Well of course, I want to be in America.. but.. you know, I can't."
So much calculus, that just looks like hard cottage cheese.

I thought about spin classes, and Trader Joe's and tap water, and fluoridation, and how I really wished I had my electric tooth brush. And above all, I was reminded how blessed I am to have the opportunity to have the education and career that I want for myself. Man.. we really have it good. I felt so spoiled, sitting in my air-conditioned room, dreading being outside.. and feeling like I couldn't go anywhere on my own because it just wasn't safe for a woman - especially one who looked so different from everyone else. Sidenote: I swear, we were the only asians in the entire country lol.

Would I go again? Absolutely. Do I feel like I made a difference? Like how volunteer trips are "supposed" to make you feel? No. It felt pretty hopeless because I know these restorations will fail because their oral hygiene will not change.. but.. at least we did what we could.

And now I will leave you with a picture of me, talking to a kid who was not happy with me for pulling his tooth. lol poor little guy. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Stay Humble, Hustle Hard

I've officially hit a quarter century. My 25th birthday was a couple days ago, and I've got to say it feels a little strange. I'm now smack dab in the middle of my twenties, entering my late twenties, and to be honest, haven't got a clue in the world what I want to do with my life.

Some dental school shenanigans with my birthday twin. 

One of the huge blessings of going to UCLA for dental school is that since we don't have a grading system, and rather are pass/no pass/honors, we're not really barred from applying to any types of specialty programs due to bad grades, etc. At the same time, it's difficult for us to stand out amongst each other if many of us are applying to the same programs. That being said, I was talking to one of my friends at another dental school the other day, and she was saying that she "probably couldn't get into that residency anyway" because her scores weren't good enough.

While I'm definitely thankful for UCLA's grading system, the other side of this coin is that this excessive freedom to choose can be overwhelming. Something I've realized as a dental student is that as long as you have good hands and a good head on your shoulders, you're really capable of pursuing anything - it's just a matter of if it's something you want to dedicate your career to. And I mean, it's a little ridiculous. When I was an undergrad, I had very grandiose dreams of what it would be like to be a dental student. Now I'm here, and I'm over it. Well not over it as in I'm not happy, but the charm that shrouded my oblivion has largely dissipated. Now I know what I have accomplished, and I just want to figure out my next step. But pre-clinical lab doesn't really allow you to see where you're going.. if that makes any sense. It doesn't magically reveal to you what you like, and what you won't.. and you will never know if you made the right choice until you've already made it and it is already shaping your life.

And the way I see it, people have dreams of traveling the world, and of seeing certain places and experiencing certain things - but I have this weird dream to just know as much as possible. It's this feeling that if I've reached a quarter of a century, hopefully about a quarter of my life, that the things I will leave this world having accomplished and having experienced will be a life in full.

Another notable pattern I've seen at UCLA over and over again, is that the female faculty here are BOSS. LIKE SUPER BOSS STATUS. My professors in oral pathology, oral medicine, prosthodontics, periodontics, orthodontics.. there are just so many powerhouse women at this school, and it makes me see over and over again that whatever I do, I just hope I do it well. I hope that one day, I'm like these women who always inspire me to keep going, to encourage others, and to live with grace.

So as if I haven't reiterated enough, I'm 25 now, and I've given myself until 45 to be a rockstar. I have 20 years to do whatever the hell I want and just be awesome at it. So until then, just gotta stick to the motto - stay humble, hustle hard. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

My Favorite Paleo Bread Recipe!

I'm still 24, and I'll be rounding the quarter-century mark in about a month. And as I approach 25, something I hear strangely often, is that "your body just hits a wall when you reach 25".

Okay, I've given myself until about 40 to be a rockstar, so that whole 25 is the end of your life business doesn't sit well with me, but regardless, I've been trying to eat healthier on this home stretch to 25. A couple ways I've been doing that is by going to a bunch of new fitness classes through Classpass - yoga, boxing, spin, crossfit (don't hate), pilates.. etc. And my next big way has been to change my diet to a friendlier version of paleo - no grains, no processed food - but I've kept soy. 

If you've tried going paleo or keto in the past, one of the things I miss most is bread - it's so convenient to throw together an almond butter and banana sandwich, or put some lunch meat on a slice of bread and call it a day. 

I've tried a couple of paleo bread recipes, and my first 2 were honestly, pretty awful. They were overly eggy, and just.. didn't look right.. I suppose. So now I've fiddled around with some recipes, and here's my favorite of the bunch! And if you're looking for an awesome paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe, check out my go-to here

Rachel's Favorite Paleo Bread Recipe! 

  • 1/2 cup cashew butter or almond butter 
  • 3 large eggs (separate yolks from whites)
  • 1/3 cup of egg whites 
  • 2 tbsp of honey 
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt (but if your nut butter is pre-salted, don't add anymore) 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  • Mix the egg yolks, honey, nut butter, almond milk, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil in a bowl. 
  • Beat all egg whites (3 egg whites + 1/3 cup) with an electric mixer in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form.
  • Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl - coconut flour, arrowroot flour, baking soda, salt.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until just incorporated.
  • Fold egg whites into the dry + wet ingredients mixture.
  • Place a dish with water underneath (this is supposed to keep the bread a lighter color and I think... it's fluffier?? lol, idk). Bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden brown! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lab Olympics, Ortho, and a Bumble Bee Lunch Bag

What do those three have in common?

Absolutely nothing - but here's a quick update on D2 Spring quarter living.
First of all, it's great. There's so much more time than we've ever had before; I can sleep my 6-8 hours a day, go to the gym, meal prep, and do fun things like other normal human beings.

Today marks exactly 1 year since our school's last "Lab Olympics" - where you and your classmates compete against other classes in different categories, like the off-hand Class I, the 5 minute PFM crown, wax sculpture-making, and the 10 minute MOD relay! Last year, my team won first place in the MOD inlay category, and this year, one of our instructors was blindly judging typodonts and called ours a "hackjob".. but who cares because we got 2nd place anyway! Haha :) So here's a little trip down memory lane..
Check out Alan's 1st place work for the off-hand Class I on #19!! 
Practicing drilling left-handed...

Also, this year we have our first Ortho Techniques lab course, where we learn the basics of orthodontic treatment! Here's a project we did most recently. We set our typodont teeth in pink denture wax, had our instructors move the teeth around, and then used NiTi and stainless steel wires to level & align/finish the teeth into the correct place. Mine didn't work out so great because the brackets kept popping off (we used super glue instead of actual bond + cement), but here's what it looks like in case you're curious!

And last but not least, here's a picture of one of my favorite third years :) She's tiny and adorable and she always brightens my day :) :)