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 :) :)

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Struggle Olympics: Why You Shouldn't Join In

In conclusion of winter quarter, I really wanted to write about a phenomenon that happened quite often over those absolutely dreadful 10 weeks.

As a second year student in the middle of winter quarter, walking into pre-clinical lab was often like walking into a sea of woes. You sit down at your lab bench, ready to embark on your own adventure of failure after repeated failure, when a classmate turns to you. With weary eyes, and slumping shoulders, they turn to you clutching a molar filled with endo files and begin an all too familiar sentence, claiming - "You will not believe how shitty this has been.."

And so begins their account of an epic saga of struggle. Your classmate explains how they had to take exactly one whole million radiographs in order to get their IAF - and finally their MAF - and now their master cone. And after all that was done, they found a surprise fourth canal, yippee! Their gutta percha extruded out the apex and fragmented off into the land of no return. They didn't realize they perf-ed but indeed, they did. And as this classmate continues to explain their sorrows, maybe you can't help but wait for them to finish their sentence, because "Oh boy if you think that's bad.. well let me tell you how my day has been.."

The struggle olympics is something that professional students everywhere face. Actually, let me rephrase - the struggle olympics is something that people of all kinds face - because very simply put, people need to know that their struggles are validated. No matter your profession, pain is pain. One day, I was driving home and listening to this really amazing, honest podcast on TED Radio Hour titled, "Keeping Secrets". A story that was hilighted was by speaker Ash Beckham, who shared about her coming out story as a gay woman. Her talk focused on how the "coming out" experience can be applied to anyone - a closet is just a hard experience.
"Although our closets vary tremendously, the experience of coming out of the closet is universal.. Inside the dark, you can't tell what color the walls are. You just know what it feels like to be in a closet. So really, my closet is no different than yours, or yours. Sure, I'll give you a hundred reasons why coming out of my closet was hard, but hard is not relative - hard is hard. There is no harder, there is just hard. We need to stop ranking our hard against everyone else's hard and just commiserate on the fact that we all experience hard. No matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live."
Though her main point is about the difficulty of having hard conversations, the point that I want to emphasize is that instead of spending our energy topping someone else's bad day with our own sob story, let's just stop participating in the struggle olympics. Something I realized in dental school is that no patient, no friend, no family member (unless they are a dentist themselves) can fully understand our struggle. According to an article from the Boston Globe, "Empathy Gap in Medical Students", the overwhelming amount of stress inhibits medical students' ability to remain empathetic toward their patients. Though "empathy is the cornerstone to the doctor-patient relationship", empathy scores when recorded at a student's first year until their fourth year - dropped significantly in a med student's 3rd year of school. Empathy is essential because patient outcomes are drastically improved when a patient can sense how much their doctors care.

As healthcare providers, we have to conserve that empathy for our patients.  Because when your patient sits in your chair, your focus needs to be your patient's needs, 100%. It doesn't matter that you've hard a really hard day and you're tired - you still need to give your best effort in providing excellent care to your patient. In a profession where prevention can so profoundly affect health outcomes, it is absolutely necessary that we express empathy for our patients.

This post isn't at all meant to tout complaining as some horrible thing; I believe complaining is a necessary way of relieving stress, and in all honesty, one of the strongest ways for classmates to connect through shared experiences. My point is that as we continue on as students, we can practice empathy - learn to absorb another's strife when it is presented to us, and respond with comfort and empathy - rather than turning the spotlight on ourselves.

As a friend pointed out, this is one of the many things that is much easier in theory than in practice. So maybe the next time someone tells you about their bad day, practice active listening. Before seeing your next patient, take a couple moments to breathe, and physically smile to yourself! Lately, I've been trying to practice a more selfless attitude, and not being caught up in your own drama helps you realize how small it truly is.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Am I a dentist now?!



I did my first real-live drill and fill procedure today - a composite #20 DO! All those quarters of direct and indirect restoration classes (and here), improving our fine motor skills were exactly for this moment.

Something I didn't realize before dental school is how precise and fine-tuned dentistry truly is. Whenever I would sit in a dentist's chair to get a cavity filled (I have a million cavities and could probably graduate a student, even as a recreational flosser) - I always trusted that they were in complete control and that fillings must be a breeze for them. I thought all cavities were of the same breed - maxillary, mandibular, right, left, anterior, posterior. I was like, they must all be easy by now!! But man, was I wrong. I mean, I'm sure it gets easier with time, but I think we're talking a significant amount of time before these procedures feel like second nature.

As I started my first direct procedure, I also gave my first IAN injection on a patient other than one of  my nervous classmates. I constantly worried about where my needle was - whether or not my anxious patient would fidget or move during the injection.

Then came the hurdle of placing the rubber dam. He had very tight contacts, so that was a battle in itself. When I finally started drilling, my patient would get nervous and start to curl his lips over his teeth and knock into my hand.. all while having a spinning, sharp bur in his mouth!! :O

After I finished my prep and got it checked off by the overseeing instructor, I thought about how in pre-clinical lab, instructors obsess over open margins, overhangs, little fractions of composite sticking around where they shouldn't, etc.. And though that's reasonably frustrating when you're just trying to finish your project and get out of lab, in reality, that obsession is 100% necessary. Having a slight gap in your filling - I'm talking fractions of a millimeter - can cause a patient pain, problems with flossing, and recurrent decay. The work of dentists is amplified by so many magnitudes, where fractions of a millimeter literally translate to the miles of difference between good and bad dentistry. 

On another note, I was lucky because one of my friends was also doing her first filling at the cubicle right across from mine! As newbie 2nd years, our first direct or indirect procedures are done with our 4th year student in our CPC teams, so that the 4th year can assist you (I really don't know how people put rubber dams on patients without help), and bail you out in case something goes wrong.

Here's a couple pics with my classmates who also had their first 2nd year/4th year direct restorations! It was cute that we were all in the same row on the clinic floor. Gotta support that dental school family! :)

So to wrap up, here are some ways that clinic is different than pre-clinical lab..
  1. Positioning the patient is more difficult.. In pre-clinical lab, you can bring them mannequin head low enough so that your arms are perpendicular to the floor, but for a little person like me, the clinic chair actually doesn't go low enough.. So that was a little strange.
  2. Patients can move, so you have to be extra careful with all things pokey.
  3. Patients have gums.. that BLEED! Mannequins don't. Need to take extra care not to cut someone's gums when doing a class II and dropping the box. The dentist I used to shadow told me always to use wedges in the interproximals.
  4. You only have 2 hands.. and as soon as they go in the patient mouth they're "dirty". Maintaining sterile technique is a bit of an internal organizational battle. Taking gloves on and off, rummaging through "clean" drawers, etc.. 
  5. Patients have saliva.. and you don't want to drown your patient.
  6. No one has typodont teeth. 
  7. Patients are real people! Real people with real fears, real pain, and real questions.

Yay dentistry :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Welcome to ENDO.

I haven't been able to post anything about dentistry - mainly because lately dentistry has been consuming my life (as if there are times when that's not the case..)

More specifically - endo has been draining my life away.

This is our first quarter taking an endodontics lab - and unlike other lab classes, we don't even have weekly lab quizzes or additional projects outside of the work we are expected to complete in class. Regardless, the world of endo has been quite an undertaking.

In case you're not familiar, endodontics is the specialty of dentistry involving the removal of infected/inflamed pulp in teeth. All teeth have a crown (the visible part that you traditionally associate with a tooth) as well as a root that keeps the tooth anchored into your upper and lower jaw. Inside the tooth is a small tunnel - or root canal - which contains the nerves and vasculature that innervate and nourish the tooth structure - keeping it vital. When you have any trauma, deep cavities, or infections that reach this root canal where the dental pulp is contained, you have to remove it!

And that's where this endo lab class comes in, as well as my latest bouts of suffering.

First, I'll explain the steps that are involved in an endo procedure, and then I'll mention why they make my life so difficult. Oh, and remember all those human teeth dental students are supposed to collect? Well this class is the reason why! We need real human teeth that contain canals, etc. unlike plastic teeth which are just little blocks of pure plastic.

1. Initial access preparation & coronal flare
In this step, you're essentially creating a deep preparation that allows you to reach the roof of the pulp chamber. The idea is to create an access (aka preparation) that is as conservative as possible.
HOW IT CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE: However, you run into problems when you're using calcified teeth and you can't find the canal. Sometimes, people will "perf" or perforate through the tooth - which is when you don't realize that your bur is not going in the direction of the location of the canal and you drill a little tunnel straight through the crown of the tooth.

2. Cleaning and shaping
This is the classic aspect of endo that has to do with all of the colorful files in little yellow sponges. If you've shadowed in a dental office, or had a root canal therapy performed, maybe you know what I'm talking about. The purpose of these files is to take something that is small enough to fit into the canal and start cleaning all of the necrotic/infected pulp out. The files increase in size - so you're basically increasing the diameter of the canal with a slight taper through filing with a series of endo files!
HOW IT CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE: Sounds easy enough, but depending on how curved the canals are, your little metal files can do something called "transportation" - where you perforate through the root in a NEW direction, SEPARATE from the actual canal, or something called "ledging" - where your file creates little ditches along the inside of the canal. Ideally, you want the root canal to have smooth walls and follow the natural pattern of the canal, so both of these things are bad news (aka, you'll fail your project and you have to go find a new tooth to start all over again)

3. Obturation
So once you've emptied that root canal out, you need to fill it up with something that is biocompatible and can prevent the tooth from harboring new bacteria. You basically start filling up the tooth with these little points called gutta percha, which is a rubbery material that can be heated and reshaped to seal off the canal. In our lab class, we use this method called "lateral condensation"  - which is when you basically stuff your tooth with these thin, cone-shaped gutta percha points, and take a pointy instrument that you can push the GP points to the walls and condense them together so you make space for more cones. More cones means a more dense fill, which means less chances for voids.
HOW IT CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE: Voids. Every step of the way, we have to manually take radiographs (UCLA is pretty oldschool, so we do the whole - take a radiograph, dip it in developer, water, fixer, water in a little darkbox) - and if you see voids in your canal, you gotta take all that stuff out and do it over again. Your gutta percha can also extend out of your canal (so can your files) and shoot out the apex. Which is bad. Even though our instructor likes to say "Gutta percha, never hurtcha!!" I don't know if he truly believes that since significant gutta percha extrusion can mean you have to redo your project.

Sad life :(


Here's the latest project that I completed - a #30 (right mandibular 1st molar). There were so many disasters. SO MANY DISASTERS!! I was in lab for about 15 hours working on this.. But in the end everything worked out. Thank goodness!!!

Hopefully this can give you a small glimpse into the world of endo! Obviously some people really enjoy it.. I don't know if I'm one of those people :p

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Little Things

Today was an exceptionally good day - but it didn't initially seem that way.

I woke up this morning at 7AM to a stream of texts and missed calls  - I thought the spin class I take with one of my friends was supposed to start at 8AM.. Turns out it was actually 7AM.. so I texted her back immediately being like - "OMG IM SO SORRY!!!" and things like that. Esp since it was my turn to drive this morning :p

So anyway, I decide I'm gonna go to KREC instead, and just do some random stuff - row, squat, jumprope - things like that. But lately, I've been trying to do more pushups, and GUESS WHAT PEOPLE!! I did FIFTY PUSH-UPS (not all at one time but still)!! Okay I can see how that may sound really silly - but I used to not be able to do more than 20 in a workout!! So I'm really proud of myself for that.

That was little thing #1. 

On to little thing #2.

I've been kind of frazzled the past two days in an epic hunt for a maxillary premolar. For our endodontics lab class, we need to have extracted teeth with closed apices (so they're fully developed teeth), and straight-ish canals to use on our midterm/practical. My original tooth didn't fit the criteria exactly (even though it passed the initial inspection.. sigh) so I was on this mad search for a premolar. That same friend I accidentally flaked on for spin happened to have an extra jar of teeth, and gave me a premolar that MIRACULOUSLY was great for the case that I needed!! When I developed my x-ray of the tooth and held it under the light to inspect - I was literally like

Many tears of joy. That was little thing #2. Though it was actually a rather big deal so we'll call it little-ish thing #2. 

Little thing #3. 
I had a prophy scheduled for today with a patient that was supposed to be known for being rather grumpy. I managed to take his blood pressure on the first shot which was EXCELLENT (this is the first time I did this people, lol) - but long story short, my patient left the appointment all smiles, talking about his/her dog, and asking if I would be able to do their next cleaning :) So that was an great little thing.

So many little things to discuss, so little time! 
For little thing #4 - this is actually about one of my favorite spots in Westwood.

It's not a bar..
and it's not the gym..

It's the corner stand with coffee samples over at the Trader Joe's in Westwood. 
This is literally one of my top 5 favorite places to be after a long day. I don't know what it is about the ritual of just hanging out in Trader Joe's, perusing the food labels and walking around that makes me feel so comfortable. I usually have to hide my excitement and try to act like a normal human being whenever I walk into Trader Joe's. But yeah. Coffee samples after a long day. It's such a beautiful thing. Which leads me to little thing #5 - who's actually not a thing but a human - this little girl sitting in a stroller caught my eye and started waving and smiling at me!! I was about to die from cuteness overload, but I remained strong, and am alive to tell the tale :)

Then I went to whole foods and bought my favorite chips in the whole world!! Little thing #6!!

But the thing to top it all off was when I got home to check whether or not my garbage disposal was fixed. It's been broken the past 2 days and started to smell gross and I was really annoyed by it because the people hadn't come to fix it. When I walked through the door, here's what I found:


He rescued our small spoon and the garbage disposal works. Makes me want to find this guy and let him know he brightened my day :)

Long story short, it's really nice to be happy again :)

Monday, February 2, 2015

My Sunday Recharge

I love Sundays because I get to attend my favorite spin instructor's class and start the day off right. She only teaches Tuesday and Thursday mornings (when we have school), so I only get to take her class once a week. 

If you've never tried a spin class before, I highly recommend going to one! When I trained for my first half marathon, taking spin classes helped me boost my distance from 5 miles to 10 miles after a couple of classes. I think the main reason is that with endurance running, it's 95% mental - so if you learn how to beat the "I can't do it" mentality during spin classes, it's a lot easier to push yourself harder with distance running. I'm sure you can see how strengthening your mind in that aspect is really helpful for all areas of life. Spin is about making your way through discomfort and learning your limits. And then taking those limits and destroying them!! haha. 

Plus, spin classes are known to burn a ton of calories, and they're a very meditative/introspective form of exercise. Every time I go, I get that runner's high feeling that you get around mile 3 of running - except with spin, you get it within the first 15 minutes of class. I always leave feeling like I sweat out all the negative emotions and frozen Trader Joes tamales that had accumulated in my body over the week in that one 45 minute class :p

And after spin, I head over to church to really start the week off right. One of the things I am most grateful for this quarter is having a car and being able to get to church on my own schedule. As someone who's been a rather fickle christian, something I've consistently noticed is that people who love God have happiness and a sense of peace that is grounded - it just doesn't seem to go away. 

My 24 years and 5 months of living tells me that from a practical viewpoint, this is something that is really hard to come by. 

What do you do to recharge? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The occasional "one step forward, two steps back"

This quarter, we have this class called "Adolescence to Adulthood" which is basically a bi-weekly, hour-long therapy session. It's probably the only class that I'd ever want to pay attention to and sit through on a Friday afternoon, because it's led by one of the coolest professors ever. Every week, he talks to us about different stages of emotional growth, patient-dentist interaction, and other more human aspects of being a healthcare provider.

Here's an interesting slide from one of his lectures:

The thing about dental school is that if you do it the wrong way (and believe me, there are many ways to do it wrong) - your happiness fades very quickly. I know I'm not alone when I say that D2 really wears you down. When I went back home for break, my sister jokingly said to me "Rach, what's wrong? It kinda seems like you lost your sparkle" - and in that moment, I knew exactly what she meant. She was able to pinpoint my main struggle in dental school - the ability to maintain my happiness and sanity during a time when everything just felt too overwhelming. 

I'd gotten to a point where my entire life revolved around dentistry and every day was the same - breathe, sleep (very little) and live dentistry. Up until my sister pointed this out to me - I didn't realize that I'd become so serious. I didn't notice how it had become so difficult for me to laugh about anything - few things were ever funny enough to make me smile. I would respond to jokes a little too sensitively, and spend my hours brooding.  

So when Dr. Woods posted this definition of maturity, what I saw in myself was that for the first time in dental school, I had regressed on a human level. I lost my inner-child - the one that is okay with laughing at myself, making jokes, and simply being happy. My sister was right - I lost my sparkle. 
This definition of maturity is so wise because it shows us how there is a difference between what is child-like, and what is childish. To have child-like wonder, and child-like joy is a beautiful thing that one should never grow "out of". 

For those of you out there who are eager to start dental school - my intention in sharing these personal experiences is not to scare you, but to remind you that these could be the 4 most difficult years of your life. Be aware of yourself - and here's the upside - nothing is permanent. Once I realized how my perspective was slipping, I started doing everything I could to get it back.

Personally, this meant bringing it all back to God. Being a christian in dental school is tough - there are only a handful of us, and that dental school life is weary business. Another way was to immerse myself in better music. I go to the gym and to spin classes with my friends as alternative way to feel better about myself. I listen to podcasts on the morning walk from my apartment to class. I talk to my sister and my family more frequently and try to remind them how much I love them, and how much they mean to me.

Everyone faces these struggles and stresses differently. Maybe some of these methods can help you, maybe not. If you're struggling now, just remember there's always a way out. This is one of the best learning and growing experiences, and there is no achievement without trial. Good luck, and you're never alone! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

D2 Winter: Mid-Quarter Update

So when people told me that D2 winter quarter was going to be hellish, they absolutely were not joking.

Here's a look at our schedule for winter quarter:

So what that comes out to, is 8AM-5PM almost every day, except for Wednesdays and Thursdays if you decide not to schedule any patients. We have 4 lab classes - Direct Restoration, Indirect Restoration, Endodontics, and Dentures. Let me tell you, all this lab means that you are never really "done". There's always something else to do, and that's not even including all your studying for academic/didactic classes. 

I've been trying to document the things that I do, but it's been so difficult since D2 has been moving so incredibly fast. There is barely even a moment of breathing room. For the past couple weeks, we've all been studying for this oral pathology test which included a bunch of histology - where we learned the names (and had to be able to recall) like 100 different cysts/lesions/tumor/conditions and on top of that, be able to spell them correctly. So my brain has just been filled with "Papillary Cystadenoma Lymphomatosum" and "Encephalotrigeminal Angiomatosis" - and other things of that nature - and every time I'd go to a cafe to study, and there are these images of warty skin and gross tumors and things of that nature, I just felt really bad for everyone sitting near me. lol. 

But lets see.. What's happened so far.. 
So my friend and I are co-editors in chief of our school's newsletter and we released the fall issue of The Diastema! It took so much time and our staff worked really hard on it - but the final product is always worth it :) Here's the cover, and here's the link if you'd like to read the issue :)