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Life as a D2

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my D2 year and share my experiences and moments of growth with you all. This week is formally the first week of the last quarter of D2 year, and in an unprecedented fashion, I am writing to you all from the comfort of my 17-year-old twin bed in my hometown of Sacramento, California while remote learning is in action. #zoomuniversity

Anecdotally, in a few words, this is a stereotype of each year of dental school at UCSF.

D1: Drinking water out of a fire hose (just get through it!)

D2: Breathe! Comparatively, it’s a rest station in the marathon/sprint of dental school

D3: Immersing into an unknown world again, this time: Clinic

D4: A blink of an eye year filled with moments of external stress, confidence in the clinic, and self-preparation for real-world dentistry

So let’s dive into D2! Truthfully, I felt pretty academically and socially burnt out after D1 year. I had spent a whole year completely immersed in sim-lab prepping through handfuls of plastic teeth, class, and the dental community that I wanted to remind myself of who I was outside of dental school. I took a much needed 10-day vacation to the Philippines with my wonderful boyfriend and his family and experienced an entirely new culture. It was a breath of fresh air.

I came back to San Francisco recharged and ready to take on my research fellowship program at the San Francisco VA Hospital Oral Surgery Clinic. Being a naval dental officer reservist, I saw this research opportunity as a chance to learn more about the veteran population and the challenges they face in receiving dental care. In summary, I studied the efficacy of botox injections into the muscles of mastication alleviating not only TMD (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder) but also symptoms of PTSD. We have learned in a few lectures that jaw joint problems have traditionally been classified as a cause of muscular, arthritic, or joint dysfunction. Recent literature shows that there is another neurological axis to investigate and… to this day, it was the best learning experience of my life. My PI, Dr. Connelly alongside a few other attendings, pictured below guided me through an incredible learning experience.

I was able to go into the clinic and essentially integrate everything I had learned D1 Year (Head and neck anatomy, pharmacology, systemic physiology, and conducting a proper medical history interview). I worked alongside OMFS and GPR residents to match the patient’s chief complaint symptoms with a correct diagnosis of TMD (often the most challenging part) and draft a treatment plan to manage his or her chronic pain. It was the first time in my professional career that I had to think on my feet and over the course of the summer, I became invested in monitoring and relieving patient’s pain through our clinical study.

When the school year began, I had the honor of presenting my research orally at UCSF’s Research and Clinical Excellence Day for the entire UCSF Dental School students, faculty, and researchers. It was important for me to represent the military community here in San Francisco and address the daily challenges they face after serving our country so that dentists, oral surgeons, psychiatrists, etc. can better serve them. This moment propelled me to present my research at the San Francisco Dental Society Annual Meeting where I felt months of work be validated when I received First Place in the student research competition.

Left: My PI and mentor, Dr. Connelly, and I at the Poster Presentation of UCSF Research and Clinical Excellence Day.

Middle: Presenting orally at RCED for students, faculty, and researchers of UCSF.

Right: My awesome classmates and I presenting our research at the San Francisco Dental Society Annual Meeting.

Since completing this research fellowship, D2 year has for the most part been interesting and chill. Sim lab has really picked up as we continue to practice our clinical skills- we’ve now learned how to make veneers, anterior and posterior 3-5 unit bridges, design removable partial dentures, fabricate a complete denture, and do anterior endo.

E-max preparation for a 3 unit anterior bridge

Outside of the sim lab, we’ve been well immersed in the clinic as well! On Friday afternoons, we work in our clinic groups of three and have safely practiced and delivered effective local anesthesia (that means injections!), nitrous oxide sedation, and a comprehensive oral exam (COE). Other notable procedures we’ve done this year in the clinic are sealants, prophy, and scaling one another’s teeth. Outside of Friday clinic, we have quarterly clinic immersion requirements where we go and assist D3’s, D4’s, or any resident in training, where we can give the local anesthesia to patients and assist in the procedures to increase the efficiency of the student provider.

And what do we do when we’re not in a sim lab, class, or clinic? D2 year is a great time to explore your other professional and academic interests. For me, this has taken in the form of pre-dental outreach by working at the Office of Admissions and Outreach and exploring a career in academia. I’m a fellow in the ADEA Academic Dental Careers Fellowship Program (ADFCP). In this fellowship, I’ve partnered with my good friend and classmate, Ronnel under the mentorship of our faculty, Dr. Essex to evaluate the dental student's willingness and preparedness to treat special care patients. We took three trips to the San Francisco Adult Recreational Center this year with a cohort of D1 and D2 students to provide toothbrush prophylaxis, dental screening, and fluoride varnish to an extremely vulnerable patient population that lacks access to dental care. These activities have largely been my passions outside of my academic and clinic responsibilities. Reflecting back on these projects, they are shaping me into the type of person and dental provider I ultimately want to be!

In summary, D2 year at UCSF is what you make of it. Many of my classmates are passionate about a variety of topics and that’s what makes our class so special. We’re so fortunate that UCSF has opportunities as far as the eye can see and if you are passionate about a matter in dentistry, there are outlets for you to explore. I encourage you all, as pre-dental students, to find your passions early on if you can by exploring the dental profession- this allows you to truly cater to your dental education in a way that best fits you.


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