Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Little Dose of Reminiscence

In my spare time from dental school, I work as a freelance photographer for real estate agents. Basically, I take pictures of houses that they are selling. I'm not one of those professional photographers who hauls around thousand dollar cameras and nine speedlights. I guess I'm a low-key photographer, armed with only my trusty Nikon D5100 and Photoshop.

Anyhow, the point of this story is that I was taking pictures of a house in Hacienda Heights last week - my childhood hometown. On my way to the property, I managed to drive by not one, but TWO of the elementary schools I attended. 

Los Altos Elementary School - the school I attended from 1st - 2nd grade.
It was a strange feeling, revisiting building blocks from your past. I couldn't help but park my car on the side of the road and snap a few pictures.

Los Molinos Elementary School - the school I attended from 3rd - 4th grade.

Elementary school reunions don't exist. Many of the people who attend elementary school together wind up attending the same high school. But for those who moved to a different city during elementary school, you never get to see these people again. Sometimes I flip through my yearbooks and wonder how my former classmates are doing. Sometimes I wonder where they are living, who they have become, what college they attended, and whether or not they are successful now. What happened to Melissa, the girl who invited me to her 7th birthday party? What happened to Alex, my best guy friend in first grade?

I still find it strange when I drive through the towns where I grew up and have since overgrown. It's like accidentally running into someone you once knew many years ago. I wonder how much of it has changed? How much of it has stayed the same? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dental School Admissions D-Day - Recollections of a First Year

December 1.

Otherwise known as dental school admissions decision day.

Or doomsday, a more accurate description of my experience.

I remember the day vividly in the back of my head, like a nightmare I simply can't let go of. I intended to write a blog post about "December 1st" last year but it took me almost a year to come to terms with my recollections from that day.

It was a Thursday, the last day of an excruciatingly long week filled with presentations, papers, and my senior project in kinesiology. It was a week that I believed would make me or break me and dental school admissions was the last hurdle. I woke up at 7am that morning, dizzy with excitement, anticipation, and dread. But ever the optimist, I was certain there would be nothing but good news. I lay in bed with my laptop perched on my lap. Four tabs were open - the AADSAS portal, the USC Dental School admissions portal, my email, and the Student Doctor Network forum. I kept hitting the refresh button all morning, awaiting an admissions decision to pop up (hopefully good news!).

So I pressed refresh.
Then refresh again.

Again and again, each time getting slightly more desperate and hopeless until I finally admitted defeat around noon.

I was devastated. I was heartbroken. I sat on my bed, paralyzed with disappointment. What do I do next? How do I get on with my life? I had no answer. So I wallowed in despair with a giant tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream and shut down my computer. I couldn't stand to see another "WOOHOO!! I'M GONNA BE A DENTIST!!!!" status update on Facebook or SDN.

The moral of the story is that life goes on. It really does.

I eventually received my acceptance letter to the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC on January 13, 2012. Friday the 13th, ironically. I also received two other dental school interview invites in late January - one at the University of the Pacific (my dream dental school since freshman year) and the other at Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ASDOH). I was accepted to both of these dental schools about two months after my interview.

We put so much of our hopes and expectations on a December 1st acceptance but at the end of the day, an acceptance to dental school is an acceptance to dental school. Come dental school matriculation in August, it makes no difference whether you were accepted on December 1st at 8am or later during the application cycle in May. A December 1st acceptance would provide peace of mind throughout the holidays but heck, one guy in our class was accepted the day before orientation started!

So for those of you who were accepted to dental school today, congratulations!

For those who were accepted to the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (Class of 2017), FIGHT ON! and join our Facebook group.

For those of you who didn't hear back from dental schools today, don't lose hope!
December 1, 2011 was depressing as hell for me but fast forward one year, I am now a first year dental student!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

iPhone Photo Dump from My First Trimester of Dental School

Here are a myriad of iPhone pictures that I took during the first trimester of dental school. Excuse my lack of posts for the next two weeks as I prepare for the ultimate battle - final examinations...

Our first week of dental school - taking impressions and making casts.
Fun times trimming our casts (aka. waiting in line for 30 minutes to trim a cast because there are only 6 model trimmers for 144 students...)
First football game of the season - USC v. Hawaii
Breakfast at The Griddle in Hollywood.
The AMAZING cheesecake french toast from The Griddle!
Concept map for our second PBL case.
Trying to figure out the physics and chemistry behind radiographs with my PBL group.
Radiology rotation with our good friend Dexter.
My first set of bitewing and periapical radiographs.
Cranial nerves...
Results from our first timed practical exam (TPX). I did pretty well - 95/100 on the Class I Prep and 70/75 on the amalgam condensation!
Trip to Chicago for the ASDA National Leadership Conference.
Visiting a tea shop in Chicago.
The Ferris Wheel at Conquest.
Watching Childish Gambino perform at Conquest.
Thanksgiving feast during our PBL session. Our facilitator even brought a box of doughnuts!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


In between copious amounts of readings on periodontitis and attempts at practicing Class II preps, there's always time for a dental school Halloween masquerade.

Mario Kart Halloween by Stephanie T (stephizmo) on

Mario Kart Halloween by Stephanie T (stephizmo) on 
So here I am, reliving my childhood glory days of Mario Karts amidst the plethora of girls dressed up for Halloween in 5-inch heels and too-short-dresses as sexy cougars, or leopards, or cats, or cheetahs, or tigers, or bears, or bunnies, or raccoons, or maybe even pandas.

I'm slightly judging the girls, except for my roommate. I think she looks adorable! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 54: Surviving Midterms

Midterm week for first year dental students can be defined as crazyinsaneroughexhaustingunhealthystressfulwth all lumped together. Looking back, I only totalled about 6 hours of sleep during the first two days of midterms. Preparing for the triple jump (T3) exam pretty much killed any semblance of a normal circadian rhythm in my body. What's sad is that I actually got more sleep than MANY of my classmates.

Dental School First Year Midterm Schedule

  • Exhibit A: Me gorging on on extra large bag of Cheeto puffs at 2am while studying for the MCQ exam. Did you know that one serving of Cheeto puffs (13 pieces) contains 144 calories, 15% of your daily recommended fat intake, 7% of your recommended saturated fat intake, and 12% of your daily recommended sodium intake? Midterms are definitely UNHEALTHY. 
  • Exhibit B: Me falling asleep during the COMBOT midterm because I only got 2.5 hours of sleep the night before (thanks to triple jump presentations). COMBOT is a computerized test where you have one minute to identify specific structures or landmarks on a diagram (i.e. which cranial nerve is the arrow pointing to). After one minute, the screen switches to the next diagram and you can't go back to the previous question. I put my head down after answering question #55 and when I woke up again from my slumber, the computer was already broadcasting question #58. FAIL...
  • Exhibit C: My exasperated groan when I realize that it's 11:30pm and I have 7 lectures to review for the morphology midterm. And the fourth lecture on occlusion contains 122 slides...
  • Exhibit D: Trying to finish a drawing of an anterior tooth and a wax-up of the mandibular central incisor in less than 2 hours. Two hours may seem like a lot of time, but it's not. Especially if your near perfect wax-up suddenly chips off midway through the exam. HIGHLY STRESSFUL. 
  • Exhibit E: Apparently they conduct dental school interviews during the week of midterms. Basically, all of the dental school interviewees get to witness us in our most ungraceful zombie-like state of being. I bumped into a group of interviewees when I exited from my T3 presentation, right as I was about to collapse from exhaustion. The interviewees also walked into Guggenheim right before our morphology midterm. They were treated to a scene of first year dental students wired on energy drinks and having anxiety attacks over the contents of the morphology midterm.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 44: Posselt's Banana

The topic of discussion in our dental morphology review session today: Posselt's Banana.

This clip seems quite appropriate for our running 'banana' jokes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 42: ASDA Rep

Remember how I was bummed about not being chosen as a student ambassador?

Well, it turns out that I was selected to be USC Class of 2016 student representative for ASDA! I never truly believed that I would win the position of student rep - there were over 40 students vying for this 1 position.

Prior to entering dental school, I made a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in dental school. Clearly, the dental gods were listening to my fervent prayers because getting involved with organized dentistry on a national level was one of my goals. I believe that it is important to expand your boundaries as a student and meet people and mentors from diverse backgrounds. I believe that it is important to get involved in something on a national level, away from the confines of home. Sometimes dental students pigeonhole themselves into a constant routine of books, tests, and sim lab without ever seeing the bigger picture of dentistry. It's a trap that I vowed not to fall into as I matured into an old, jaded dental student.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to represent our school at ASDA. I'm excited about the opportunities to travel around the country and the new experiences/people that I will meet.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Roomie!

My roommate is turning 22 this weekend so we went out to celebrate at Salvage Bar and Lounge in Downtown Los Angeles. 

Dental School Party
Barely 22 years of age, she's one of the youngest in our dental school class. The fact that I'm only four months older than her makes me... also one of the youngest in our dental school class. 

Dental School Party

The composition of students in our class is rather novel to me. Most of my classmates aren't the same age as me anymore. Many of those who I hang out with are one or two years older than me. But there are some classmates who are nearly two decades older than me.

Dental School Party

The thing is, most people don't matriculate into dental school straight out of college. Actually, it seems quite abnormal to start dental school right after college. Many of my classmates had jobs prior to dental school. Some are older, hitting the age of "settling down" and "long-term relationships". Some people are married. Some people even have children.

Seriously, I've never talked to peers about their children before I started dental school.

Untitled by Stephanie T (stephizmo) on

But having a hodgepodge of people with different backgrounds and life experiences simply serve to make our class more diverse. And even for a person who grew up in a very homogenous Asian town amongst peers who were the exact same age as me, I think that diversity is a good thing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 40: 29-Hours in the Life of a First Year Dental Student, Part 2

(continuation of Part 1)

10:25pm: arrive back at my apartment and silently facepalm when I realize how much work I still have to do. My learning need for our new PBL case is due tomorrow and I have barely started. My learning need also happens to be on the anatomy and function of ALL 12 CRANIAL NERVES...

How am I supposed to create a concise learning need when people have written an entire book solely on cranial nerves?!

12:30am: I finally close my laptop and admit defeat. There is no way I'm going to finish my learning need tonight. I collapse in bed and set my alarm for 5am.


5:21am: The sun isn't even out yet as I reluctantly roll out of bed and attempt to finish my learning need. Did you know that the trigeminal nerve (CN 5) has three branches: ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular branch? Did you know that the vestibulocochlear nerve (CN 8) controls balance? 

My learning need turned out to be 19 pages even after I condensed everything into size 10.5 font. Let me just clarify that this is NOT the length of a normal learning need. Usually, our topics are not as extensive and all-encompassing. 

8am: Loupes fair in the student lounge at school. Today is the day that we finally get to order loupes. There are so many factors to consider when buying loupes: what frame to get? how much magnification? through-the-lens (TTL) or flip ups? prismatic lenses or Galilean lenses? how much will all of this cost me? 

Unfortunately, the vendor that I'm buying loupes from was late this morning so I wasn't able to order loupes before my radiology rotation. 

8:30am - 12pm: We had our first radiology rotation this morning where we learned how to take radiographs on Dexter, the dental x-ray teaching and training replica (DXTTER). 

Meet our good friend Dexter. Isn't he a good lookin' feller?

Dental School Dexter Radiology

We paired up to take radiographs on Dexter - I took all the radiographs on the right side and my partner took all of the radiographs on the left side. Together, we compiled a complete full mouth x-ray (FMX). 

Dental School Radiology Rotation

12:15pm: I finished developing the last of my x-ray films in the dark room before heading to lunch with a classmate. Since I never shot with a film camera, I never experienced the joys of working in a dark room until today. The dark, grungy room dimly illuminated by red light with a few x-ray film processors whirring in the background provided the perfect stage for rocking out to Green Day (which was playing on the radio in the background). 

12:20pm: A classmate and I went to get lunch at Lemonade, which is situated on the second floor of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.

Lemonade at USC

2pm: Back to the loupes fair to place my order. After much deliberation, I finally decided to buy the Buddy Holly loupes with 3.5x magnification.

Buddy Holly Loupes

The End.