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 500px.com

Mario Kart Halloween by Stephanie T (stephizmo) on 500px.com 
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 500px.com

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.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 39: 29-Hours In the Life of a First Year Dental Student, Part 1

I wasn't chosen to be a student ambassador.

I can say that I was sufficiently bummed yesterday at 7:30am in the morning when I found out the news from an eloquently penned rejection email. It took me a while to set aside my hurt, mull over the situation, and realize that I can make just as much of an impact on future dental students via my photos and firsthand stories. You don't actually have to have a designated title of "student ambassador" in order to be an ambassador of something you care about.

Without further ado, here is 29-Hours in the Life of a First Year Dental Student


Six weeks into the school year, we have finally finished our second PBL case! It's 9am in the morning and all 144 of the first years (well, minus a few stragglers) are sitting in the fourth floor lecture hall for case closing. At the end of every case, faculty organize a case closing lecture where they present on the important topics we should have learned and address any lingering questions that we may have.

Our second case dealt with topics such as legal paperwork, patient relations, and x-ray radiography. Truth be told, it wasn't a case that I particularly enjoyed. I feel like legal issues in dentistry, paperwork, and patient relations could be more efficiently presented in a two hour lecture setting rather than a three week PBL case. But that is just my humble opinion. 

10:30am marks the start of our dental morphology lecture. This week, we are learning about everything you could ever want to know about anterior teeth. Lobes, grooves, ridges, cingulums, cusps, average width, average height, etc.

Our lunch break starts at noon and fortunately, today was the first time we were able to get out of morphology lecture before 12pm. I quickly eat lunch in the student lounge and then head over to the parking lot to buy a set of Dental Decks and some used NBDE preparation books from a third year dental student. 

1pm - 5pm = Morphology lab. This week, we started wax-ups (building up a tooth using wax) on the maxillary and mandibular anterior teeth.
Dental School

Our first task was learning how to handle wax and use an electric waxer by writing our name and "USC" on a flat surface.

Dental School

Then we drilled off half of an anterior tooth. Our goal was to use wax to recreate the morphology of the tooth structure that was lost. Pictures of the final wax-up coming soon

5pm - 6pm: Lucy Hobbs Society meeting on the first floor. Named after Dr. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, the first female to graduate from dental school in America, the society seeks to provide mentors for female first year dental students.

6pm - 9pm: Our first practical exam for amalgam is taking place the upcoming Monday. As a result, the sim lab is packed with first years practicing their Class I preps and amalgam condensation/carving.

Dental School Sim Lab

I'm not familiar with the standards at other dental schools. However, the clinical standards at USC are rather stringent. Faculty and students TAs alike demand perfection in all of our projects.

Dental School Sim Lab 
In our preclinical courses, we are graded on a letter scale in which a "T" is equivalent to failing. Small missteps such as having a cavity prep that is tenths of a millimeter too wide or tenths of a millimeter too deep result in a "T". Only the truly obsessive-compulsive members of our population can tolerate the stresses of dentistry.

Dental School Bur Block
Dental School Class I Amalgam Prep

Above is my practice Class I prep on tooth #19 (the mandibular left first molar).

9pm: I walk down from the 3rd floor SIM Lab to visit some fourth year friends in the 2nd floor clinic. I enjoy being in the 2nd floor clinic because it forces me to remember the big picture - everything that we do in SIM lab is preparing us to become excellent clinicians during our third and fourth year of dental school.