Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Prioritizing Happiness and Personal Well-Being

Below is a personal piece that I wrote for my Letter to the Editor article. It delves into my struggles this summer, the constant feeling over being overwhelmed and unhappy. It will be published in the October edition of ASDA News. 


Three weeks ago, I was drowning in the frenetic pace of dental school life. It was the tail end of my second year of dental school. Post-it notes dotted my walls, reminding me of tasks I had yet to complete. Dental decks and empty coffee mugs were littered across my table. I was being dragged headfirst through currents of emails, deadlines, meetings, and patient appointments. My days were productive but I was unhappy.
                  I think dental students across the nation can empathize with my daily struggles. Let’s face it. Dental students are overachievers. We are the ones who successfully went through the gamut of obstacle courses to get into dental school. We have the ability to juggle academic, clinic, and extracurricular commitments with finesse. Often, we put these commitments ahead of our personal well-being and happiness.
                  We trade sleep for extra cups of coffee. We sacrifice our livelihoods for better grades, wider campus involvement, higher leadership positions, and more clinic time. Our lives become a never-ending series of need-to-dos and should-have-dones.
                  My tipping point came the day after my part one board examination. Instead of feeling relief, I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety. An onslaught of to-do lists plagued my mind the moment I stepped out of the Prometric testing center – study for finals, write this letter from the editor piece, organize our chapter’s ASDA pre-dental day, respond to emails, start on a research project, follow up with patients, and so forth. Six trimesters into dental school, I was mentally and emotionally burnt out. What was wrong with my life?
                  In the midst of my frustration, I stumbled onto a list of life goals I scribbled onto a sheet of binder paper three years ago. They were the overarching principles that I wanted to define me. “Dedicate myself to a life of love, health, and happiness. Don’t forget to exercise!” read the first line on the paper. It was the summer before I started dental school and life was brimming with hope and promise. I was a newly minted twenty-one year old. Times were simple.
                  How did my priorities in life change so much in three years? When did undervaluing personal well-being and happiness become a part of the dental school experience? When did I forget that success in life and school is also measured by the intangible qualitative factors such as happiness, mental health, and physical well-being?
                  Last week, I decided to take a vacation and escape to Napa, California. I dropped my pile of to-do lists and ignored the looming deadlines. We drove into the vineyard-laden countryside, away from the fast-paced metropolis. It felt foreign to me. We had a full twenty-four hours on our hands and not a single thing on my to-do list. There was time to relax, time to breath, and time to enjoy the moment. For the first time this summer, I was happy.

                  When I think back to the unhappy stretches of my summer, the takeaway is this – your happiness and health are just as important measures of success as the quantitative factors. Less sleep plus more work plus greater achievements does not necessarily make someone successful. Life is about choices. Starting from now, I’m choosing to prioritize my personal well-being. I’m choosing to get that extra hour of sleep. I’m choosing to take time off when I need it. I’m choosing that yoga or dance class instead of staying an extra hour in clinic. I’m choosing to reconnect with friends and family on weekends instead of stressing about school. I’m not casting aside my personal drive for success. I’m simply redefining my metrics of achievement.

Friday, August 1, 2014

10 Things I Learned During My Second Year of Dental School

Last year, I wrote a post called 10 Things I Learned During My First Year of Dental School. It's only fair that I chronicle the 10 things I learned during my second year of dental school.

  1. The honeymoon period is officially over. Remember when you started dental school and people were excited about meeting their classmates? Remember when everyone wanted to hang out with each other every single waking moment of the day? Well, nobody wants to hang out anymore. Your number of "friends" begins to dwindle. Pretty soon, you'll only see two people consistently outside of school. One of those is your roommate. 
  2. If you're single, you are a minority. Sometime in the middle of second year, everyone suddenly decides to become a couple. Your classmates also start getting married left and right.  
  3. It's totally healthy to drink 4-6 cups of coffee a day. Or buy a venti-sized coffee from Starbucks with five extra shots of espresso... 
  4. You learn to fake it till you make it. It might be your first patient ever and you have to do scaling and root planing. "Have you done this before?" asks the patient. "Of course!" you reply cheerily, hiding your obvious panic and trepidation, "I've done this a hundred times". You conveniently leave out the fact that those "hundred times" were done on a typodont in sim lab. 
  5. The Jet liquid used for making dentures acts as an amazing nail polish remover. Especially after you paid $30 for a french manicure the day before...
  6. You will always be broke. Your friends from high school and college are all working at amazing 9-5 jobs. They have a life after 5pm and paid vacations. They are all making exponentially more than you since you are currently raking in negative $118,070 a year. Don't believe me? 
  7. Get used to living in sim lab. You might as well bring dinner, a toothbrush, toothpaste, sleeping bag, pillow, and a change of clothes with you. 
  8. Scrubs become the best wardrobe that mankind has ever invented. Woke up late? Can't decide what to wear? Too lazy to pick out matching outfits? Lost all your fashion sense in dental school? Gained a little too much weight and want to hide it? Just put on a pair of scrubs!
  9. And about that weight gain, your physical fitness will peak at the end of your first year of dental school. When you are setting dentures in sim lab until 11:42pm, the last thing you want to do is go to the gym. And when it's 11:58pm and you haven't eaten dinner yet, the McDonalds down the street becomes awfully tempting. 
  10. Acrylic provisionals are your WORST ENEMY. They tend to throw themselves down the sink, fly halfway across the sim lab, mysteriously shrink in size, crack in half, or pull a disappearing act with the finesse of Houdini five minutes before the end of a practical exam. 
And a bonus one: 
  • No matter how much you study, you will never ever feel prepared for your NBDE Part 1 Boards. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

So I Passed Boards...

Remember when I bragged about how awesome our summer schedule is? Well, I take all of that back... 
This summer has been filled with a monstrosity called the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part 1. Otherwise known as the boards. After one month of studying, two weeks of sheer panic, and eight hours sitting at a Prometric testing site... 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Scenes from CDA Presents 2014

If you haven't attended CDA Presents yet, you should consider going. It's the one weekend where dental nerds from all over California congregate across the street from Disneyland. The weekend is packed with eye-opening seminars, CE courses, exhibitors, and celebrities. Not to mention, free stuff from vendors!

A month ago, I had the opportunity to attend CDA Presents at the Anaheim Convention Center. Below are some snapshots of my experience! 

Brushing my teeth at the Crest/Oral-B station. Only at a dental convention would you find a toothbrushing station in the middle of the convention center! 

Testing out the Opalescence tooth whitening system. 

Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmer attended CDA Presents too! 

Trying out a pair of Designs for Visions loupe. How does it look? 

Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC student delegation at the CDA student networking event later that night. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Links I Love | 02

  • Are you short on cash but need dental work? Go to a dental school! Dental schools offer dental work at a significantly reduced price. You can also get free dental work done during WREBs season in California. WREBs is the dental licensing exam that dental students must take before they can practice in certain states. Other ways to get free or less expensive dental care if you don't have dental insurance
  • If you have a Mac, memorize these keyboard tricks
  • For all bloggers out there - a history of blogging. I feel like I've grown up with the advent of blogging. I started my first blog on Xanga in middle school. Then Blogspot in high school. I dabbled with Tumblr and Wordpress in college. Now I'm back to Blogspot. 
  • Based on cutting edge research, here are 5 powerful nonverbal gestures in communication. 
  • I'll be graduating dental school in 2016 with almost half a million in loans. I'm intimately familiar with student debt. It's hard to get more loans to buy a house if you are already knee-deep in student loan debt. Are student loans killing the housing market

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Overprescribe Recognition

Three weekends ago, I attended the ASDA Spring Council Meeting in Chicago. Leadership development training. Council meetings. Negotiation skills. Writing workshops. We sat through hours upon hours of meetings, armed with a strong cup of coffee in hand.

Through all of this, one statement from former ASDA speaker of the house, Dr. Ryan Dulde, stood out to me. 

Overprescribe recognition

It's a brilliant tactic in leadership. Perhaps even more important in everyday life. 

According to a Harvard Business Review blog article, if you're feeling unappreciated, give someone else credit.  
Appreciation generates the positive emotions that cultivate respect and tolerance for the other person’s beliefs and opinions and actions... But appreciation has to be a two-way street; to create an appreciation culture, the leader has to get the ball rolling. 
Everyone instinctively wants and needs to be appreciated. By expressing appreciation, we create an air of positivity. One of the amazing things that our Editor in Chief of the editorial board does is begin each meeting by recognizing the positive contributions of each individuals and the team. Simply put, doling out recognition. 

There are times when teams are derailed because everyone is playing the credit game. 
By this we mean that everyone focuses on what he or she did personally for the success of the business, denying the contributions of others.  The problem with the credit game is that it’s generally a zero-sum game.  For Jim to win, Jane has to lose.  Placing too much emphasis on individual accomplishments saps everyone’s willingness to sacrifice for a collective goal.
Often, we get trapped in the "I" mentality. I accomplished this. I was instrumental to the success of the project. I played a pivotal role in achieving this goal. We forget to recognize the contributions of others. 

If there is one thing I've learned from ASDA and organized dentistry, it is this: it takes a team to succeed. Every member plays an equally important role in advancing the team. You can't achieve success by working alone. Most of all, you can't sit idly in a sea of resentment because you feel under appreciated. 
You can’t just yell:  “Hey! I’m working my tail off! Appreciate me!”  Appreciation, as Harry found, is like playing catch – you need to throw the ball to have it come back.
As leaders, we should start a chain reaction of positivity by showing heartfelt appreciation to the members of our team. As Dr. Ryan Dulde succinctly stated - overprescribe recognition. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

My 2014 Travel Log

January 2014 | Ringing in the New Year (San Francisco, CA)
San Francisco
San Francisco Ferry Building

February 2014 | American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Annual Session (Anaheim, CA)
ASDA Annual Session Editorial Board Meeting
ASDA Annual Session Disneyland
ASDA Editorial Board

April 2014  | American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Spring Council Meeting (Chicago, IL)
ASDA Editorial Board

April 2014 | Spring Break Vacation (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico)

May 2014 | ASDA District 11 Leadership Retreat (Lake Tahoe, CA) 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Links I Love | 01

I read a lot of blogs. 
Sometimes, I wake up in the morning only to be greeted by 219 new blog posts on my Feedly account. There are so many cool blog posts (dentistry related and not) that I want to share. I think I have finally found my platform! Introducing my new weekly feature - Links I Love

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Transitioning from Pre-Clinical Dentistry

Five trimesters into our dental school education, we have finally graduated from sim lab life. No more typodonts. No more exorbitantly expensive plastic teeth. No more timed practical exams. We now have to deal with real patients who have real teeth and real problems. 

However, the first gate we must jump through this summer is our NBDE Part 1 Exams. The school gives us a light course load this summer to facilitate board exam studying. I haven't seen so much white space in my schedule in a while. Below is my schedule for the week. Reference our schedule from January 2014 for comparison. 

Ostrow School of Dentistry Third Year Schedule

Ostrow School of Dentistry Second Year Schedule

Nobody quite knows what to do with all this newfound time on our hands. We have been so accustomed to the 8-5 grind (with the accompanying nighttime sim lab hours) that this excess free time is almost terrifying. What do you mean I don't have class until 2pm? What do you mean I have to be at school for only 2 hours today? 

Naturally, the first thing our class collectively does with our excess free time is to hit the gym. Gotta get the summer body back! 

What is your post-sim lab life like? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 560: No More Midterms...EVER!

After a brutally exhausting week, the second year dental students at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC just finished their last midterm exam ever! Starting third year, dental students at the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC don't take midterms anymore. We only take final exams.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 545: Free Sample Package from Johnson & Johnson

Received a small sample package in the mail today from Johnson & Johnson. Even though it's just four bottles of Listerine and floss, this is exciting stuff for a dental student. We don't get sample packages mailed directly to us very often.