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Welcome to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry's Blog!

Here you will find blogs from our students about various issues facing our prospective dental professionals, from a day in the life to dealing with frigid Michigan winters. Please email to suggest a topic you would be interested in learning about. Enjoy!

A Culture of Kindness – Outreach in Brazil

August 26, 2014

Oi! (Hello – in Portuguese)

Although our Portuguese may be rough and minimal, we have arrived safely in Brazil and are finally all settled in!  The University of Michigan School of Dentistry, International College of Dentists, and the Universidade de Sao Paulo Faculdade de Odontologia de Bauru (Sao Paulo Dental School in Bauru – Brazil) have a long standing partnership in which they have collaborated on a student exchange program.  This program originated as a way for dental students from Brazil and the United States to compare and contrast dental education in both countries and to experience them first hand. This August break, three third year dental students from the University of Michigan traveled to Bauru, Brazil to take part in the program and experience the Brazilian education and culture.  In November, the program will continue with dental students from Brazil travelling north to Ann Arbor to experience and observe an American dental school.

Upon arrival to Bauru, the students from the University of Michigan were kindly greeted by faculty and students from the University of Sao Paulo Bauru School of Dentistry.  In the US, the word “kindly” is used to describe an act of caring or a time in which one person expresses friendship.  In Brazil, being kind towards one another is an imperative aspect of the cultural dynamics and is in essence a way of life.  Everybody says hello to another, smiles, hugs, and gives beijos (kisses) on the cheek.  This immediate culture shock of kindness has set the tone so far as the first couple of days of the exchange program have been finishing up.  Everyone that we have had contact with and have spoken to so far has gone out of their way to assist us in any way that they can and has offered their hands in friendship.

On the first day of the program, we spent a majority of the day touring the wonderful campus, meeting with administration at the dental school and at the neighboring Centrinho Hospital of Craniofacial Anomalies, watching videos to learn more about the school and hospital, and talking with students about our travels and lives back in the United States.  To our surprise, the Sao Paulo Dental School in Bauru is set up very much like the University of Michigan: students treat patients in integrative care clinics, first and second year dental students are always sitting in lectures and studying for the next big exam, and the existence of Wednesday afternoon “Flex Time”.

The second day of the program was filled with clinic time.  Much like the D3 and D4 students at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, the third and fourth year dental students here in Bauru also spend a vast majority of time treating patients in clinic.  Unlike U of M however, Bauru dental school clinic sessions are 4 hours long (they have the ability to get a lot accomplished in one clinic session), clinics are divided into D3 and D4 clinics, and the students pair up and assist one another every clinic session.

Over the next two weeks, we will have the opportunity to observe more student clinic time, watch the daily processes at Centrinho Hospital for Craniofacial Anomalies, participate in esthetic dentistry typodont exercises learning new skills and techniques, scrub up and watch various surgeries, and rotate through all of the specialization clinics!  More updates and stories to come!

Tchau! (Goodbye)

Spencer Crouch is a D3

Bring on the Fire Hydrant – Class of 2018

July 28, 2014

Dean McCauley and Erin Walker


It’s hard to believe I started dental school at the University of Michigan five weeks ago.  I have been told over and over again that time in dental school flies, and within these weeks, that phenomenon has been abundantly clear! I vividly recall the early morning phone call on December 2nd last year—there truly is no sweeter sound than the words “you’ve been accepted to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.”  From that moment, I anxiously awaited my move to Ann Arbor to officially become a part of the Class of 2018.

Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, I had some slight trepidation about leaving my family and friends—not to mention, the Southern California weather—to a place where I knew no one.  However, as soon as I moved to Ann Arbor and began dental school orientation, any bit of uneasiness was assuaged with how welcoming and friendly the U of M students and faculty are.  Orientation days were long and filled with an abundance of information about the four-year journey we were about to embark upon.  I remember looking around at my classmates during those first few days thinking how exciting it was to know that these people would be by my side for the next four years and that some of these individuals would become my closest friends.  I am amazed at how dynamic, outgoing, intellectual, diverse, and passionate my classmates are and without a doubt, I can see some of the friendships I have made already lasting a lifetime.

Amidst the numerous lectures and presentations throughout the first week of school, one of the most memorable metaphors was the following: the amount of material students are responsible for in high school can be equated to drinking out of a water fountain, in undergraduate, the amount is comparable to drinking out of a hose, and in dental school, the amount is essentially the same as trying to drink out of a fire hydrant.  Although our summer session has only a fraction of the credits we will be registered in come fall, studying for our Head and Neck Anatomy course feels a lot like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant! Thankfully, our professors have been absolutely incredible—not only in providing captivating lectures, but also in offering support and encouragement throughout this transition process.

U of M clearly wastes no time in having students dig right into studies as we were given our cadavers on the first day of classes.  As Dr. Brzezinski prepared us for this unique experience, he reminded us that this would most likely cause some level of anxiety and if it did not, there was probably something wrong with us.  This sentiment of Dr. Brzezinski’s is representative of how relatable, accessible (physically and intellectually), and respectful he is.  After the initial shock of meeting my cadaveric patient, I must say that I really enjoy my time in lab and it truly is such a privilege to have access to this type of learning alongside a team of knowledgeable professors.

Outside of Head and Neck Anatomy, most of my studying is focused on Dental Anatomy.  After having waited what feels like forever to start studying dentistry, I am really enjoying learning more about teeth and learning to wax tooth #8 (essentially building a wax model of a tooth that not only looks identical to an anatomically perfect tooth, but also would function as a perfect tooth would in the mouth).  The dental anatomy course we are enrolled in now is just the first part to the complete study of dental anatomy and occlusion, which will be continued in the fall session.

This past weekend marked a pivotal moment in the lives of my classmates and myself—students, faculty, friends and family gathered to celebrate the class of 2018 receiving white coats to officially mark our indoctrination to the dental profession.  The ceremony consisted of several speakers emphasizing professional values, the unique nature of our chosen profession, and the responsibility we now have as dental professionals.  My classmates and I then proceeded to receive white coats from fourth year dental students.  After receiving our white coats, we recited an oath to uphold the values and ethics of the dental profession.  One of the most memorable moments from the ceremony was when Dean McCauley welcomed and addressed me as “Dr. Walker”—it may not sound extremely impactful, but for me, it signified that I am another step closer to achieving my dreams.

Outside of our busy academic schedules, I have had an absolute blast getting to know my classmates and Ann Arbor! It has been such a pleasant surprise to see how much fun dental students have while still excelling in the nation’s best dental program.  In fact, during our white coat ceremony, one of the speakers encouraged us all to remember to have fun even though these years will present some of the greatest challenges we will face.  At this point, I cannot say enough how happy I am to be at the University of Michigan and how excited I am to see how this journey unfolds!

Erin Walker is a D1 who is still walking around the School of Dentistry with a huge smile on her face

White Coat Veteran – A D4 Perspective

July 28, 2014
untitled-94White coat for me, as a D4, is a totally different experience. Now that I have donned the white coat for a full three years and starting my fourth year, I really can see what it means to receive one. As a first year it was so exciting to get a coat so I could finally feel like I belonged in the school like all the upperclassmen. As an upperclassman now handing out coats and welcoming in a new class, it’s just as exciting as the day I received my own. It’s crazy to think about how many of them come to me with questions that three years ago I wouldn’t have known how to begin to answer. Now, however, I am able to answer most of them without thought and the ones I can’t answer I can direct them to someone who does.
It is the responsibility of the senior class to coordinate the white coat ceremony for the first years. This is a feat that a few months ago I had no idea how to pull off. With the help of administration and my great classmates, I think we pulled it off smoothly. White coat is a fun time, no matter what year you are in, but especially for first and fourth years.
Kyle is the D4 Class President and loves the movies, especially in the theater with popcorn topped with questionable “butter” and anything everything related CrossFit. Say there are barbells flying, and I’m there!

A Week at a Glance in Meru

July 22, 2014

Photo by Elsen Karstad

As the first work week in Meru came to a close, we had the opportunity to complete surveys, oral exams and OHI at another secondary school and two primary schools.  As I reflect back on the week, I am amazed at how much we were able to accomplish in the first five days.  In total, we were able to conduct studies at four secondary schools (high schools) and two primary schools. We were very organized in our efforts and it definitely showed with how much we were able to get done!

When we arrived at the schools in the morning and afternoon, we set up stations wherever possible.  These stations were either outside or inside of the schools, depending on available areas.  We teamed up in groups of 3 and conducted surveys and exams until we reached our ideal sample population.  After we completed the exams, we provided OHI to the students and provided toothbrushes.
The students at the primary and secondary schools were amazing to work with!  Many students at the secondary schools were very interested in learning about oral health and asked many questions.  It was great to be able to hold a dialogue with the students and see how interested they were in what we were doing.  Talking to the students gave us a chance to share the wealth of knowledge we have learned during our time in dental school.  However, we just didn’t talk to the kids about dentistry.  Many of us were able to talk about our lives in the States and ask many of the kids about their lives.  It’s great to see how open the students were to talk to us and share little things about themselves.  The students in the primary schools were also interested in the work we were doing.  The type of communication was slightly different depending on age, however, enjoyable all together.

A Typical Day in Meru, Kenya

July 16, 2014

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Jambo from Meru!

June 20, 2014


This year, seven third year dental students, one fourth year dental student, three faculty members and one staff member embarked on a journey to Meru, Kenya for the fourth consecutive  year.  Prior to embarking on the journey, the dental team held numerous meetings, finalizing details for this present trip.  When Monday, June 16th arrived, we hit the ground running, beginning the four projects for the 2014 KSRP program.

This year, we began relationships with new schools in the Meru area and continued with our established relationships.  We were able to meet with the head masters (similar to our principals in the States) of each school, and begin conducting our surveys on Monday, June 16th.  The first three days, we focused on completing an IQ survey, preventive education focus groups for high school students, oral exams and oral hygiene instructions on approximately 400+ students at 3 schools!  Everyone worked extremely hard, ensuring that we were able to collect adequate data efficiently and effectively.
Our days typically begin with breakfast at 8am.  We then embark to our schools at 8:30am, conduct our surveys, have lunch at 1:00pm, and go back out to collect more data at another school.  Needless to say, by time dinner rolls around, we are all pretty hungry!  After dinner, we go over the schedule for the next day and wind down for the rest of the night.
Time definitely seems to be flying by.  It’s great for me to see the excitement on the students’ faces this year.  Everyone really appreciates this experience.  Students are trying to learn the native and national languages, communicate with children and adults and absorb as much of the Kenyan culture as they can!  Seeing their excitement takes me back to last year, when I was experiencing the Kenyan culture for the first time.  I really enjoy seeing everyone take this research program serious, hoping to make a difference any way they can.  I’m pretty sure, the next few days, we will add more excitement to all of us!
Janelle is a D4 student crossing the equator any chance she gets!

Kenya Summer Research Program: An Intro

June 18, 2014
The Kenya Summer Research Program is an interdisciplinary program that includes many students, staff and faculty members from the School of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy etc.  The School of Dentistry joined the program in 2011.  This program provide students with the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, learn how to conduct research surveys and collaborate with students from other programs at the University of Michigan.  All of this is done to help the people in the rural area of Meru, Kenya.
In 2011, the School of Dentistry joined the interdisciplinary program and sent six second year dental students, an informatics technician and three faculty members to Meru.  The students were led by Drs. Sunil Kapila, Yvonne Kapila and Robert Eber.   During the pilot year of the program, the students were able to formulate a children’s and adult oral health survey, provide oral hygiene instructions and provide information in general health to students and adults in Meru.  The research that was conducted during the pilot year set the tone for the next two years.

In 2012 and 2013, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez (2013) and additional students from UMSOD joined the program and were able to collect data from the children and adult oral health surveys and formulate a manuscript documenting the findings that were collected over the first three years of the program.  This experience has provided students with the opportunity to witness first hand, the health disparities that exists worldwide and try to find a way to combat the inequalities that exists.

I’ve had the opportunity participate in 2013 and again this year, 2014.  This program has left a positive impression on my life and I am excited to continue learning, growing and becoming a better researcher, clinician and overall individual!
Welcome to a week in Meru, Kenya!
Janelle CooperJanelle Cooper is a D4 and will be sending posts throughout her trip to Kenya.

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