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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!

Life Lessons-A Journey Through Kenya

December 2, 2014

One of the benefits of having a parent as the Director of the School’s Global Oral Health Initiative? You get to do your volunteer work in Kenya.  We’re sharing a guest post today and hope you enjoy.


On my latest service trip to Kenya with the Kenya Summer Research Program at the University of Michigan I had a moment of reflection. I thought about my life, and how it might impact others, but never anticipated how others might impact my life during this journey. During my most recent visit, I found myself in a small village in Meru, in the central region of Kenya, where I met a little boy named Patrick. Patrick lived in an HIV/AIDS orphanage that I visited, and it was following that visit that I had this reflective moment.
“Surprisingly, this enclosure looked like an enchanted forest with many trees and brightly colored plants that surrounded a building and hid it from view. Although timid and nervous, I managed to exit from the old beat up vehicle that had just brought me there. As I looked around, my eyes immediately fell upon a soccer ball. This soccer ball wasn’t just lying somewhere dusty and forgotten. I saw a little boy, Patrick, around 10 years old, juggling and doing tricks with it. I was immediately drawn to it and to him, like a beautiful ray of light. Almost without verbal communication, we interacted with each other, and for the next 2 hours I did what comes natural to me. I played soccer with Patrick, chipping, kicking, juggling, and punting that ball barefoot across the dusty earth, enjoying my time in this moment. Our language was a universal one that required no words, but clear communication was always present as we kicked the ball back and forth, smiling, and shrieking with delight at the many kicks and volleys. To be honest, I was so impressed with Patrick’s soccer skills that I wished he could visit the U.S., because I knew he had a gift much more extraordinary than mine…and that’s when I realized that Patrick would never have the same opportunities that I have had, and thus his dreams may not ever come true.”
From this experience, I realized that I take too much for granted; and from that day forward I have tried to live my life as though I have no second chances, because I know Patrick doesn’t. He has impacted my life for the better and I can only hope that I have also touched his.

By: Anjuli Kapila, Volunteer
High School Junior

Humility, Humanity and Samba

September 18, 2014

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Here it is, post-travel from Bauru, São Paulo (Brazil)— I can hardly believe that my international travel experience has come and gone, and I am positive there is hardly enough space within this blog post to share everything, but I suppose I’ll give it a try.  As a recap, I had the privilege of spending my summer vacation at school (yes, you read correctly, 10 full school days, but totally worth it) at the Universidade de São Paulo Faculdade de Odontología de Bauru (USP-FOB), with two of my classmates turned travel buddies for a 2-week student exchange program.  As mentioned in an earlier post (A Culture of Kindness-Outreach in Brazil, check it out if you haven’t already), I cannot over emphasize how humbling and warm the welcomes were from the faculty/staff, students, and even the security team on campus; the three of us went from University of Michigan D3’s to overnight American celebrities. From morning gourmet coffee from various specialty departments on campus; morning, mid-day and afternoon hugs, kisses and greetings in Portuguese and shyly-spoken English; to daily invites to tour the city or grab lunch and/or enjoy dinner and samba with different students and quickly made friends, we were truly received, accepted and welcomed with the utmost hospitality.

Needless to say, I have several favorites for this trip: foods, phrases, friends and memories, but I will briefly share a couple of my favorite things about the university that haven’t been mentioned in other posts.

1) The campus: absolutely beautiful, serene but lively. Aside from the wonderful, mild winter temperatures (~30 C° or 86 °F), the gated campus provided a very scenic and open space of various department and clinics, a cafeteria for students (lunch was filling and less than $1/day), a small café for quick snacks, pastries, coffee on the go,  Centrihno (the world renowned hospital for craniofacial anomalies), and colorful plants, small palm trees and ponds along the paths throughout the campus dimensions. Additionally, the waiting rooms/lobbies for the student clinics and Centrihno are outdoors, and particularly for Centrinho, these areas are made to look more like a resort to aid in patient relaxation rather than the anxiety-inducing white walls encapsulating distinctively distinguishable hospital aromas.

2) The multidisplinary approach to treatment.  Since the University of São Paulo in Bauru houses the Hospital for Rehabilitation of Craniofacial Anomalies (HRAC known as Centrihno), its multidisciplinary professional team involves physicians, dentists, speech pathologists/ audiologists, and psychologists to provide complete comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate patients, free of charge. Something new that I learned is that many children with cleft palate are prone to recurrent buildup of fluid in the middle ear and/or ear infections, which leads to an increased risk of hearing loss.  The phonaudiology department provides comprehensive services to evaluate, diagnose, treat and possibly prevent the communication, auditory, phonetic and deglutition problems of these patients. I was able to observe some of the many diagnostic hearing tests conducted and even analyzed my own hearing (good news, my hearing is well above average J).

Truly, this experience was invaluable and I cannot think of a better way in which I could have spent or have ever spent a summer vacation. I highly encourage 1st and 2nd year students to apply for this experience during their 3rd year, and for anyone looking for memorable international adventures to consider planning a trip to Brazil—anyone is welcome to tag along with me, because I will most definitely return in the near future.

Andrea Branch is a D3

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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