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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!

One Year Post Interview- A D1 Perspective

October 8, 2015
Michael at his CVI last year.

Michael at his CVI last year.

To all the Upcoming Dental Applicants…I am excited for you!

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I applied to the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.  I remember my undergrad, the DAT, the application, and the interview process all too well.  While it was hectic, stressful, and often times discouraging, I am grateful for the experiences had and the lessons learned.

Being from Arizona, it was exciting and new to see the colors of fall, something I had only seen in photos.  Even more surprising was the bitter cold that hurt my hands and face when I stayed outdoors for too long!  Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that Michigan was right for me.

I was impressed by the kindness, and warm welcome Michigan showed towards the incoming applicants.  During the interview, the faculty conducted a ‘getting to know you’ exercise in which I had the opportunity to learn about a few of my future classmates – some of them are good friends here with me now!

After a tour of the school, we were guided to a room where we began the Multi-Mini Interviews (MMI).  The biggest message I wanted to convey was of being genuine and true to whom I am.  I wanted them to see me for who I was and accept me because of it.  Once the interview process was over we were released to wonder and hope that we had represented ourselves well enough to meet the Michigan standard.

The upcoming months leading to December seemed to be a constant cycle of doubt and confidence, practically making it impossible to concentrate on my undergraduate classes!  There were weird moments when I was sure I wouldn’t get in to Michigan, I kept replaying the interview in my mind, thinking ‘I should have emphasized this more’.  But then there were times when I realized I had worked so hard, and my actions reflected my desire to attend Michigan.

November 30th arrived with great anticipation.  I remember thinking, ‘why is today going so slow?!’  I felt like a 5-year-old kid on the day before Christmas!  My pre-dental friends didn’t make it any easier to keep my mind off the time by discussing where they wanted to go.

The morning of December 1st finally arrived, and my phone was blowing up with messages!  My friends shared their successes by texting where they had been accepted, some had already heard from three schools.  Unfortunately, I had yet to hear from any school, most importantly Michigan.  8 o’clock rolled by, but I wasn’t initially worried because it was still early in the day – surely Michigan must have loads of people they were trying to reach and talk to! 9 o’clock…nothing.  10 o’clock, now I was getting nervous – should I call them?

I remember being more upset and frustrated at myself than any other time in my life.  I had worked so hard to get into Michigan, and now I was going to have to wait a whole year before I had the chance.  While I was happy for my friends, I was also slightly envious of their received acceptances.

11 o’clock came and went, and it was time to head to class.  Just before I pulled out of the driveway, my phone had an unmistakable ‘ding’ signifying I got an email.  Immediately checking it for good news, I saw that it was from Michigan!  I was cautious to open the email, knowing that if I had been accepted I would have received a phone call, instead of an email…were they rejecting me already?

I saw that it was from Pattie Katcher, who informed me that they had been trying to contact me throughout the day and that I needed to call her!  My heart started racing and I immediately dialed the number to the school.

Pattie picked up the phone, and once again, informed me that they had been trying to get ahold of me – stating that my phone number was not dialing through!  I expressed my gratitude for her taking the time to email me, and then waited to hear what she had to say…

Pattie started with a polite introduction, and then finally offered an acceptance into Michigan!  My wife, who happened to be with me at the time, was able to celebrate this moment with me and share my joy first hand.  There are only a handful of moments in life that you truly vividly remember, and being accepted into dental school is one of them!

When I applied, I had an idea what dental school was like.  Existing dental students told me, “you will have a lot of sleepless nights” or  “it will push you beyond your pre-conceived limits” – all of which are true!  Dental school requires a lot of time, attention, and sacrifice.  If you are willing to invest all three, you are set!

Although my experience at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry has been only a few short months, I am happy to be part of it!  I chose Michigan because it is ranked as the top dental school in the U.S. and 4th in the world, and I desired to build a strong foundational health care knowledge.

Dentistry is more than just filling teeth here at Michigan – you’re officially being trained to be the world’s best and brightest health care professionals.  Dentistry is not a trade, but a profession in which we have the opportunity to be proficient health care scientists within the oral cavity.

You can only do dental school once, make the right choice and hope that Michigan picks you to be a 2020 dental school candidate…good luck!

Michael Halcomb is a D1, happily married, Arizona native, and a Harry Potter fan. He also wants to remind you to check your phone number on your application twice!

“Those Who Stay…”

August 11, 2015

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What better way to spend a kick-off than touring the biggest stadium in the United States?!  At the beginning of each academic year, the Leadership Pathway and the Scholars Program in Dental Leadership organization (SPDL) hold a kickoff where student members and the supporting faculty can get to know each other, talk about the organization, and learn about leadership in an informal environment.  This year, our group was lucky enough to take a tour of the Michigan Big House Stadium.  For many of the first year dental students, this was their first time seeing the inside of the stadium.  And for those of us who are senior dental students, this marks our last year of being able to stand in the student section.  Whether this was a first or last, or somewhere in between, the excitement was everywhere when our tour guide led us through those iconic wrought iron gates and into the elevators.

Michigan Stadium is truly impressive. The sheer size is what makes it globally known, but the attention to detail, vision, and investment from a multitude of people and organizations is what truly makes this Stadium awe inspiring.  All levels of the stadium represent the University’s pride, from the block ‘M’ on the turf that gets cleared off during the winter, to the sold out season tickets.  As students, the importance of our school’s history and reputation is infectious, and a tour through the stadium reminded us of what it means to be a part of a program that is known for its “leaders and best”.

Once we left the Big House, the members were able to enjoy dinner together in a nearby park, converse with faculty, interact with each other through team-building exercises, and discuss the year ahead.  After such a fun and motivating kickoff, we are even more excited to start the year.  Just as the football team has been training tirelessly to prepare for the Fall season, the SPDL Executive Committee has been working hard to bring impactful, fresh ideas and opportunities to our monthly leadership training meetings.  The reputation of hard work and achievement that SPDL has earned over the years, and the changes through the school, the university, the community, and other countries that have been implemented through hard work, speak to the passion of the current members and alumni alike.  This sort of reputation means every year we are motivated by high expectations that can be difficult to reach. But, if we remember this kickoff – the enthusiasm and camaraderie, along with the lessons of pride and teamwork – we have a chance to be a part of the most influential and successful year these organizations have ever had. Which is why we are eager to engage all SPDL and Leadership members, let them grow, and challenge them with a line that sounds almost too familiar… ‘Those who stay, will be leaders’.

Joseph Farkash and Janet Zalucha are D4s and on the eBoard for SPDL.

To check out the full album of the Michigan Stadium visit, check out our Flickr page. Locker room, box seats and a pick up football game on the field, you don’t want to miss it.


August 5, 2015

Sharing an office with the Admissions team means that I hear potential students ask the #1 question all the time.  “What is your best advice about applying to dental school?” The answer, the always answer, is APPLY EARLY.  Admissions reviews applications on a rolling basis. What does that mean to you? It means that if you apply the day the admissions cycle opens, you’re among the first applicants to be reviewed.  Among the first to be discussed by the admissions committee.  And potentially, among the first to be invited to an interview and invited to join the Class of 2020.

Take a look at this video, and you’ll see that APPLY EARLY is universal advice for Dental Schools.

And a bonus bit of advice- when you’re APPLYING EARLY- make sure your application is 100% complete.  Because your application won’t be sent to the admissions committee until ALL of the application is complete.  Good Luck and Go Blue!


Give Kids a Smile 2015: Healthy Smiles, Healthy Kids!

April 16, 2015
Featured in the picture are the coordinators on the right (Arielle Castine and Gabrielle Zuzo) and D2 coordinators on the left (Teddy Eusebio and Betsey Baumann-Smeenge), plus Toothy!

Featured in the picture are the coordinators on the right (Arielle Castine and Gabrielle Zuzo) and D2 coordinators on the left (Teddy Eusebio and Betsey Baumann-Smeenge), plus Toothy!

Months of planning and coordinating go into a dental clinic that only runs from 9am-2pm. Reaching schools, community health centers, and more, we strive for a great turn-out the day of the event.

The night before Give Kids a Smile, I woke up repeatedly throughout the night, eager and anxious for the next day.  When I showed up bright and early on March 28th, families were already waiting to be seen at 7:00am, even though registration did not begin until 8:30am.

We had an abundance of volunteers, and they were there early to help. Because of the help of 125 dental students and dental hygiene students, our day was successful! With the help of ten faculty volunteers and two community dentists, our day ran smoothly and we provided lots of free dental care.

In the waiting room area, we had an extensive oral hygiene set-up, which our dental hygiene students and pre-dental students ran, which helped out tremendously. They had coloring tables, a “Rethink Your Drink” station that showed the sugar levels of popular beverages, and lots more fun stuff for kids! While sitting at registration, I saw students actively engaging children by reading them stories and coloring with them. Even our school mascot “Toothy,” was present and bringing huge smiles to the faces of all the kids and parents.

Calculating the totals for the day, we ended up providing between $9,000-10,000 of work, based on procedure costs in the UMSOD Pediatric Clinic. We saw 38 children, and provided a range of treatment, from exams and prophies to extractions and pulpotomies.  We had patients from a wide range of backgrounds and even had students interpreting various languages for the families and providers.

The time and effort put in by our students, faculty, and outside volunteers make this event successful year after year. Our generous sponsor, the Washtenaw District Dental Society provides donations and time to event every year, and we are extremely grateful.

Now that Michigan has implemented better dental insurance plans for children, this was an extremely successful turnout. We had a great interest in parents registering their children as permanent patients at the school. Our ultimate goal is creating a dental home for these families, and I believe we truly made an impact on these families.

Arielle Castine was the co-coordinator of Give Kids a Smile 2015. We are so grateful to these amazing coordinators for giving their time to ensure this annual event comes together.  We are truly a community taking care of a community.  ~ School of Dentistry

For more Give Kids a Smile 2015 pictures, see Flickr. For more information, see the School of Dentistry story.

D4- 2 Months to Go till New Chapters

March 16, 2015
(Not Stephanie's Socks)

(Not Stephanie’s Socks)

7:30am- I pop out of bed and start my daily bustle. I am a morning person. I like having time in the morning to get ready for patients (how do I adjust an all-zirconia crown again?) and drink enough coffee that my hands start wobbling. No crown preps planned for today!

8:15am- I walk to school to finish lab work for my 9am patient. It’s so cold that I wonder if the feeling I have is frostbite and imagine my lips freezing off. I daydream about an upcoming scuba diving trip I have planned in the Florida Keys in a few weeks. Whew!

8:30am- My friend from undergrad calls to let me know that she is in town for work and would like to get xrays taken to see if she is a good candidate for my Board exam coming up. Yes and yes and yes please.

9:30am- My patient arrives late because of traffic and icy roads. I don’t mind waiting because she is my favorite patient. I have told at least 10 patients that they are my favorite but she is ACTUALLY my favorite. In addition to being a very amiable person who is rarely late, she has needed multiple restorations, a crown, an extraction, an implant, and a root canal. This is a full-spectrum patient. The appointment goes so smoothly that I wait for something sticky to arise but it doesn’t. Hooray!

10:30am- Dr. Gonzalez chides me for not keeping up my weekly running routine. I ponder that and decide to run after school. Throughout dental school, exercise has been the one thing that I consider non-negotiable. I always feel better after my heart is pumping.

12:00pm- I schedule an appointment for my friend in the emergency clinic and drop off a stone model of my morning patient for my favorite (and left-handed like me) periodontal resident, Dr. Steve Davis. One of the aspects that I enjoy most about being in school at U of M is that if you want an expert opinion in any of the various specialties about a patient you explain your patient’s signs and symptoms in person. Periapical radiolucency? Skip over to endo. Implant consult? Stroll over to perio. Soft tissue abnormality? Head down to oral medicine.

1:00pm- I eat lunch with my roommate Michelle, who is also a D4. We talk about her potential job opportunities and my potential apartments for next year. She’s staying in Michigan to join a private practice or outreach clinic and I’m staying in Ann Arbor to do a General Practice Residency at the Veteran’s Hospital. I’ve spent eight years in this amazing town, and I am grateful to spend a ninth completing a residency. Go Blue!

2:30pm- I get fingerprinted in preparation to get my dental license in a few months. I immediately get an email with the title “FBI Criminal History Report”. I hope that I’m not a criminal without ever knowing it. I scan the report. Appears clear.

3:30pm- My friend gets screened as a potential patient. I take a bad xray. Then I take another bad xray. The faculty looks at me sideways. It’s times like these that I realize that my education won’t end when I graduate. It’s times like these that I remember why graduation is called “commencement” (beginning) instead of “completion”.  I cheer (silently) when I see that she has a cavity that I can fill during my NERB exam.

6:00pm- I eat dinner and walk to the gym. It’s so cold but once I get there I start to run and feel the endorphins. The best.

7:00pm- I love this time of day because I feel like I can relax and do anything. During D1 and D2 year this was the time I spent studying but now I actually read books for fun and cook and organize my sock drawer. If that doesn’t sound exciting I also mountain bike, ice climb, and rock climb so sometimes I also do interesting things. Today I read.

9:00pm- I talk with my friends from high school and plan trips to visit them in Arizona, Seattle, and New York during the time between graduation and residency. We have a few months off before licensing kicks in so it’s a mandatory vacation.

11:30- Rest up for another cushy day as a D4!

Stephanie Johnson is an allllllmost graduated D4

D3 Life- A Day in The Sweet Life

March 4, 2015

Hola. It’s me again. Welcome to the latest installment of True Life: I’m a D3. Can you believe I’m nearly two shorts months away from being a D4? Me either. How did I get here? Where am I going? Let me tell you about D3 life; the sweet life. One thing is true- I did not choose the D3 life, the D3 life chose me. It is a magical oasis of semi-relaxation snuggled like a warm hug between year 1-the countless hours spent in the cave of knowledge and year 4-“I have to find a real job”.  Trust me, you need that warm hug after year 2 boards are done. I am also delighted to be done with Dexter requirements. Sorry bro, it’s nothing personal.

On any particular day of the school week I wake up gingerly, drink copious amounts of coffee while doing my morning Pinteresting (this routine never gets old) before I leave the house and make the trek to campus for an always seemingly unique and interesting day.  A typical day in any given week of D3 year consists of two lectures and two clinic sessions. Exams have grown fewer and far between since moving out of pre-clinic and finishing “the systems”.  At the end of my typical Tuesday I am able to spend time with my beloved dog Nuggie, make a nice dinner, work on my fitness, socialize with family and friends, watch TV or read a book, craft, bake, get a good nights sleep, or anything else my little heart desires. It’s pretty great. We D3s stay plenty busy now with a different kind of self directed work; reviewing radiographs for treatment plans, managing a patient pool, making a mess in the wet lab for prostho cases, preparing perio records, and making that production happen. If there is a catch phrase for my class it might sound something like “Can I get a CEU (1200 required to graduate!) for that?” We are a motivated and ambitious bunch. Never to worry if you need an OS (oral surgery) assistant; a posting on the Facepage will leave you with four eager volunteers. Why yes I will be the backup, to the understudy, to the on-deck assistant thank you very much. Just in case.

By now most of have cycled through the year 3 rotations: oral surgery, hospital dentistry, pediatrics, and orthodontics. This means that we have almost all experienced our “firsts”: extraction, suturing, root canal, implant case, surgical experience, and the list goes on. I find that days go by quickly when I’m busy hustling and moving around the school.  Hoofing it up to the third floor clinic multiple times per day, because I have most certainly forgotten anything sacred in the land of dentistry in my locker by the time I have reached my cubicle, has helped me achieve my 20,000 daily steps and for that I am thankful. Some days in clinic you might feel like you’re the cats pajamas… and then you are brought back down to earth by the sticking sound of your clinical instructors explorer tine not detecting a clean DEJ. I am still perplexed with the enigma that is single handedly placing a rubber dam. The struggle is real people. But luckily your best friend always shows up in the nick of time with some handy dandy dental floss. It has crossed my mind many times when things are stressful of how nice it would be if Nuggie could be my designated dental therapy dog. I think this is a genius idea: four-legged furry friend>nitrous oxide. Just kidding, but really. At the end of the day, I get by with a little help from my friends, dispensing staff, PCC office staff, dental assistants, faculty, front desk ladies- I couldn’t do it without them… and a good sense of humor of course. And if that’s not enough there’s always someone to joke around with and show you their latest weekend Instagram shenanigans whilst waiting in line for faculty checks to make your day all the better.

As this year comes to a close we can look forward to finding out where we’ll spend time on outreach rotations next year, many will start to embark on externships, and begin applying for specialty programs and jobs.  A fresh, new batch of bright-eyed D1s will be joining the mix and I look forward to seeing familiar faces from the interview experience.

Cheers and Go Blue!



Chelsea Pinozek is a lover of fitness and froyo, enjoys cooking for friends, tending to the needs of the worlds cutest poodle, and continues to convince people that she is in fact, not from Canada.  

Want more Chelsea? Check out her recap of her D1 year:

Day in the Life of the Not-So-Typical, Typical D2

February 25, 2015
Groundhog Day

“Do you know what today is? Today is tomorrow. It happened.”

5:15 am; my alarm jostles me from the sleep it seems I just entered, still weary from the week past and the weekend that just ended. This is my perpetual groundhog day (the movie recounts the events of a misanthropic reporter doomed to relive a single day for eternity) , a movie familiar to other children of the 80’s and 90’s, which likely escapes the minds of my classmate a decade my junior. I quietly creep to the shower guided by the light of my cell phone as to not awaken my sleeping family nor my tired eyes. A quick check of my sleeping family and I leave for the day not to return until 6:30pm that night. I typically arrive at the bus stop around 6:45 to catch  the 6:55 bus and arrive on campus around 7:20. This 40 minutes before class is a CRUCIAL point in my day, the last chance to complete any homework or a last minute review for a morning quiz. I have found it is necessary to review MULTIPLE calendars for clinic assignments, personal events and patient planning as most school events are not located in one convenient place.

Most days start at 8am with class after class of oral surgery, oral pathology, occlusion to name a few up until noon when the last few drops of coffee have left our system and sleep seem inevitable.  We have lunch, a recharge for many- catch up with friends, get coffee or take the occasional nap in the commons. The afternoon is a blur. A hustle to leave our 1pm class to make it upstairs by 2pm to prepare for the afternoons patients.  We are fortunate to have early exposure to patients during the winter of our D2 year with a small patient pool and clinic days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. While a simple exam and cleaning may not seem intimidating, the preparation and pre-ordering of materials can make the difference between an efficient and thorough exam or leaving the dental school at 5:30 and catching a late crowded bus home.

I typically arrive back home around 6:30 and absolutely love coming home to my family. Both my boys rush to the stairs when they hear me come in and my wife breathes a sigh of relief from her 12 hours of entertaining two toddlers at home! Dinner and play time ensue and I catch up on the events of the day before hitting the books at 9pm. I sequester myself at the kitchen table from 9-10:30pm when my eyes betray me and I have no energy left to read and call it a night.  5:15 am and it starts all over again……

For those considering the pursuit of dental education later in life I can attest to your ability to succeed. You can find balance between life, school and family but this MANDATES an ability to budget and plan your time. There WILL be times when you miss out on milestones in your family including first words and steps, preschool events and precious time with loved ones.  You may not be involved with large social outings or find time for extracurricular activities BUT you will have achieved something truly impressive, a better life for your and your family. Dental education isn’t easy, even without the responsibilities of being a mother or a father.  I am here to say that with the support of your spouse and family, you can indeed succeed.

Brandon Churchman is a D2 who works most weekends in area emergency departments as a physician assistant and lives with his wife and two sons.


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