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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!

I Hope She Knew

January 19, 2016


She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future

Proverbs 31:25


              I hope she knew.

As I sit in class my heartbeat races to the point that it aches
See most of the time my heart beat races because I’m in dental school and that’s kind of normal, but today is different
Today the topic in class is patients from different ethnic and racial backgrounds
On this particular day I feel like 204 eyes are painting my body one stroke at a time until
it is completely colored black.

On this particular day I am reminded of how different I am.
How I’m the only African American male in my class
and how it is important for me to not only make it for myself
but for me to make it for my family and for my friends,
for my future patients and for those who said I would never make it
and for the little black boy who thought that
he would never amount to anything
simply because no one told him that he could be more than just an athlete.

I slump deeper in my seat as I try to match the downward pull my stomach is doing to keep from regurgitating last nights dinner…but also quite frankly
I don’t want the acid to build up on the lingual surfaces of my teeth and cause dental erosion. But I digress

The pressure to speak
as well as the discomfort
paralyzes my cerebral cortex and the only thing I can think about is …

I wonder how Ida Gray felt? Excuse me, Dr. Ida Gray

She must have been aware of the fact that she was the ONLY African American in her class?
I’m sure someone must have passed a note to her during orientation and told her that she was the FIRST African American Female student in all of this great country’s history to embark on such a journey.
I assume she must have known that she was making history
She had to have been cognitively aware that she was laying the foundation for future people of color to continue to build the infrastructure of those to come. For me.
I wonder if she was able to discern that 129 years after her first day of dental school that her name would touch every single one of the fungiform papillae on my tongue and that I would try to swallow her name as much as possible trying to ingest just half of the significance that it possessed. IDA GRAY

I sometimes wonder if my feet have touched many of the same places her feet have. If my ears have
heard words that have bounced off of the same walls that once held the words of Dr. Gray’s
I wonder if she knows how much she has helped the little black boy who thought that
he could be nothing more than a jock.

It’s people like Dr. Gray and visionaries like this school
that in the midst of racial segregation and tension could start a catalytic chemical reaction
that eventually led to a plethora of African American dentists to date


As I sit in class, my heart no longer aches.

I sit up straight and think about the invisible crown on my head.

I come from the great lineage of those who have come before me.

I stand on the shoulders of record makers, trailblazers, and firsts.

My name is Carl. I’m the only African American male in my class and I am Ida Gray.


Carl Buchanon II is a D1 and shared this spoken word poetry before an incredibly moved audience at the 35th annual King’s Feast, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr and his legacy.

ASDA Videos- The X Factor

January 12, 2016

What makes you a unique dental school applicant? UMich ASDA calls it the X-Factor, and is producing a series of videos highlighting the X-Factor of current students. Check out their intro video and a video on Keri Eberhardt, current D3 and former college diver.

A Day in the Life of a D2, Video Style

December 4, 2015

Shivani Kamodia, Michigan ’18, created this video about the life of a second-year dental student, which received an honorable mention in ASDA’s 2015 “Day in the Life” video contest.

Read Shivani’s D1 Day in the Life blog post:

Read more about Shivani’s project on sustainable dentistry in Dean McCauley’s article in the September issue of the  Journal of the Michigan Dental Association (pg 54)

Movember and the Birth of Dental Dudes

November 20, 2015

If you’ve been following this blog, or are just stopping by for the first time, it is no secret that the life of a first year dental student is often far from one of leisure. One description about the first year of dental school that I find incredibly fitting is one that Dr. Mark Pinsky gave to us during lecture: “Your life is like a game of whack-a-mole, there is always something to be done.” The truth is that even in the midst of what feels like an insurmountable amount of schoolwork, we often find ways to keep the class morale high.

One, surprisingly warm, late October day, I stumbled across the Movember foundation homepage via an ad on Twitter.  With a pitch reading “Mustaches for a great cause” and a picture of men with above average facial hair, I was intrigued to find out more.

Much like the Breast Cancer awareness month of October, this foundation exists to promote awareness for diseases that are specific to men.  The diseases include prostate cancer (the second most common cancer of men in the US), testicular cancer (the most common cancer in young men), poor mental health (affects 25% of men), and physical inactivity (affects 53.8% of men).  If raising awareness and money wasn’t enough, the foundation also funds academic and clinical institutions with the money raised to conduct research in these specific areas.

So you’re telling me that I can contribute to raising awareness, donations, funding research all by growing a moustache for the month of November? SIGN ME UP!!  My next move: how to get involved with the foundation? After registering with the page, a “create a team” option was available.  Who could I possibly recruit to jump on board with me and grow a mustache for an entire month? Who would possibly be willing to seize this opportunity?

The next day in school, I happened to stumble upon the 1881 school of dentistry composite photo.The amount of moustache in that class was nothing short of superb (not to mention the hair style was also fantastic). I then found myself lost in the wall of 1980’s composite photos, which were also drenched in moustache galore.


As I walked into the lecture hall, realizing I was about to be late for class, my eureka moment occurred. The moustache has been an indirect symbol of men in dentistry and I needed to recruit my classmates to join the movement.  It all made sense, just like millionth time I was explained the composition of enamel, and the first time I heard the Back Street Boys in 4th grade. In this moment the “Dental Dudes” Movember team was born.

I rushed to find my seat in the lecture hall and pull out my computer. I devised a quick message to post in our class Facebook page before class starts. I was expecting that one maybe two guys would want to join in. At the end of the day, thirteen of my classmates signed up to join the Movember foundation as a part of our team. Not only was I excited that my classmates were joining in but I was beginning to realize the magnitude of what would be occurring for the month of November.

Keep an eye out for the conclusion of this thrilling tale, as well as a pretty impressive picture of the retro ‘staches the Dental Dudes were able to grow.  To donate to their Movember campaign, check out their campaign page

Alex Shore is a D1, and the Social Chairman for the D1 class.  He can also grow a pretty luxurious moustache.


The Gift of Toothpaste- Oral Health in the Himalayas

October 27, 2015

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Not many people in the states know about the country of Bhutan. It is a small kingdom nestled in the Himalayas and sandwiched between the two powerhouses India and China. With a population of merely 700,000, the entirely Buddhist culture has been shielded from the developed western world until about 16 years ago in 1999 when they first opened their doors and allowed TV and Internet to penetrate the everyday lives of the citizens. Known most by foreigners for it’s Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product and it’s attempt to become 100% organic, Bhutan is the living example of a society that many in our fast-paced stressful world only dream of.

It was to this unique culture that I found myself traveling on August 22, 2015 for my Summer Recess. Cat O’Brien, a good friend who lives and teaches in Bhutan, invited me to visit her school. After hearing her stories and seeing pictures, I knew what a unique opportunity this was and looked for a way to take full advantage of it.

The Taft Room, our then haphazard storage room, was getting cleaned and consolidated at the same time that I was preparing for my trip. I took advantage of this and went to StuCo President Luke Aiura and asked for his help. He found a couple of unexpired cases of pediatric toothpaste that were in line to be discarded. I took these cases with me as a gift for Cat’s students. After hearing about the lack of hygiene awareness in Cat’s school, I knew these were a perfect gift.

I carried on 72 sample size pediatric toothpastes through four airports and thirty-four hours of traveling. After arriving and a four-hour car ride full of green Himalayan Mountainsides later, I found myself in the small village of Thinleygang, Bhutan. Feeling the ten-hour time difference, I ate a small dinner and immediately fell asleep.

The next day I woke up in the clouds and tried to orient myself to the time difference and the village before heading to school with Cat. She teaches English to two sections of Class 4, about sixty students total. Her students were very excited to meet another foreigner and even more excited to learn that I brought them gifts from the States. As I passed out the toothpaste the students had to be instructed by Ms. Cat that, “this is not chocolate, do not eat it.” I followed with a little oral health instruction on how and when to use the toothpaste along with what it does to their teeth.

Word spreads quickly in small villages and very soon after class I had other Bhutanese teachers approaching me asking for “Colgate” –their word for any brand of toothpaste – and even after reaching Cat’s house at the end of the day villagers continued to ask if I had any left.

In my short time in Bhutan I observed that oral hygiene is not a primary concern of their population. Due to their diet of almost entirely rice and organic vegetables, most of the adults do not suffer from very much tooth decay. The young children, however, who are growing up in an increasingly developed country with chips, chocolates, and sweets being imported from India are experiencing exponentially more and more oral problems.

As my trip drew to an end, I reflected on how rapidly the country of Bhutan is changing. With more food being imported from India, oral health will soon gain more attention. After about a month, Cat tells me that she has students telling her that they still have their tubes of toothpaste and that they share it with their brothers and sisters. I felt very privileged to visit this protected country and very happy to be able to raise a little awareness of oral hygiene in the village of Thinleygang. 

I would like to thank Cat, my guides during my trip, as well as the O’Brien’s and others that made this trip possible.

If you would like to learn more or support the organization Cat is involved with, please visit The Bhutan Canada Foundation at

Nicholas Reece is a D2 that enjoys traveling and experiencing different culture first hand.

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.


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