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 email@example.com to suggest a topic you would be interested in learning about. Enjoy!
When my feet lifted off of American soil on February 25th, I barely knew you but by the time they landed back at DTW, you were a fully integrated permanent part of me. You were everything I had hoped for and more. Not only were you a fertile land for personal development and dental outreach but also a humble abode for a vacation. You pushed me to live minimally: hand-washing my own clothes, showering in cold water and living without the luxury of air conditioning. You allowed me to see animals in the wilderness like I had never seen before. You taught me the difference between a Grevy’s Zebra and the common zebra or the distinguishing characteristics of a reticulated giraffe. Above all, you gave me friendships that I will hold close to my heart for a long time. Because of you, I danced with children for hours and hours. I ran from one end of the dusty school fields to another, chasing a soccer ball with a herd of kids by my side. And when I felt tired, you graced us with the sweetest of mangoes and watermelons. You made me forget about home.
Furthermore, you gave me an opportunity to serve people that truly need it. Alongside our group of 9 students and 2 faculty members, I spent day after day migrating from school to school conducting oral health screenings, establishing electronic patient records, applying silver diamine fluoride (SDF), fluoride varnish, and sealants on children. And perhaps most importantly, we provided each child with individualized brushing lessons. Overall this was no small task but with a lot of hard work and the help of locals, we were able to see over a thousand children in two weeks.
Kenya, you also humbled in ways I could not have imagined. You showed me the signs of progress and development in an African country that I did not expect. You showed me that Kenya, like the rest of Africa, is developing. You also showed me your problems and vulnerabilities. Those were areas of learning for me, as I tend to take so many of those things for granted back home. Never again. Finally, you taught me how to be happy regardless of any condition I may find myself in. The Kenyans were always happy and excited to take on the day. They were generous and kind to us. At many points during our stay, they thanked us for all the work we did for the children. I am now left thinking if I thanked them enough for how much they had done for my mind and spirit.
Thank you, Kenya.
with Brandon Scott, Alisa Dvarishkis, Nate Hock, Kanchi Shah, Radhika Patel, Josh Smith, Sergio Calleja, Brittany Amor, Carlos Gonzalez, and Robert Eber.
To see the full album of the 2017 Kenya pics, check out our Flickr album
Sometimes one of your alumni takes a snowy day in his post-doctoral program and writes a love letter to your school. Some things have changed since Kevin Kuo graduated in the DDS Class of 2014 but the #GoBlue feeling never goes away. Thanks, Kevin!
Since graduating from UMSOD in 2014, Kevin completed a 1-year general practice residency at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, focusing on implant and emergency dentistry. He then enrolled in 3-year endodontics program at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. His primary research interest includes regenerative endodontics. Kevin has also continued his efforts with Dentyzion—the dental technology consulting company started while in dental school. He is working on Google Glass integration with dental school electronic health records. To see more of Kevin’s sweet video work, check out these Bytes posts from when he was a student, and his YouTube channel Kevin Kuo Productions for new stuff.
by Justin Kammo
On January 14th 2017 a group of 11 University of Michigan dental students embarked on a trip to Jamaica, led by Dr. Elliott Hill and Dr. Kyle Pullen. This was my first time out of the United States and I must admit that I did not know what to expect. I was traveling to a tropical island nation with a group of close friends so to say the least, I was excited. Our first goal was to provide care, mainly extractions of badly decayed or painfully infected teeth, to adults and children who were in underserved, rural areas. I can say proudly that we achieved that goal. We worked long hours in very unique conditions in order to provide these individuals with relief from their dental pain. Although setting up working and sterilization stations was a challenging task, seeing the smiles of pain free children and adults was well worth the effort.
Our second goal was to connect with these patients and the surrounding community in a way that we could all remember and cherish. Speaking on behalf of all members of our group, I can honestly say that I have never been around a more dedicated and compassionate group of professionals and students than the one we were a part of. Furthermore, the patients we worked on were extremely grateful for our time with them and treated us like family, offering sincere thank yous and showing us the friendliness of the beautiful island of Jamaica. The bonds with students, faculty, and patients that were made on the 2017 Jamaica trip are ones that cannot be broken. All of our phones will continue to play reggae music, and for that, I am very thankful. As the Jamaicans say, “out of many, one people, one love.”
Justin is a D3 and enjoys relaxing and hanging out with friends.
Click here to see the whole Flickr album of their trip.
A piece of advice I would like to give to the D1’s and D2’s would be to never lose your sense of hustle to learn.
It is very easy to get lost in the demands of dental school and the only people who comprehend how challenging it is are the students around you. I empathize with the fact that dental school is tough, it is a constant weight on your shoulders, and when you have a free moment you want to just breathe. However, because of these facts, I find that some students do not show up to school ready to put in 100%, or they want to get by on the bare minimum. I understand when so much is required of you, it is hard to spend the energy you have left. However, I want to tell all of you that now is not the time to simply ‘get by.’ You worked incredibly hard to be at a prestigious educational establishment that has an enormous amount to offer in regards to your education.
Do not let the intensity of the curriculum allow you to put a ceiling onto your own learning experience. Take the time to give yourself a break, but do not fall victim to the new fad of ‘treat yourself’ more than you are working for it. It is imperative to have balance in life, but when you show up to this school, come hungry for an education that some students are dying to have.
I challenge each of you to take advantage of every opportunity to learn while you are here. After a long night of studying, the last thing you want to do is be fully engaged in the rotation you have in the morning, especially with an exam that same afternoon. However, we only have four years at this school, which will go by in the blink of an eye. Use these four years to show up to your lectures, rotations, etc. with the mindset that you want to learn from these world-renowned faculty members that most people do not have access to. Hustling for your education, for your own future, is going to be the foundation of who you become professionally and personally.
Begin this curriculum starving for an education most are not privileged to have, and graduate knowing you capitalized on every single opportunity available; then you can wear the name University of Michigan School of Dentistry, proudly.
Take Away Tips:
- Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm you are doing something academic.
- Never stop learning! If you have free time during the week, practice that prep you struggle with in pre-clinic, ask a resident if you can shadow them, look up the genetic mutation you heard someone mention but did not know what it was, read articles in JADA that pique your interest… do something educational.
- Surround yourself with friends and faculty who encourage you and hold you accountable.
- Adjust your perspective to view every day as an opportunity to gain experience and knowledge.
The Kenya group – Our Thoughts
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you take 7 dental students and 2 faculty members 7,777 miles away from Ann Arbor to the lush, green lands of Kenya. We were physically far from from our dental school, but the people of Kenya made us feel right at home with their hospitality and kindness. Our team of 9 had the goal of working with Kenyan oral health professionals, teachers and students to create sustainable oral health in the schools we visited. We were fortunate to pair our University of Michigan team with a team of experienced and knowledgeable Kenyan dentists and dental technologists in order to make an impact on the oral health of the roughly 2,200 primary school aged children we had the fortune of seeing. It was important to our group to not just go and work for two weeks, but to use those two weeks to help create an environment of sustainable oral health. To accomplish that, we provided toothbrushes and toothpaste, and taught and reinforced oral hygiene to the children. We performed oral exams and handed out dental referral forms to the children’s parents and teachers. During these long days, we would usually leave at 7am, travel almost 1.5 hours, then work nonstop until 6pm, when we had our 1.5 hour trek home. We were so tired when we got back – even eating dinner was a challenge. Additionally, on our “days off” we shadowed and learned from the dentists in a local hospital and had a meeting regarding collaborations on head and neck cancer with the health sciences faculty of the Meru University of Science and Technology. Although our days were filled with lots of hard work, we still found time to have fun. We also got to enjoy the tasty cuisine of Kenya, explored the Samburu National Park and its plethora of wildlife on Safari, and always found time to talk to, dance with, sing, and play soccer with the children of the schools we visited. To the people we came across in our trip to Meru, Kenya, we are honored to say, “Asante Sana!” (Swahili for “Thank you very much!”)
Teddy Eusebio – Running in Kenya
Being an avid runner, I was absolutely excited to visit Kenya not just for the dental aspect of the trip, but for the chance to run in a country where there is a rich tradition for running excellence. At 5,300 feet above sea level, I was excited for the opportunity to tap into the high altitude training that my favorite Kenyan runners experienced themselves. I would wake up most mornings at about 6:30am so that I could get a 4-6 mile run in before we had to leave for our dental service trips. It was on these 30-45 minute runs where I got to experience my favorite part of Kenya. These runs would take me through dirt packed roads as I passed by farms and lush green forest that bordered the Meru national park. It was on these runs that I would exchange a friendly hello, “Mambo” (Swahili for “Hey!”) or a “Poa” (Swahili for “cool!”) from those I came across. It was on these runs that I would pass by children on their way to school and receive high fives and engage in friendly foot races. It was on these runs that I fell in love with Kenya.
Matthew Nye – The Soccer Match
This was my second time in Kenya, so I wasn’t surprised to find the people in Kenya to be full of spirit and enthusiasm. However, I knew we were going to have some new, fun experiences, and this year’s trip fulfilled that. My favorite memory from the trip occurred after a long day of oral exams for the students of St. Dorothy’s Primary. The students were finishing up from their day of school and unbeknownst to them, we had brought a few soccer balls to give them before we left. After handing them out, immediately they wanted to form teams and play with us! So we began playing together, and I thought to myself “I should be careful, these are pretty young kids”, because growing up, I had played a little bit of soccer in grade school. However, at St. Dorothy’s Primary in Kenya, I really felt like an amateur! We ran together, played defense together, and passed the ball to each other cohesively, and some of the kids showcased their skills. These 8-14 year old kids were playing like pros. In Kenya, soccer is a not just a sport, but a way of life. So after about 20 minutes of playing (yes that’s all I could muster), I was beaten. My team was doing great, however I had no energy left – I blame the elevation. For the remainder of the match, I sat on the sidelines, tired, but feeling great. We had something in common, and the kids knew it. Though we seemed so different when we arrived, it became clearly evident that we were not. These kids were just like us; fun-loving, ambitious, and fiercely competitive, it just took a game of soccer to realize it.
Leen Khatib – Singing Kenyan Songs
My favorite memory was on one of our long work days, after getting up at 6am and seeing kids at Leeta Primary in the beautiful mountains on the slopes of Mount Kenya. After seeing kids all day we decided to go out and have a little fun with them. They were shy and timid around us, mostly, as they had never met anyone that wasn’t Kenyan before. But after hours of screenings and treatment, we went out there anyway and they circled around us, curious. They probably wanted to know so many things; why we were there, why our clothes were so different, and why we looked different. Unfortunately, they couldn’t speak English in this part of Kenya (English is only taught in the affluent areas), so we could only communicate through song, dance, and soccer. So that’s what we did. We played soccer, tried to learn some of their songs, and ran around with them. So I started singing a “Kenyan nursery rhyme” (or so I was told), trying to learn the words, and the kids were laughing because I was saying them all wrong. But after a while, I started to get it, and they begin to gather around, probably a group of about 100. They ended up all around me, singing and laughing together, communicating without a common language, bringing together two different worlds in a matter of 15 minutes. They giggled, laughed, and smiled like I hadn’t seen before. After all, kids are kids, anywhere in the world.
Sara Safdari – The Happy Girl
It always had been a dream of mine to go to Africa for a mission trip, so when the opportunity came, I could not resist it. The most memorable part of the trip for me was being in the culture with the people. Every day was a learning experience for me. As I immersed myself to learn more about the culture, language, and the people, I met Johnston. Johnston is from the Masai tribe, but lives at the Samburu safari. Here Johnston taught me about his tribe and the Samburu tribe. I learned that Masai and Samburu people are actually from the same tribe, but they separated and the Masai people moved to south part of Kenya. However, they speak the same language and they have the same culture. Johnston is a Masai warrior. He explained to me how as a child you get selected to become a warrior and what kind of life conditions you have to live in to get the title of warrior. In the tribes the women don’t have the same rights and voice as man do. Here is when Johnston learned about our cultures. I explained to him that I’m in the same class and do the same things as the guys who are in our group. We are learning the same things and doing the exact same work, and we are treated equal. He could not wrap his mind around it. He was intrigued, and wanted to learn more about our culture. I explained to him how as young girl I had the same education privilege as the boys did. We sat in the same classrooms, played the same games, and took the same exams. Johnston also was shocked to learn that America is a big melting pot, that there are all different races with in America. This experience not only allowed me to learn about the culture but also to teach others regarding our culture. During this conversation Johnston gave me a Maasai name: Nashipae, which means “happy girl.”
David Li – Amani House
Traveling to Kenya ranks up there as one of the best memories of my dental school career. One of my favorite memories is visiting the Amani Home, a children’s orphanage that provides a home and school for orphans or children whose families cannot care for them. The orphanage was built with a holistic, self-sustaining goal in mind through craft making, farming, and livestock. The place was exuberant with an air of serenity and tranquility. I felt at peace and relaxed during my time there. It was a joy playing with the children, and discovering the quiet beauty of the surrounding land. The children are so fortunate to have access to such a blessed environment. I will always cherish my time at the Amani Home. Kenya is a beautiful country.
To see a full set of pictures from the Kenya Summer Research Program trip, check out the Flickr photo album @ myumi.ch/JW9VM
For more information about the Kenya Summer Research Program, check out our headline story @ myumi.ch/a8wMK
Corfu, Greece, a small island in the northwest Ionian Sea, is ready for big steps. These steps began with a new Global Initiative at UMSOD: Prevention and Management of Oral and Craniofacial Diseases in Special Needs Individuals. Three third year dental students,(me, Nicole Pentis; Brittney Phillips and Jenn Cleary) joined three faculty members (Drs. Kyriaki Marti, Carlos Gonzalez-Cabezas, and Margarita Fontana) working hard to bring accessible dentistry to the Special Needs population in Corfu.Under the Greek sun, we started the week familiarizing ourselves with the only hospital on Corfu. Oral surgeons explained their experiences with the special needs population. We visited private practices of local dental practitioners to better understand their perspectives and background. We had the pleasure of attending a Special Olympics team practice, where the coaches and parents displayed a passion for their athletes, and an even bigger passion for creating accessible and affordable dental care on Corfu.
As the week went on, students and faculty from the University of Thessaloniki joined our team, and together, with collaboration from the Dental Association of Corfu, we were ready to start brainstorming ways to improve care for all patients on Corfu. Our brainstorming was on display as the trip concluded with a Symposium organized by UMSOD students and attended by local dentists, specialists, lawmakers, parents, and caretakers of special needs patients. Topics ranged from treating patients under general anesthesia, to Special Olympics Coaches’ experiences, to teaching caretakers about oral health, and finally, future steps towards providing Special Needs dental care on Corfu.
But it wasn’t all work! We had a little time to explore Corfu and take a boat ride in the beautiful Ionian Sea.
We’re proud to have started this relationship with the people of Corfu and look forward to working together. The conversations we had, relationships we formed, and the foundation we laid, all will lead towards providing dental care to one of the populations in greatest need: those with Special Healthcare Needs.
Nicole Pentis is a D3 with a life-long interest in special needs care. For more photos from Corfu, see the album on Flickr at myumi.ch/Jmdd3
With the current application cycle up and running, I have reflected a lot on how far I have come since December 1st, my first interview, my first year of undergrad, and even since my high school graduation.
I made the decision to become a dentist when I was 11 years old, so my goal has been set on the horizon for quite a while, and after going through the battles of undergrad, I was ready to take my DAT and apply to dental school. Once I submitted my application, millions of thoughts entered my head for the next couple weeks, varying from overly optimistic and wondering how I couldn’t get into some dental school in the country to the lowest of lows spent thinking there was no way I could compete against some of the legends that post on student doctor network. (By the way, I highly suggest avoiding that site like the plague if you want to keep any ounce of consistent confidence while awaiting replies from schools.)
When the interviews started coming in, I was ecstatic. I remember every single email and phone call and remember who I told first and how thrilled I was to even be given a chance to prove myself. I remember telling my mom when I applied, “Just get me in the room. Just give me a chance to talk. I truly believe I can get into a school if they meet me face to face”. I was given the chance, and now I just had to interview and hopefully get in come December 1st!
After going to a few places around the country, my U of M interview arrived, and I was happily nervous. I wasn’t nervous because I didn’t believe in myself, but rather because I had such a life-changing four years of undergrad here, and I wanted to get into this dental program. The MMI format was challenging but also very rewarding to talk to many different people. I ended up having the most fun out of all my interviews here (which may sound weird, I know), and I was able to be my talkative, confident self at this interview.
I had a few other interviews after U of M, and one blew me away. I was sure this place was something special and might actually take me away from Ann Arbor.
The days before December 1st were excruciatingly nerve-wracking. I remember not being able to sleep the two nights before because of how nervous I was. I had to keep reminding myself to pay attention in my fall semester classes instead of thinking about all the interview questions I was asked and all the answers I gave and how I could have answered them differently.
After talking with my family and after much thought, I felt I was ready to try something new and leave Ann Arbor and Michigan in general.
Then I get a call from UMSOD on December 1st just after 9 in the morning. I got in. I couldn’t believe it. I barely remember what I said back on the phone or if I even spoke fluent English, but one thing that will always remain clear is hearing on the other end, “How would you like to stay at Michigan for a little bit longer?”… Hearing that question, knowing this school wanted me to attend, made my answer certain: I couldn’t leave.
Now I’m in my D1 year, and I couldn’t be happier. My classmates are incredible, and all faculty blow us away with their extensive knowledge. Oh, and not to mention U of M is the top dental school in the country and second best in the entire world. Seems funny now that I even considered for a second going somewhere else.
For all the current and future applicants to dental school, I would highly consider thinking about Michigan being your number one choice. While the winters are tough and not everyone’s favorite, Ann Arbor is indescribable in any written form. It has to be experienced first hand. While I was blessed to be given a chance to spend eight years here, even four years is something that will change a student into a career ready adult. U of M will give you connections you never thought imaginable before, and you will get to know so many influential scholars, and that will have such a positive impact on your future. You will be coming to the best school in the country and the school that will prepare you to be the best dentist you can be, which leads to providing exceptional care to patients and that, after all, is why so many people are attracted to dental school and the profession in the first place.
Michigan is ho〽️e. Those who stay, those who will come, will be the best leaders. Go Blue!
Cory Ball is a D1, from Grand Rapids, and his advice would be to enjoy every moment of the opportunities given to you. You never know which ones will change your life and what amazing life lessons you can gain from them.