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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

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