Ah yes, I remember it well. Of course as Abby’s dad, I walked through 3 feet of snow uphill, both ways! I was pulling a small rickety trailer behind a 1975 Ford Galaxie on my way to medical school in Kansas City circa 1983. Times and vehicles have changed, but the process of learning to be a health care professional (in this case a dentist), is remarkably similar to back when I was a student. Of course, everyone knows that your pre-dental class size is always larger during your freshman semester. Too much social life and just plain hard work often get in the way of the end result. That’s fine if academic studies aren’t your cup of tea….unless you want to be a dentist!
Life changes when you morph from a happy-go-lucky teenager into a professional caregiver responsible for some pretty serious stuff.
- Competition will now be a regular part of your life. Get used to it. College students with a pre-medical or pre-dental major aren’t officially ranked, but professional schools can “read between the lines.” They know who’s headed for the Ivy League. Once I start dental/medical school, I’ve got it made right? Not so fast…you’re still ranked among your classmates for desirable fellowship positions AFTER professional school is done. And besides, we’re all Type A personalities, so most of us want to win for no other reason than to win! Once I’m settled into a practice, can I relax? Of course not. Quality improvement/evidence-based medicine/practice marketing will make sure that you’re always looking over your shoulder to stay one step ahead of the competition.
- Learn to process information quickly & selectively…not every chapter in your biology book is essential for you to make a good grade. Learn the art of speed reading and you’ll thank me many times over. Have you ever been in a doctor’s office and observed all of the piles and piles of journals that seemingly stack up out of nowhere? Someone hasn’t been skimming for the most important concepts.
- Most importantly, be persistent. Rarely does an application to medical or dental school get a rubber stamp just when you thought it would (or should if you’re the one applying). You are no less of a health care professional just because you have to apply more than once. In fact, the harder you work for anything, the more you can appreciate it. Persistence shows passion, that you really want something even if you have to wait a bit longer to get it. And besides, what do you call the last person in the class after you finish medical school? That’s right…..doctor!
- So it’s tough being a doctor or dentist and the work starts now. Is this a good thing or overkill? Think of it this way. If I have a heart attack at 2 am, I want my doctor to be comfortable with making decisions when they’re tired and even a little sleep deprived. You do know that heart attacks are more common late at night and if you can’t take care of it in your sleep….you probably haven’t started your internship yet! If my tooth cracks on a weekend, please come fix it as soon as you can BEFORE Monday morning. Just sayin!
But don’t worry about anything now…just take one step at a time, with one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, you’ll have one more cap and gown to store in the event you have to prove you really did it. Enjoy your home away from home,
but you can always come back; no one else is going to sleep in your bed!
When it’s all said and done with no more money to make, no more patients to cure, and no more reports to write, your friends and family will always be there to give you the approval that you really need and quite frankly always wanted anyway.
Have fun pursuing your dreams little girl; coming from an old man, they won’t fly away, they just grow up!