Another semester has come to an end, and I have survived yet again to tell the tale.
In fact, it’s been a solid month since completing finals, and I’ve been busy rehabilitating from the past semester’s mess by traveling and spending some time reflecting on what was accomplished.
Completing spring semester symbolized the end of an era of heavy book work, and a transition to ownership of the title of D2, each of which ignite both alleviation, and satisfaction in the feat.
It was equal parts challenging and humbling, and equal parts frustration and relief.
I showed up, took notes, over studied, under studied, crammed, procrastinated, and at the end of the day I found balance. Spring semester fared better than the fall, but you couldn’t pay me to do it again!
Gus would have to agree. All that studying was exhausting!
So, what was it really like?
We took on yet another semester of histology, this time narrowing focus to oral studies.
We dove into lecture topics on embryological development, pharyngeal arch derivatives and disorders, the cranioskeleton, oral tissues, and tooth development, for a very (exponentially, very) summarized version of focus.
Lectures were overflowing with information at rapid speed. For the first time, it was imperative that I re-listened to every lecture to catch all of the important information spewed too fast for my handwriting to capture. The professor is one of my very favorites in the school, which at least provides cushion to the blow of an ominous class with very difficult exams. I felt that this semester was much harder than the first, but in the end, I walked out with better scores, and felt that I had finally dipped my toes into material which I would find clinically relevant in the future.
Head and neck anatomy brought on a new wave of challenge and focus. We narrowed our studies to structures superior to the shoulders and hit the ground running on day one. Lab time increased initially, as the areas of dissection now required greater delicacy. While slightly overwhelming, every bit of information was imperative for understanding in a clinical sense, and this thought was ever-looming. It brought a sense of seriousness to my studies, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I was subconsciously harder on myself when preparing for exams, but also remembering the finer details with greater accuracy.
We also partook in a memorial service, held in memory of our donors, with host to their loved ones. The service was beautiful, to say the least. The church on campus was bursting at the seams with such grand attendance that day. Every seat was taken, and crowds gathered at the back of the sanctuary for the entirety of the service. Afterward we met with families at a reception.
If you’ve followed along with my previous posts and blogs, you know this is not my first go with anatomy. I’ve taken it in all formats from many different schools, always seeming to be the only class that didn’t transfer. I had been afforded one semester in undergrad with cadavers, but dissections were performed by TA’s outside of class, and we had many donors to observe for practical’s. I had imagined that this year of study would likely be the same as the past, with a small sense of detatchment to the work being performed. I feel now, that I was wrong. While I know nothing personal about my donor, not a name or a history to even be able to internet search, I am recon that they were good. They gave a gift that in no way would ever benefit them, to people they will never meet. But beyond this, they also gave a gift that will be forever beneficial to our future patients, our visual and skillful knowledge gained to be utilized forevermore. Whoever they were, I am thankful for their selflessness, and I am grateful for what they have taught me.
We studied Neuroscience as well. A class which scared me to the core to enter into my calendar but ended up being one of my favorites to study. Lectures were no more or less intense than others, and also required a fair share of playback of lectures to maintain adequate notes. With a solid amount of studying and re-organizing information, I began to make connections that linked together nearly all subjects of the semester and offered a little clarity to many areas of confusion. We studied neurological development, brain topography, brain vasculature and ventricles, tracts and columns, motor systems, cranial nerves, and spent many hours focusing on general sensations, taste, and pain. I can still hear my professors voice echoing the words Spinothalamic Tract, in my mind.
Biochemistry…oh where do I begin. I gave silent props to my mother, who was a biochem major, after each exam were completed. I have yet to be captivated by the subject. I had a sub-par background in biochemistry already, so in all actuality I dreaded this course knowing that the grad-school approach to lecturing generally covers an entire semester’s-worth of undergrad work in only a couple weeks. All in all, it wasn’t so bad. The most difficult part of this course was adjusting to each of the many co-lecturer’s teaching and testing styles, but I fared well. Biochemistry is an essential fundamental course which many of future courses will build on. It’s necessary for understanding physiology, disease manifestation, and pharmacology, to name a few.
We finally got to take an extended seat in the Doctors Chair for our course in Periodontology. This quickly made Tuesday and Thursday afternoons my favorite days of the week! One day was reserved for practice on typodonts and becoming familiar with new instruments, while the second day was spent in the clinic practicing charting, probing, scaling, disclosing, etc, to our heart’s content.
We participated in community dental work, shuttling ourselves to off-site locations to provide education and supplies for different subsects of the Omaha population. The site which I was enlisted was that of a Headstart program. Our group spent the afternoon demonstrating and practicing brusing and flossing techniques with a classroom full of bright-eyed 4 year olds, and hearing all their stories of dental office encounters. What struck me most was my lack of knowledge on their dexterity and capability these children had at maintaining their oral health. While they were motivated and interested in working on their teeth, they struggled so much with holding the toothbrush and flossers, as well as getting the correct technique. Parents were not available for the presentation, though I noted this would have been a great addition. So many of the babes had full-crown dentition, missing teeth, and stories of toothaches that made my heart hurt. I can’t shake the feeling I had seeing this, and its certainly motivating as I begin to consider my future practice, that I may be able to use community outreach to help intercept earlier in my community and prevent these types of traumas.
A second outreach site was held at an elementary school. Here, we reviewed past dental screenings, verified if treatments had been performed, and identified any complaints. Though we did not see many children, we had a great turnout, and many of the students had completed successful dental treatments in a provider’s office, alleviating their pain. Though there were a few who had canceled appointments, I could see the motivation in our instructor’s eyes, as well as the reporting school nurses, to make follow-up with family a priority until treatments were performed. This made my heart a little happier.
We partook in a basic nutrition class, which was easy and interesting, and made me feel much better about myself (HA)! But really, an easy class every once in a while, is very good for the ego and battered soul. I also enjoyed somewhat knowing a subject already, having been a nutrition science major in undergrad, so I have only good things to say about the course.
We became certified in CPR. My certification day came during a blizzard, which left the most impact on my life. Having taken this class oh so many times, I’ll admit it’s always a good reminder. Also, having been through it, I’m always a little surprised to see how the course varies by instructor. I’ve been taught the breaths method, the no-breaths method, and the method which confused us on whether or not to use each pf the previous methods. I did do my own research after beginning nursing school, and while the no-breaths method seems to be the best intervention for an accident where eyes are on the patient when the trauma occurs, neither have much of a variation in survival statistics. Fun fact I suppose?
Another fun fact, which makes me feel somewhat spoiled, but our class has had the awesome opportunity to work with a physical therapist as one of our associate professors this past year! He taught in anatomy and physiology, as well as lead a course in ergonomics, which actually proved to be very interesting! As future dentists, preventing neck and back pain will be imperative for preserving a long future as practitioners. Each week we attended classes which focused on maintaining mobility, identifying adverse movements and correcting them, exercises for strength, identifying unfavorable lifting techniques, and (my favorite) stretching and massage. I am the kind of student who’s posture is so bad, I am constantly asked if im cold, when with friends. The kind of back-bent in half posture you only get from writing notes for a living for a decade straight. So, this class was exactly what I needed. Not only am I more aware, I actually have been using the exercise guides at home, and I have proactively taken action on improving my study habits. *pats self on back. * BUT, it also helped me realize just how easy it is to become accustomed to performing activities with poor posture, and it did frighten me that this could easily end my career. I don’t think anyone of us can afford to lose our ability to practice over something we can very easily prevent.
Occlusion was a force to be reckoned with, to say the least. I was constantly brought back to my days in the orthodontic office, and oh so grateful for the information I had picked up along the way there. We prepared and mounted casts on an articulator, took records in centric relation and centric occlusion, fabricated a brux guard, and gave an occlusive analysis on one of our classmates. This class was seemingly difficult but looking back it was generally from heavy lab work and dissecting instructions which seemed to be in another language. The more we progress the easier this becomes, and the more these procedures begin to knit together into a bigger picture of diagnostic dentistry.
Last but not least, the highlight of my semester (and after reading back on the fall highlight blog, apparently last semester’s too) Dental materials. Now I completely understand that I may not share the same adoration for this class, and I am not about to assume anyone reading this gets me, but I loved this class. It got me out of bed on Thursday with excitement, and I’d spend the morning working away on my typodont, drawing, cutting, filling, and polishing plastic teeth to my heart’s content, in my own little productive world. We worked with amalgam and composite, and even had a session with the Omnicam, learning more about CEREC, which was so fun! The class was self-paced, and it gave me the sense of freedom to take my time when needed and whiz by when I felt comfortable. I hope one day I don’t look back on this and laugh, or cringe, or regret my words, but this was my happy place of the semester that felt never ending, and I solemnly swear it.
Aside from school, we moved in January! I unpacked the house over spring break…well most of it anyway. I saw friends, visited family, and snuck in a couple days off for plants and pictures and cleaning the house. Life outside of school was a bit of a blur, but I still made time for it when I could, with a well deserved trip after finals were complete.
And now, we are officially titled D2’s although It doesn’t really feel any different. The next few weeks are filled with a few classes and a slower schedule that is oh so sweet. Although the schedule we have right now could be what most took in undergrad, it feels like tortoise-pace in comparison to the semester we just completed. The weight is lifted to have survived D1 and looking back it really does make me proud to see what we are capable of. I’ve found myself thinking more than once that I am thankful to have been placed into this program with the classmates that I have. Everyone from different walks of life, different perspectives, different goals, and yet they still manage to ebb and flow with each other smoothly. They offer support and balance each other’s personalities so well. Coming from a history of two previous professional programs and knowing the dynamic of many programs’ friends are in and have been in, I am SO thankful that up to this point it has been appropriate and enjoyable.
One down, three to go. A year which is rumored to be the worst, lies ahead after another break in July. A year with bookwork and heavy lab schedules, and trials yet to be named.
I questioned whether or not we were ready for D1, and after a long blink, it’s been overcome. I question whether or not we are ready for D2, but I already know the answer to that.