D1 Stories: Rachel

Hometown: Brooksville, FL Undergraduate: University of Central Florida

Why did you choose a career in dentistry?

My career goal has always been to become a dentist. After graduating UCF with a degree in biology, I decided to prepare for the DAT and complete nursing school to gain more experience in the healthcare field and differentiate myself as a dental school applicant. Nursing has given me a unique perspective to approach dental school. My journey to dental school has been worth all the time and work. 

Why did you choose University of Louisville School of Dentistry?

It was very important for me to choose a school and location that merged both my professional and personal interests. I have been an avid equestrian since the age of 7 and the horse lover in me could not pass up the opportunity to attend dental school in the same city as the Kentucky Derby! ULSD also has modern clinical facilities and a large patient population base and offers me the experiences to become familiar with dental technology.  

How has your life experience prepared you to be a successful dentist after you graduate?

Nursing offered me many of the skills that I will be able to adapt and use in dentistry. Nursing allowed me to experience the diverse healthcare resources to deliver physical, behavioral, emotional, and social services to improve patient care. My time in hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health facilities opened my eyes to whole patient care. I learned how to interact with patients and their family members, many of which were unhappy or nervous about their situation of being hospitalized. Learning how to use therapeutic communication is vital when in a profession where it is possible to encounter difficult or anxious patients. I also learned to become an educator for patients of various health literacy levels. Some patients had a good understanding of their own medical needs while others needed some more education.  

One experience that will always stay with me is when one of my patients, an elderly lady, was recently diagnosed with cancer. I was checking in on her, asking if she needed anything, when she grasped onto my hand, fearful, and told me that she was scared she would spread the cancer to her granddaughter who lived with her. She did not understand what cancer was and I was able to explain to her that it is not contagious, but her granddaughter, who was a teenager at the time, should keep in mind regular screenings as cancer may be hereditary in the family. After our discussion, she was emotional and thanked me, saying that she was confused and scared and no one else had taken the time to talk to her so that she could understand her situation.  

One of my favorite aspects of nursing was interprofessional communication. Being in acute care, interprofessional rounds with all interprofessional team members were held to discuss each patient daily. This is a vital aspect of patient centered care as physicians, nurses, physical therapists, social workers, and other team members would converse about the patients’ plans of care to ensure that quality of care is optimized. I am really looking forward to interprofessional communication in the field of dentistry and excited to have patients once again! 

I have also had many diverse and meaningful volunteer experiences through organizations such as Student Government, Phi Theta Kappa, and UCF’s Pre-Professional Medical Society as well as independent volunteering.  

One of my favorite organizations was the Orlando Chapter of Hearts for the Homeless, where I also served as an expansion board member. The Orlando chapter of Hearts for the Homeless organized weekly events where members would travel to downtown Orlando and host free blood pressure screenings in conjunction with a weekly food bank event. This was so beneficial to members of the homeless population. I learned that many members of this population had undiagnosed hypertension and the main reason was their fear or confusion of the healthcare system or a lack of knowledge of the resources available. In addition to offering screenings, the organization would provide participants who presented with high blood pressure with a list of free or low-cost resources available in the area. This volunteer experience was particularly important to me understanding the link of cardiac and oral health. 

What were your first couple of weeks at ULSD like?

I quickly learned the reality of what dental schools mean when faculty and staff tell potential students that undergraduate is like “drinking out of a water hose” and dental school is like “drinking out of a fire hose.” Especially with being the first ULSD class to undertake the integrated curriculum, the first few weeks have been rather busy. The people that I get to see and be around daily make the workload more bearable. I cannot begin to express the amount of friendliness and support that I feel from my classmates, upperclassmen, and faculty. Before interviewing at ULSD, I had heard of the friendly reputation. This reputation came through so strongly during my interview process, and still does not falter. The ULSD Student Affairs department goes above and beyond organizing such special events for the class such as Orientation and the White Coat Ceremony and helping students with the transition into dental school. 

What advice would you share with undergraduates considering a career in dentistry?

Beyond maintaining a good GPA and obtaining a good score on the DAT, I would advise undergraduate students to make the most of shadowing experiences. Although shadowing experiences are required to apply for dental school, do not seek shadowing experiences to simply check a box off. Be present during your shadowing experiences and ask questions! The dentists that allow pre-dental students to come to their practices invite students in because they enjoy teaching future dentists. If you take an interest in their work and their field, they will take an interest in you. I am very thankful for the dentists that allowed me to come shadow at their practices and the diverse experiences that they offered me.  

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