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Laundry On Sundaes

Every beginning is only a sequel, after all, and the book of events is always open halfway through.

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I didn’t think anybody still read this blog, but more than once over the past year I’ve learned that some D1 at UCSF knows me from here. So I feel some kind of professional obligation to at least update it with some dental school insights. I remember as a pre-dent who used to follow several blogs by dental students, I would get frustrated that their posts would become increasingly sparse over time. Now I understand how hard it is to find the time and energy to do ANYTHING, much less keep up with a blog, when you’re in clinic.

The transition into my clinical years of dental school was not an easy one. In fact, it was probably one of the hardest times I’ve ever had to go through in life so far. I shared my thoughts about this in a lengthy Facebook post earlier this year, which was met with tremendous support. I will share it here:

“As I’m about to began my final year of dental school, I want to share something about my experience with clinic this past year. This message is especially for the incoming D3’s who are about to enter clinic. Some of you will be instantly awesome at clinic, and some of you will struggle. I was one of those who struggled last year, and I struggled hard. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing poorly in school. More than that, for the first time in my life, I was not enjoying school. What happened? I wondered to myself. I loved the first 2 years of dental school and felt like I was prepared, but now that I was in clinic, everything felt 100 times harder. The amount of paperwork and administrative stuff was overwhelming, and I felt like for the first time, the amount of success I was getting was not directly correlated with the amount of effort I put in. I look around and see a lot of my classmates excelling, some already doing their third crown and 7th filling when I was still struggling to get patients in my chair. I hear them tell me how much they loved clinic, how much better it was than simlab, but I could not relate at all. I wished so desperately that I felt the same way, but I didn’t. I woke up every day dreading the thought of having to get out of bed to go to clinic. I had so much anxiety about everything clinic-related. I felt overwhelmed all the time. I lost count of the number of times I cried. I began to seriously doubt my decision to go into dentistry, then felt immense guilt over the thought because I, and more importantly, my family and loved ones, have already invested so much time, energy, and money to get me this far. Just weeks ago I was presented with an award at our clinic induction ceremony, and now I felt like a fraud, like any day now they are going to realize that they’ve made a terrible mistake. Things got so bad that I even sought professional help. Over time though, things started to get better, slowly. Fall quarter was still hard, and it wasn’t really until winter that I finally started feeling more comfortable in clinic. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely still tough days (see my post about my last day of D3 as an example), but now things are so much better than they were a year ago. And from speaking with classmates over the past year, I now know that I wasn’t the only one who had felt this way at the beginning of clinic. But we so often only share stories of our successes and don’t hear about the struggles. So I want to put this out there for all the D3’s: if you ever feel any of the feelings I described above, you’re not alone. It’s completely normal. Don’t give up. If you don’t immediately fall in love with clinic, it doesn’t make you any less of a great future dentist. The transition to clinic is not easy for everyone, and it’s ok to struggle. If you do find yourself struggling, please talk to someone, a classmate, a friend, a family member, a mental health professional. And I will be more than happy to listen too, so feel free to reach out any time. And remember, as you begin to take care of patients, to take care of yourself. We’re all in this together.”

So many of my classmates told me that they felt the same emotions and went through the same struggles as me. So many of the incoming D3’s told me how thankful they were for publicly sharing my thoughts. The truth is, dental school is really, really hard. Caring for patients is an enormous responsibility. It’s completely okay, even normal, to struggle through this transition. But it is also true that I sometimes felt very alone in my struggles last year. That’s part of why I shared my experience, so that others can feel less alone. Mental health is so important, especially for health professional students, and the more candid conversations we can have about it, the better things will be for everyone.

Despite my initial struggles in clinic, third year of dental school was also full of rewards. So moving on to happier things, here are some of the highlights of D3 year in photos!

My clinic partner Kathleen and I at our clinic induction ceremony! We might be smiling but I was definitely internally panicking about actually having to treat patients. It’s so important to have a good support system in dental school and I’m so fortunate to have an amazing clinic partner by my side!

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My big and beautiful Delta Sigma Delta family at the initiation dinner last year:

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Once again, support system!

Me and my wonderful D2 assistant Wendy at Give Kids a Smile Day this year:

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Joining ADEA (American Dental Education Association) at UCSF and exploring my interest in academia is one of the best decisions I made in dental school. This year, I went to the ADEA Annual Session in Denver with a large group of UCSF students and faculty. Here are some lovely members of the UCSF student delegation:

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I also participated in the ADEA Academic Dental Careers Fellowship Program this past year, and as a part of it I conducted a research project on dental students’ perceptions of and satisfaction with faculty diversity. Here I am presenting my research poster with my incredible mentor, Dr. Gwen Essex:

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I was also honored to receive one of two ADEA/Crest Oral-B Laboratories Scholarship for Predoctoral Dental Students Pursuing Academic Careers:

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I’m so glad for the opportunity to attend the conference this year, which left me feeling inspired and grateful and made me realize 2 things: 1) that dentistry is so much bigger than what you experience at your dental school, and 2) we truly are surrounded by the most brilliant and supportive faculty and students at UCSF. A word of advice to all dental students out there, if you ever have the chance to attend meetings and conferences on a national/international level, do it. There are so many opportunities out there: ADEA, ASDA, AADR/IADR, etc. Don’t worry about missing classes or clinic or exams, those things will seem so inconsequential in the future. But the experiences you gain, the people you meet, and the things you learn at these meetings will stay with you for far longer.

Here’s a photo of some of my wonderful classmates in my clinic coaching group, with our coach Dr. Shek:

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I feel so lucky to be in my coaching group. Everyone in my group is so nice and helpful and supportive and funny that it’s one of the things that make me look forward to coming to clinic every day.

I had the privilege to attend the annual UCSF Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU) convocation dinner again this year as a scholarship recipient. Here I am with my Delts big sib Jenny, who has been a role model and inspiration for me since day 1:

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And with my amazing classmates/fellow scholarship recipients:

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And lastly, I volunteered for and attended the class of 2016 graduation this past June. It was my first time attending dental school graduation, and I got strangely emotional (right when pomp and circumstance started playing and the grads walked in). I think was partly because I got to see that all the hard work finally paying off, and also because – gasp – this will be me next year. Here I am with Matt, Delts fam and maker of the most wonderful review notes that I would not have been able to survive dental school without, and his adorable baby daughter.

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As I’m writing this, there are 266 days left until my own graduation. Still a lot to accomplish before the big day, but onward and upward!

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I left out one big part of my D2 year in the last post about dental school life, and that’s because it deserves its own post! As someone who conducted research over the summer between D1 and D2 year, I, along with a large group of classmates, went to the American Association for Dental Research/International Association for Dental Research conference in March. The event was held in Boston, and despite the cold, we had a ton of fun there.

Me and my good friend/clinic partner/ortho buddy Mychi at the UCSF reception the first night of the conference:

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Presenting my research poster next to my classmate Mona! This was such a cool experience not only because I was able to talk about my research to a bunch of new people, but presenting next to Mona was a bonus because we had first met in Boston when we interviewed for Harvard together! Funny how life works out sometimes.

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Me and my poster!

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D2 girls manning the UCSF booth at the exhibit hall!

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We had some free time to explore the city and I took full advantage of it! I really didn’t like Boston when I went there for my Harvard interview a couple of years ago, but this time I found the city quite charming! On my last morning there, I took a walk by myself to Boston Common. It was a cold but clear morning and it was just lovely.

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Then I met up with friends for some delicious seafood at Neptune Oyster! We had oysters, lobster roll, and clam chowder:

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For dinner we hit up Giacomo’s for some Italian food – with more seafood of course!

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I’m so glad that I was able to attend this conference during dental school. There are so many opportunities to get involved in dentistry on a bigger level, be in with research, organized dentistry, academia, and more, and having the chance to travel and meet students and professionals from other places in the world is so enriching. So advice for current/future dental students: take advantage of these opportunities!

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I’m solidly into my D3 year now, but I guess it’s never too late to share some tidbits and highlights from D2 year at UCSF!

Presenting my poster for my summer research project at UCSF Research and Clinical Excellence Day 2014. It was my first poster presentation ever! Had a really great experience.

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My dental frat family at the annual Delta Sigma Delta initiation dinner! We welcomed 4 new D1’s into the family. We’re a good looking bunch if I do say so myself.

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Fun girls night in with classmates. We cooked fresh mussels that were harvested illegally on Ocean Beach earlier that day!

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Group photo after doing dental education, screenings, and fluoride varnish applications at an elementary school in the Mission. For one of our classes last year, we went on 3 outreach events like this. Very rewarding even though we had to get up very early those days.

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Halloween last year! A classmate and I dressed up as Kevin and Russell from the movie Up!

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One of the best things I did last year was to join the board of ADEA (American Dental Education Association) at UCSF. I got to be a part of an amazing group of people and we put together so many great events. Here’s our board photo last year.

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And here we are again at the annual High School Outreach Conference!

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The theme of the conference last year was social media and we had this Instagram photo frame for the participants (and us) to take photos with!

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Another student group I’m a part of at UCSF is the Chinese Health Professional Students Association (CHPSA). Here’s the board at the annual Chinese New Year celebration!

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PaintNite with dental school friends!

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Delta Sigma Delta family dinner!

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CHPSA dental outreach event in Chinatown!

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Last year I had the honor of receiving a Craig Memorial Scholarship from Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU), the national dental honor society. Here I am with 2 of the other scholarship recipients in my class at the convocation dinner at the Cliff House.

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And one more DSD photo: me with my big and little at senior dinner:

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D2 year was definitely the best year in dental school! Not as much work as D1 year, much more free time, and before the stresses of clinic!

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Can’t believe my super long summer is almost ending! I’m frantically trying to finish up my summer research project, submit the abstract and finalize my poster… because next Friday Yufei and I are leaving for a week in Iceland! It’ll be my last big summer adventure and I’m so beyond excited for it.

Some other news since last time… I passed boards! I started to get really worried when everyone who took it the same day as me (or even after) started getting results in the mail and I was still waiting, and I called them and found out that it must have gotten lost in the mail. So they had to re-send it and I finally got it 5 weeks after my exam. I felt pretty good about it afterwards so I wasn’t too worried about passing, but the wait was agonizing! It would have been so nice if we got instant results like the DAT (man that was so great). But now that it’s done, I can relax a bit and enjoy my D2 year (supposedly the most chill year at UCSF according to upperclassmen).

We celebrated Yufei’s 24th birthday last month! We had dinner at Hakkasan and then drinks with friends at Local Edition. One of the presents I got him was this scratch map where you scratch off places you’ve travelled to. Since we love traveling together I thought this would be a good way to track where we’ve been together.

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Really puts into perspective how much of the world there is left to see!

What else… we went to the annual Twitter picnic last month. It was such a gorgeous day, and since we don’t get many of those in the summer months in SF, I of course didn’t use sunscreen and got burnt.

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Afterwards we went to check out the Wave Organ, which was nearby.

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There was even this nice little stretch of beach facing the city!

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I also got my first haircut since my perm last year. I went back to Betty at Sally’s Salon since I really trust her. She got rid of my dead ends and got some layers in there, and I asked for side swept bangs. My hair now feels much lighter even though it’s still long. I’ve been putting it up in a ponytail more often since it’s not as heavy and the bangs frame my face nicely.

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That’s about it for now. Some upcoming posts to look forward to include a summer restaurant summary, my recent baking adventures, and LA trip!

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So I’ve been kind of MIA here for a while… that’s because I’ve been studying hard for Part 1 of the National Board Dental Exam for the last 5 weeks! I finally took it yesterday and it feels so good to be done (IF I did indeed pass the exam. We’ll find out in 3 weeks!).

I knew I had a lot on my plate this summer, our one and only real summer break during dental school. I was a part of the Summer Research Fellowship Program, doing a study on pre- and post-operative patient experience using data from Twitter. It was something I’ve wanted to do since before I even started dental school, so I was pretty excited about it. It’s awesome that UCSF was able to support 20 of us this year, the biggest group ever.

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But even though it’s great that I got to do research, I also knew that I wanted to take my boards this summer, and that studying for it would be quite time-consuming. Luckily, my project is very self-directed and the work can be done from anywhere, with no need for a regular schedule or to go into a lab everyday. So I made it work! I will probably do another post on boards later when I get my exam results.

Before all of that though, after school ended, I took 2 weeks off to just relax. D1 year was tough and I really needed some time off. Some friends from school and I went exploring the week after school ended and we went up the Filbert Street Steps to Coit Tower.

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I had been to Coit Tower when I first arrived in SF but had never gone up to the top. It was a beautiful clear day and the views from the top were great.

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Afterwards we walked around North Beach, got gelato, and watched the dogs play in Washington Square Park.

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I also went on a big-little date with Jenny, and we got brunch at Kitchen Story and then went ceramics painting at Terra Mia.

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Terra Mia is a paint-your-own ceramics studio where you pick out pre-made pieces to paint, and they fire it and you go pick up the finished product. It was so much fun and we spent the whole afternoon there since you can stay as long as you want. I decided to paint a bowl to give to my mom for her birthday.

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Yufei and I also took a short trip to Oregon during those 2 weeks, and it was nice getting out of SF for a few days. So I will be writing catch-up posts for the next little while, including a lot of restaurant posts, Oregon recap, and other stuff I’ve been up to this summer!

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About time I did an update on the final chapter of my pre-dental life. Last time I wrote about putting down my deposit at UCSF and getting wait-listed at Harvard. And I thought that was the end of it, so imagine my surprise when I got a call from Harvard at the end of May! I had gotten accepted! I was almost ready to e-mail Harvard to withdraw my spot. It was a good surprise but also created quite a dilema for me. It’s the pseudo-problem that any pre-dental student would love to have, to have to pick between 2 great schools. But it was a really tough choice all the same. I’m not going to go into all the factors that went into my decision, but I picked the school that most resonated with me during my interview, the one in the city that is more interesting and fun and offers more opportunities for Yufei’s future, the one that I knew all along what I was going to choose. Can you guess? It’s UCSF! Was it hard to give up on Harvard? Well, a little, though I think my mom was more torn up about that than I was (bless her Asian parent heart). I’m super happy with my choice, and it’s so nice to finally (finally!) have some closure to this whole admissions process. Now I could put everything behind me and move forward.

Speaking of moving, Yufei and I are actually moving this weekend. As soon as I decided to stay with UCSF, we began to look for an apartment closer to school. I really wanted a place that is within walking distance to school, which is very helpful according to the upperclassmen I talked to. It took a few weeks of searching and refreshing Craigslist, but we found a nice little studio apartment only a few blocks away from campus. It’s smaller than our current one-bedroom, but it’s in a nice area and cheaper and – did I mention it’s less than a 10-minute walk to school? I’m going to need all the sleep I can get when school starts. Ain’t nobody got time for commuting in the morning for 8am classes! I’m so excited to arrange and decorate our new place, and I’ll definitely post some photos when it’s all done.

I’m also looking to get involved with doing research at UCSF, and tomorrow I’m meeting someone from a team that uses Twitter for research on various health topics. How awesome is that? I’m really excited to learn more about it and help out. I always knew that I didn’t really want to do lab research again, but I’ve always been interested in the intersection between health and technology, and using social media as a way to survey and analyse health information is very cool. So, yeah, really excited about this opportunity!

Anyway, lots happening in the next little while. I’m a little overwhelmed but also very much energized. After a long year of not really doing much, I think I’m ready to dive into being somewhat busy again (I’m sure I will regret saying this when dental school starts, oh well)!

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NOTE: Somehow found this reallllly old post from back when I was still a college senior, haha. There is still a lot of helpful information in here so I’m going to post this now. If you’re still in college, I hope you find this useful!

I was talking with a freshman who was in one of the campus organizations I was in last semester, and when asked what his plans were for the summer, he replied “oh I don’t know, I think I’ll just sit on my butt and watch TV”. I sincerely hoped that he was joking, but from his tone, it didn’t sound like it.

I know that when you were a kid, summers really were the time you didn’t do anything productive and probably watched TV all day, or ran around on the lawn, or had fun in camp, or maybe even had a summer job at the grocery store, or whatever. But once you’re in college it’s different. You actually have to do stuff in the summer. Useful stuff. Stuff you can put on your resume and can talk about during interviews for grad school or jobs. As tempting as it is to just relax and have fun all summer or go back to the Starbucks job you’ve had since high school, don’t. So what are you supposed to do? Here are some of the most popular options.

1. Take summer classes.

I’ve never done this myself, but lots of people do it and it certainly has many advantages. You can get ahead on the road to graduation, or maybe catch up on requirements you might have missed. Summer classes -often have smaller class sizes, therefore offering more faculty-student interaction. You are also probably better able to focus your studying on 1 or 2 summer classes, as opposed to 5 or 6 in a regular semester. So it’s a good option if you need or want the credits!

2. Do research.

If you’re a science major like me and want a career in healthcare or research, then doing research as an undergrad is a must. Summer is prime time to find a position as a research assistant in a lab, and this may come in many different forms. There are a ton of summer research programs out there, and many of them are paid (though often not much). If you can’t find or can’t get into one of these programs, you can always just contact professors directly. Most profs are open to getting more help in their lab, especially if you volunteer (see below).

3. Volunteer.

I know you might feel like making any money at all is better than doing free labour, but trust me, in the long run, your summer volunteer work will mean much more than a retail job at the mall. Volunteering can also come in many different forms. For example, I volunteered as a research assistant my summer after freshman year in a lab. Volunteer to work in an organization you’re interested in, and maybe it will eventually even turn into a paid job! Another way to volunteer is to join an international volunteer organization and go abroad. But these programs usually cost money, so not only will you have to pay, some companies or grad schools may even be wary of them because they might think you just paid for an experience. Still, volunteering is another great option for summer.

4. Do an internship.

No matter your major or intended career, doing internships is beneficial or even essential. Interning is a great opportunity to explore a potential career, build your skills in the workplace, and network. Plus, you will make some money! Start looking early – many internship programs start accepting applications in the fall. Look online by searching “summer internship in _____”, look in the career section of companies you’re interested in, and talk to a counselor at your school’s career center. Most summer internships are likely very competitive, so apply early and apply to many!

And if you want extra challenge and excitement – you can do any of the above abroad! Like I did with my research internship in Vienna. It was one of the most amazing yet challenging experience of my life (you can read more about that here)!

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