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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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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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It’s been a few weeks since D1 year ended and I think I’m finally ready to blog about it! The last quarter of the year was not an easy one but there were also plenty of fun moments.

In the beginning of May we had the annual DSD senior dinner, this year on a boat cruise around the bay!

Me and my amazing big sib Jenny:

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D1 Delts!

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It was such a fun night and the view of the city across the waters was beautiful. It’s really nice to have some of these moments to reflect on how lucky I am to live in a gorgeous city like San Francisco, to go to one of the best dental schools in the country, and to have met such incredible people here.

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My friend Kathleen and I participated in the UCSF Science & Health Education Partnership this past year, where we went to kindergarten classes and taught the students science and health lessons in the past 2 quarters. Even though it was exhausting at times, it turned out to be a really great experience. We got these really cute thank you books from one of the classes after our final lesson (the students had wrote about what they learned from us, accompanied by some very creative illustrations).

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As a member of the dental arm of the Chinese Health Professional Student Association, I volunteered for our very first dental outreach event in Chinatown this past quarter. We did screenings, exams, and fluoride varnish on a lot of the underserved population in the area. I was nervous about doing anything on an actual person who’s not a classmate, but I did just fine and it was such a rewarding feeling afterwards knowing that I even helped make the smallest difference in someone’s health. I can’t wait to help grow the outreach part of the organization even more next year!

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Now, for some real dentistry (on fake teeth)! Gold full veneer crown on tooth #3:

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Class II composite filling on tooth #30:

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Gold onlay prep on tooth #30:

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Finally, the last day of D1 year. It was a gorgeous SF day and we were so ready to celebrate after our last final. But first, we had to take a photo! This group of crazy kids kept me sane this year.

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Celebratory drinks at Noir Lounge after a delicious dinner at Mazzat. Me with Kathleen and MyChi, my awesome clinic partners and wonderful friends.

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After that we went to have dessert at Candybar. Can’t go wrong with food, drinks, followed by more food!

D1 year had been a total roller-coaster of a year, but at the end of it I’m really happy with everything: the knowledge and skills I learned, the people I met, and the new person I’ve grown into. OF course, I couldn’t have done any of it without the incredible support from my parents, my love Yufei, my new friends at school, and the faculty members at UCSF who gave their time to help me learn. I am full of gratitude as I reflect back on these past 9 months, and I’m eagerly looking forward to continuing this journey in D2 year.

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I’ll be the firs to admit it: this quarter of dental school has been hard for me and I’ve whined a lot about it. I’m not going to discuss the terribleness that was microbiology and pharmacology that we had to learn for the most part of the quarter for BMS (Biomedical Sciences, the basic sciences course stream at UCSF); it sucked and I hated it. But there was also a lot more lab-work we had to to do for PRDS (Preventative and Restorative Dental Sciences). We were in simlab A LOT. Lots of nights and weekends. But looking back, I realize how much I learned and improved on my hand skills. I looked at the first amalgam prep on a maxillary tooth I ever did last quarter and compared it to this quarter’s and it was laughable how bad it was (like, really, it’s embarrassing. But I’m keeping it forever as a reminder of how far I’ve come). I was so proud when I waxed my first tooth last quarter and someone on Facebook asked me if if was supposed to go into someone’s mouth. I laughed and said no. But now, I’ve learned how to do many procedures that ARE supposed to go into someone’s mouth. It’s pretty amazing when I think about it, actually. I’m proud of the work I’ve done this quarter, and here’s some of it!

Maxillary and mandibular casts and die with wax-up of #30 (lower right first molar):

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Close-up of my wax-up:

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Calss V amalgam restoration on #27 (lower right canine):

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Class II amalgam restorations on #12 (upper left first premolar) and #14 (upper left first molar):

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Class II amalgam prep on #30 (lower right first molar) and class II amalgam restoration on #18 (lower left second molar):

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Gold full veneer crown prep on #3 (upper right first molar):

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Acrylic temporary crown on the same tooth:

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Class II preps on natural teeth:

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Looking forward to learning more procedures next quarter!!

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Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m scheduling this post beforehand because I will be very busy today with school and Yufei and I are leaving right after school for a little trip to Healdsburg (will definitely post about this later!).

Not only is it Valentine’s Day today, it is also Lantern Festival, marking the end of the lunar new year celebration. I’m on the board of the Chinese Health Professional Students Association at UCSF, and we held our annual Chinese Culture Night in celebration of the Year of the Horse on the eve of the new year.

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It was such a fun night of performances, Chinese food, boba, photo booth photos, calligraphy, and lantern making. So many people came to the event and everyone had a great time.

We also had a gathering with my aunt’s family at my parents’ house that weekend.

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There was so much delicious food! The best part of Chinese New Year :)

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Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous Year of the Horse!

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