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Oral Health Professional series: senior student panel

Posted by Cheryl Bell on November 15, 2023 in News
l to r: Dr. Ferne Kraglund, Jared Lush, Cecilia Keith, Jillian Bishop, Mo Alabdoulsalam (Photos by Nick Pearce)


They may have come for the pizza, but they appreciated what they learned, too.

Over 40 DDS1 and DDS2 students gathered in room 3156 early in the evening of November 1 to hear a panel four DDS4 students tackle their questions, ranging from "what did you wish you had known in first year" and "when did you feel like dentistry was right for you", to "what’s your sleep schedule like?" The event was part of the Oral Health Professional Series taking place in the Faculty of Dentistry this year.

The four panelists were Mohammed (Mo) Alabdoulsalam, Jillian Bishop, Cecilia Keith, and Jared Lush. Associate dean of students Dr. Ferne Kraglund moderated the event.

What do you wish you knew in first year?
The first question asked was "What do you wish you had known in first year?" Don’t try to be perfect, was Mo’s advice. "Put the effort in and you’ll find it works out, but don’t get too caught up in the small stuff," he said. "Keep your notes organized and think ahead about what you’ll need for your board exams."

In a similar vein, Jared pointed out that dentistry students are used to being high achievers, so dealing with criticism can be difficult. "You might feel beaten down by the critical feedback you receive, but the important thing is to learn from it and be positive," he says. It’s also important to remember that dental school is an accumulation of knowledge, he added. "We’re studying for four years for the rest of our careers."

Like Mo, Cecilia recommended keeping on top of notes. When you have 10 exams in two weeks, she says, you need your notes to be in good order.

Jillian suggested that students "come to clinic. We always need people to help and it’s a great way to learn by watching."

Cooperation rather than competition
The senior students also talked about the importance of not being competitive and helping each other by sharing lecture notes and tips they picked up."Karma in, karma out," agreed Dr. Kraglund, and Jillian mentioned that the small group practice model was introduced to get everyone familiar with working with one another – not competing.

When it came to dealing with stress and pressure, Cecilia recommended that the DDS1 and DDS2 students enjoy their summers while they can. The other panelists suggested that instructors and upper year students are also there to help.

Jared said that he tries to exercise after classes are finished for the day. "It makes me feel better and more energized when I sit down to work." All four panelists recommended that students prioritize getting enough sleep and outlined their routines and habits.

Stressing the positives
Other topics covered were extracurricular activities, how to deal with failure, what to do during the summer breaks, and preparing to treat patients. Above all, though, the panelists stressed the positives: the success involved in being accepted to dental school, the opportunity to make life-long friends, the help and support of instructors and other students, and the satisfaction in giving back to classmates and the wider community.

Feedback from the DDS1 and DDS2 students after the event was encouraging. They felt that the major topics of concern were addressed and that the senior students were very open with them. They also enjoyed seeing the friendly interaction and connection between the four panelists.

One DDS1 student, Clay Smith, said that he found the panel’s ability to empathize with the junior students' current situation was both "comforting and motivating". Without a doubt, he added, "I would highly recommend this event!"