Posts in Activities
New Board, Same ASDA

by Catherine Petty


Welcome to the Colorado Quickset! It’s a new year for Colorado ASDA, and I’ll be in charge of our blog for this term. I’m going to kick off the posts for this year by recapping my experience at the Executive Board retreat that we had just this past weekend.


I’m new to Colorado ASDA, but I’ve heard countless times that as an organization, we like to work hard and play hard. Retreat weekend certainly lived up to that reputation! We all met in what we were told was Jefferson, Colorado…but it was really the middle of nowhere. Our house had a beautiful view of the mountains during the day and breathtaking views of the stars at night. Naturally, with about 30 board members in attendance, the house was huge! I mean, I slept in a room with triple-decker bunk beds! There was plenty of room for all of our work and play.

Check out our cool cornhole pieces!

Check out our cool cornhole pieces!

Friday night of the retreat consisted of group introductions and forming teams for various tournaments (cornhole, etc.) that we had on Saturday. My team name? Full Mouth Rehab, 40k (shoutout to Shannon, Jeremy, and Tyler). A group of us also tried to coax the limited Wi-Fi into letting us stream the Nuggets game, which went into quadruple overtime (!!!) and did not end in our favor. Somehow, I got coaxed into agreeing to a freezing cold jog the next morning. I pretend that altitude doesn’t affect me after a year in Colorado, but running at over 9,000 feet in Jefferson is absolutely different than running in the Mile High City. Thankfully, Health and Wellness Chair Sierra was ready to teach a relaxing yoga class when we returned.

            Most of Saturday’s activities were of the “work hard” variety. Madame President Jillian gave a presentation outlining her goals for the year and what ASDA means to her. We also heard from a few other board members before breaking up into our furcations to discuss specific goals and action plans. For me, that involved meeting with Sansriti, who will be running the CEJ this year (that’s The Colorado Extraoral Journal, our official newsletter), and president-elect Aaron, who is our furcation lead. After lunch, everyone came back together to recap their furcation goals and discuss how they planned to achieve them. We also heard from VP Tyler about DISC personality types and how to be intentional in working with each type. Finally, Aaron and Ty wrapped up the workday with how to give our ASDA “elevator pitch.”

            Saturday night consisted mostly of a giant Catch Phrase tournament and a bonfire. Regarding the former, I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard! This weekend made me excited about what’s to come for Colorado ASDA this year. We’ve got some fantastic people on the board who are fired up and ready to achieve some really awesome things. Make sure to stay tuned to the blog and follow our social media to keep up with all of it! And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like to be a contributor to the Colorado Quickset. :)

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About the Author

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Catherine Petty is the Electronic Editor for Colorado ASDA and a current DS1. Originally from Stillwater, Oklahoma, she received a B.A. in Biology with a minor in Spanish from Clemson University. In her spare time, Catherine loves to hike, ski, and read.

My Advice to the First Year Class
  1. It’s okay to take time for yourself

Going in to dental school we all are warned of the horrors of how difficult it is. How going to dental school is life encompassing. While these statements were not untrue. I felt that they were warnings that I should do nothing but school. My first semester I got groceries once a month, if I was lucky. I had a next to impossible time allowing myself to do anything but study. Looking back, spending that time on myself would not have only improved my grades but my overall health. As I progressed through school I started focusing on myself more. I tried kickboxing which to no surprise I was horrible at. I also started eating more than Chick-Fil-A daily.

  1. Don’t Panic if you have no idea what you are doing

Starting off in sim clinic, taking your first impressions, dissecting a cadaver, these tasks can make it seem like you are learning in a different language. It is perfectly normal to not know what you are doing. If you are lucky enough to know what you are doing then good luck knowing if you are performing the lab work correctly. The Sunday night before Sim Clinic started I went in to sim clinic to practice placing rubber dams. It took 25 minutes to finally place an acceptable rubber dam. Looking back, I wish I had not panicked because of my lack of knowledge of all things dental. You will get there, at least that’s what I hear. You will learn and understand the information. Who knows you may even be the winner of the “rubber dam rodeo” in transition clinic.

  1. Dental school is humbling

You will not do well on everything. We all got in to dental school because we care about our grades, our school work, and we may be slight perfectionists. In dental school, you must remember you cannot always be perfect, whether it’s a test or a lab assignment. There will be something you just aren’t good at the first, second, or maybe thirtieth time. While we are all accustomed to being top of the class and the best at everything you won’t be. Use this humbling experience to motivate you. Do not let a failure in dental school stop you. Use it to try twice as hard the next time, because you will be humbled. It’s part of the process. Learn from it.

Second Annual Brother’s Trip

Last weekend I flew from Denver to Albuquerque to visit my brother, Zach. He had just moved to Albuquerque to be with his finance. Zach is two years older than me and next October, I am honored to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder as he marries the woman of his dreams. I saw my brother just two months ago when we both happened to be passing through my hometown of Fountain, CO, but we had yet to do our annual brother’s only trip. In 2015, a family friend told us that her two sons, would meet once a year without the parents present. They started when they were both single and over the course of their lives, the meeting grew to incorporate new girlfriends, wives, and then kids. Today, the brother’s and their new families continue to meet up once a year, saving Thanksgiving and Christmas for larger family gatherings.

Zach and I grew up and have remained close over the last 24 years, when he initially welcomed me into his family. For our inaugural start in 2016, we backpacked in Lost Creek Wilderness, CO. We had an incredible experience and further bonded over the course of hiking 33 miles in two days. It was one of the first times that we had spent time together since we had finished college and although we both grew throughout our educations, we did not grow apart. We still knew the foundations that shaped each of us. No one else in this world can share in experiences like stealing a box of Oreos from the pantry and sitting in our dog’s house to indulge in those heavenly delights. I think subconsciously we knew the repercussion of our decision and started to make ourselves feel at home.

This year, with a busier schedule for both of us, we decided to play it a little more low-key and stick around Albuquerque. Zach had not spent more than a week in his new house and I was looking to escape the drama of my Denver house. Zach let me practice my dusty skill of driving stick, we picked some New Mexico peppers, which were roasted on the farm, and we ventured over to the Sandia Mountains to do what we are most passionate about. We laced up shoes, ditched the shirts and hit the dirt trails. Over the course of a few miles, we caught up on new jobs, semesters, girls, friends, homes and how our parents just got back from three weeks in Ireland and France. We also mentioned that because we both have interests in investment, it wouldn’t be long before the Brother’s Trip took us to a castle in Ireland. Between trying to match pitch to Josh Turner while cooking dinner and reading each other’s minds about splitting plates at restaurants, the best part about our weekend was simply being in the same room.

Zach with a pepper pail.

Dental school can be taxing on students and loved ones, but I implore everyone to take a moment to think about how they got into dental school. It is through the support of family and friends that we have made it this far and it is with their help that we will make it through. No matter how busy we might think we are, there is always time to appreciate and continue to enrich the relationships that are most meaningful to us. I value hanging out with friends, I rely on my parent’s advice for problems, but I look forward to my Annual Brother’s Trip the most.


Gabe and Zach.

ActivitiesGabe CasiasComment
How I Applied my Childhood Lessons to my Doctorate Degree

In 2010 my friend Jordan bet me $43 that I couldn’t finish the mega-stack meal from the Coach House Restaurant in Coos Bay, Oregon. Two full racks of spicy ribs and a side of mashed potatoes later I was victorious, but also in the men’s room regretting my decision. In dental school, pride can be dangerous.  If achieving an ends causes you to become physically sick, maybe you should re-evaluate your goal of getting an A on the Radiology final.


As a youngster, I didn’t know the difference between an alpaca and a llama.  Eventually I learned that llamas are much bigger and can be characterized by their long banana shaped ears.

In dental school, just because something looks the same, doesn’t mean it is the same.  The mandibular lateral incisors have incisal edges with banana shaped distolingual twists when compared to their mandibular central counterparts. The details are important, pay attention to them, especially if they are banana shaped.


In elementary school, my favorite class was recess.

In dental school, my favorite class is playing Spike Ball at lunch. It’s important to find a balance between acing tests and acing your classmates with a rubber ball and net.


In 8th grade my middle school hosted a pig scramble in November. Nothing quite says Thanksgiving like running after a greased pig. I ran that unfortunate hog down, clutched it tight, and held on to receive my blue ribbon. Somehow still, this triumph didn’t land me a date to the 8th grade graduation dance.

In dental school, your goals may be slippery and illusive, but if you hold on tight to them, you will eventually get a stable job in a respected profession. This however does not guarantee you will find a spouse. That takes actual charisma and a personality.


One summer day, I was biking around town with a couple older grade-schoolers. After landing the jump successfully himself, one of the 5th graders convinced me to try to jump a creek on my bike by saying “it will be fun and you’ll be cool”. With that compelling argument and a head full of steam, I soared directly into creek.

In dental school, upperclassmen provide you with lots of good advice. Listen to that advice. They also have some bad advice. Don’t listen to that advice. If you do, you may very will wind up in the middle of a creek.  Just because one person had success with a particular method doesn’t mean that it will work for you.  


In high school, I wrote for the school newspaper.  There was one occasion where I was having serious writers block the night before a print deadline. I ended up writing a story about how my childhood experiences had helped me get through high school.  The article was mediocre but the art departments papier-mache masterpieces it contributed to were outstanding.

In dental school, when you have a print deadline for an ASDA blog and you have serious writers block, just go ahead and write an article about how your childhood experiences have helped you survive dental school.  Likely your blog will be a flop, but regardless, thank your readers for making it to the very end and just be internally thankful this blog is digital and your hard work won’t wind up a papier-mache parrot.


Sam doing cool stuff as a kid.


I can still vividly recall that fateful day in August of 2010, when my childhood dream of becoming a dentist finally came to fruition, graduating from Islamic International Dental College, Pakistan with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree. Like every other dental school graduate, I had worn my white coat many a times during the course of my studies, but donning one as a professional truly filled me with a sense of mission and pride. I was truly excited to become part of a noble system that provided care for people who silently suffered in pain under the presumption that dental health is only secondary. My determination was not only patient care, but to treat them with a sense of compassion, dignity and otherwise bring change to society through education and service. First venture outside the boundaries of dental school brought me to Pakistan Institute of Medical Science (PIMS), thinking what better place to start a career than a hospital with the largest dental department in the city. I was shocked to witness the state of disarray and utter chaos, when I was first introduced to the emergency room. Often illiterate and with minimal financial resources, these patients were usually referred to other departments for lab work, without adequate directions. I could personally feel their sense of vulnerability further heightened by such insensitive however unintentional treatment, from the very individuals that had taken the hippocratic oath.

Bound by crippling poverty and illetracy, dental care for the poor enmass in Pakistan has primarily been relegated to streetside dentists. Albeit a cheaper alternative, these quacks have exacerbated the spread of hepatitis and other bloodborne infections. See the links below, which provides an overview of the services administered by these street side quacks and their impact on the health of those with limited financial means.

Youtube Video:

BBC Article:

My first week of contact, I remember attending to a middle-aged patient complaining of severe discomfort. Further examination revealed a self-cure acrylic prosthesis installed by one of these quack dentists, where the monomer had caused a hypersensitivity reaction, requiring a healing period followed up with fabrication of partial dentures. How could a person be allowed to endure such pain, only because they were unaware or lacked the means (whether financial or accessibility) for proper treatment? Anger eventually gave way to acceptance and I made it my goal to help those in need. Over the course of the next three years serving at public institutions in Pakistan, I witnessed several other incidents of this nature but instead of being demoralized, it gave me the strength and determination to continue my passion of helping those less fortunate.

Living in Pakistan, a country deeply mired in the clutches of corruption and violence has sowed in me the desire to effect major change in the way we manage healthcare for the needy. It must become a priority for all dental professionals including recent graduates, practicing professionals and industry veterans to actively organize and participate in dental awareness campaigns and advocate access to affordable healthcare and medication for the poor across all communities and nations alike.

An Introduction to the ASDA Blog

Happy Summer to us! As we enter into the beginning of another year of dental school, I wanted to take some time to thank all of Colorado’s students for taking interest in the blog. This year I have goals to expand the audience of both our writers and readers. I envision CU to be a place of camaraderie and I believe we can start with the blog.

This year, the Blog’s mission displays, “The aim of the Colorado ASDA blog is to celebrate the diversity of the students and faculty here at CU. The hope of the blog is to inspire dental minds and attitudes in an enjoyable reading format.” Not only is the blog meant to collaborate on dental topics, but it is also aiming to shine on our accomplishments and stories outside of dentistry.

I hope you can all look forward to reading the Colorado ASDA blog in the coming months. We have so many exciting changes this year and we want you to be a part of them! You can expect an email in the coming weeks on how to apply to write for Colorado ASDA.

I also want to congratulate the incoming Class of 2021! I am excited to meet you all and I am sure my ASDA colleagues can say the same.



Mastering Mindfulness

I’m rushing, I know I’m rushing. I feel the beat of my heart beating throughout my entire body. Underneath my yellow gown, I can feel myself getting sweatier and sweatier. Good thing I remembered to put on deodorant today. My anxiety levels are shooting out of the roof. Why? I got out of class late, and I’m trying my darndest to set up for my medically complex patient in time. I’m under a particularly particular faculty, and I feel nowhere near prepared. I’m getting to the point where I’m so stressed; I’m forgetting the little things. Have I gathered all of the materials I need? Do I even know exactly what I’m doing today? Have I looked up all of my patient’s medications, so I can give that stellar start check? As dental students and young practitioners we’ve all been here. In the journey to become a dentist, it is almost impossible to not experience the stress and anxiety similar to above. For some of us, it may be every single clinical experience, and for others it may be during our competencies and testing situations. No matter what, it would be remiss to ignore the effects that stress has on our work.

It’s in moments like these that we need strategies to deal with this tension. Lucky for us, there is a myriad of methods to prevent stress, anxiety, and other debilitating emotions from taking hold of our lives and our dental careers. My personal favorite is Mindfulness Meditation. You’ve probably heard of it, as it’s a bit of a “hip” topic in the psychology world. This is for good reason, as there are plenty of scientific studies to back it up.                               Photo Credit:

Often, when people think of meditation they think that it is the absence of thoughts and feelings—a spiritual experience that only monks who practice for lifetimes get to go through. They couldn’t be more wrong. Mindfulness is actually being very present in the current moment. It is accepting and not judging your current situation. The very key to mindfulness is not that your mind doesn’t think of things, but that when it does you bring yourself back to the task at hand.

Mindfulness is a skill that can be practiced and honed. You probably won’t be very good at it in the beginning, but being good at it is not the point. The point of mindfulness is to not let your emotions and thoughts control you. Having mindfulness meditation in your “tool box” can take the hectic situation from above and flip it on its head. Mindfulness is most definitely not a cure-all to all stresses in life. However, after practicing mindfulness, when you start to feel those familiar feelings of stress and anxiety creep up on you before a challenging clinic session, you will have a tactic to no longer succumb to those pressures. Rather than freaking out over the things you cannot change, you take on the procedure one step at a time. You will make less mistakes, and most importantly you will provide your patient with the best care possible.

There are four different ways of practicing of mindfulness: breathing meditation, body scan, loving-kindness meditation and observing-thought meditation. The key is finding which one works for you. You can find a myriad of different sources to learn about each type and to get resources to help you out. Those include apps with guided meditations (Headspace is my personal favorite), podcasts, and videos on YouTube. Whether you are a mindfulness expert or simply a beginner, I encourage you to continue down the path to a healthier, happier you and a less stressful, more enriching dental school career.

Struggling to Find Motivation? Try Manipulation!

On January 15th, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport at 3:25 pm. Less than six minutes later, the aircraft crash-landed in the middle of the Hudson River. Everyone onboard survived and few serious injuries resulted. The event known as “The Miracle on the Hudson” immortalized the commander of the plane, Captain Chesley Sullenburger. Somewhat less well known is Sullenburger’s copilot, First Officer Jeffrey Skiles. Flight 1549 was Skiles’ first time flying an Airbus A320 since passing the qualifications to do so. As the keynote speaker at the recent 2017 ASDA Annual Session in Orlando, First Officer Skiles described the systems and protocols that led to the successful crash-landing on the Hudson. When a flock of geese collided with Flight 1549 shortly after takeoff, the airline crew initiated a cascade of emergency procedures. As Captain Sullenburger communicated with the control tower at LaGuardia, First Officer Skiles reached for the Emergency Procedure Book readily found in every airplane cockpit. Although this was Skiles’ first commercial flight on an Airbus A320, he had been trained for this. To simplify training, cockpits are standardized across the airline industry. This minimizes the unfamiliarity of a new aircraft. Other industry standards include seat belts and life jackets for each passenger and crewmember. These environments reduce the possibilities for failure or confusion. The familiar cockpit allowed Skiles to act quickly and confidently with each step of the protocol. Seat belts and life jackets at each passenger’s seat minimized panic and injury. First Officer Skiles sited a large part of his success that day to the standards set in place that diminished the possibility of failure.

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The airline industry is not alone in manipulating an environment to encourage success and influence human behavior. Plants and vegetation in inner-city housing developments reduce crime rates. Parks and trails result in improved community health. Advertisers use color to conjure certain emotions. Thanks to Annual Session being held in Orlando, I was able to make a quick trip to Disney World where I noticed myself being manipulated by the psychological puppeteers of Disney.

Because of ASDA-related activities that took place in the afternoon, my group only had three hours of magic before the park closed at 10pm. Despite our limited timeframe, we decided it would be worth it to jump into a 60-minute line for Space Mountain. To our surprise, just 20 minutes later we could literally see a light at the end of the tunnel! We went from this long, dark tunnel to a large room where we could see people getting on the ride. It looked like we’d be on the ride in no time. This disillusioned sense of progress kept our spirits up until another 20 minutes later when we realized the line had yet to wrap behind a long wall before re-entering the room. We ended up waiting a full 65 minutes!

It turns out Disney spends loads of money on studying the psychology of waiting in a line. To keep thousands of park attendees in good spirits, they design the lines in such a way that repeatedly gives people false hope as they endure the long wait for popular rides. A simple Google search on “Disney World psychology” revealed other ways Disney uses the environment to manipulate emotions and behavior. The walkways throughout the parks are made of black pavement, which encourages park-goers to seek the cool shade provided by nearby shops and eateries. Taking it a step further, some of the shops pump out fragrances that smell like freshly baked goods. Other shops crank the air conditioning to encourage shoppers to buy a hoodie that they would otherwise neglect in the Florida heat. Sections of the park Disney wants to remain hidden are painted in a color referred to as “No-See Green,” a shade of green easily overlooked by the human brain. This is uncanny, as I don’t recall seeing any “No-See Green” in Magic Kingdom…

While shadowing in dental offices during undergrad, I noticed this same use of environmental manipulation. Operatories, countertops, and cabinets were labeled to encourage organization, efficiency and infection control. A printed schedule displayed a morning huddle at the start of the day to confirm plans and review goals. Even switching a patient’s manual toothbrush for an electric one had repeatedly demonstrated a successful outcome in improving oral hygiene. Changing the environment for patients and staff yields real results!

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It’s difficult to invoke change in people who aren’t motivated to change. Being quite stubborn and impulsive myself, I have obsessed over this idea that changing one’s environment will change one’s behavior. As students, we can mold and model our environments to ensure success! The following are some examples of environment adjustments that have worked for me.

During my undergrad, I began every day with my phone. Checking messages, news, and social media consumed precious time that would have been better allocated toward working out and making breakfast. To change this, I set up a charging station outside of my bedroom. Before bed, I put my electronics in a drawer where they are charged out of site. I am not allowed to open that drawer until after breakfast. Hiding the electronics has been a simple change to my environment that has drastically improved my morning routine—just like “No-See Green”.

Other habits can be easily manipulated by simple adjustments. I’m a natural night owl. My nocturnal habits quickly became a problem in dental school, so I committed to going to bed earlier. The commitment fell apart within two days. After repeatedly failing to change my habit of staying up late, I turned to my wife (my copilot, if you will) for help. I told her my plan to set an alarm to go off at 9:00 pm every night, signaling for me to begin getting ready for bed. I asked her to help me stick to that commitment. The nighttime alarm combined with reliance on a copilot has yielded great results. Don’t have a spouse? Find one. Just kidding. Ask a roommate, friend, classmate, significant other, or family member to help you out!

After a decade of trying to set meaningful New Year’s resolutions, I was tired of letting those resolutions slip away by mid-January. All my mentors and role models successfully set goals and resolutions. Why couldn’t I? Did I lack motivation? Did I lack discipline? Yes. And yes. My wife and I decided to write “Weekly Planning” into every Sunday night in our calendars. We don’t let anything get in the way of our weekly planning session. This time is used to review goals, discuss obstacles, adjust our routine, and plan the upcoming week. It was such a simple change! We even took it a step further and laminated a protocol that we follow every time we plan. Excessive? Perhaps. But here we are, mid-March, and I’m still plugging away at the same goals I set in January.

Whether it’s to avoid disaster, maximize efficiency, or encourage a certain behavior, customizing an environment is a powerful psychological tool. As students, we often have so much to worry about that we can’t spare the mental and emotional energy required to constantly motivate ourselves toward success. If you’re struggling to exercise, study effectively, eat healthy, manage relationships, keep track of goals, maintain your sanity, or land a plane, try changing something in your environment that will make it harder for you to fail!