Posts tagged dental school
Happy Beginning of November and Thanksgiving!


In the spirit of Thanksgiving this month of November I thought it would be fitting to write about what I’m thankful for in dental school.  And what I’m most thankful for and what has struck me the most since I started school, is the community here at CU.


Starting school last year was a bit intimidating, trying to get in the flow of an unfamiliar school and routine.  I still remember the upperclassmen those first few weeks who went out of their way to introduce themselves, make us feel welcome, and show us the ropes.


As school has gone on, I continue to be really inspired by the generosity of people here.  Some students are amazing in the organizations that they’re involved in, how they give their time even with an extremely busy school schedule, to set up events for other students and the community.  Others are amazing in how they help in less noticed ways, like taking an extra moment to ask how you’re doing or being there to help if you need it. 


I can’t count the number of times over the past year that someone in school has seen me fumbling with a waxing or lab project, and have sat down with me, even if it’s 10pm on a Friday night, to give me some tips (or to just sit with me and laugh about how frustrating school can be).  There’s the many lunch and learns and mock practicals put on by upperclassmen and classmates in their spare time to help others with school.  There’s the faculty who spend their lunch break or after school tutoring, and those people in class who never forget to buy everyone Valentines or Halloween candy. There’s the numerous times someone has offered me their last fresh plastic tooth or #330 burr to practice with in Sim Lab.


There have been a lot of really cool experiences in dental school so far, from Anatomy Cadaver Lab to learning how to drill an ideal Class V preparation.  But really when I go home and people ask me how I like dental school, I end up telling them I love the community at school.  It’s what’s made dental school so fun, and what’s helped to keep my head above water during the challenging times.  I truly have been touched and inspired by the generosity here.


Mallory Mayeda is a second year dental student at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.  She grew up in Golden, Colorado and went to college at the University of Denver.  She enjoys most things including musicals, Italian food, and traveling, but most of all being outside.

Meet Sybil Hill!

Meet Sybil Hill! This interview took about an hour and a half because her jokes and sense of humor had me laughing throughout, and we kept getting distracted watching music videos and Googling our celebrity crushes. Read on to see how funny and awesome our new tech and sim lab coordinator is.


Kimberly: So where are you from originally?

Sybil: I was born in Albuquerque, NM and moved to Colorado when I was one. I basically grew up in Thornton.


K: So, does that mean you’re a big skier?

S: Oh no. I’ve tried but I get going and going too fast, get freaked out, and end up on the ground every time.


K: Are you married or have any kids?

S: I am married and have one daughter and two grandsons. They all live with me and my husband. One is 9 and one is 3. They call me Gram Hammy!


K: What are some of your hobbies?

S: I like reading scary, mystery type books. Not horror. And I like Stephen King. I also love to camp. We have some property on the western slope that we usually go to during the summer. It’s at about 8,500 feet, so you never know what you’re going to get in the winter. We have a house on the property, but we usually stay outside and sleep in the camper whenever we go up there.


K: Any pets?

S: I have a mini-Jack. That’s a miniature pincher mixed with a jack Russel. His name is Opie. Like Opie Taylor.

K: Who’s Opie Taylor?

S: Oh geeeeeeeez. He was on the old show Maybeurry RFD. The continuation of the Andy Griffith Show....

K: Oh….


K: What’s your ideal way to spend the weekend?

S:  Because of the fact that my grandchildren live with me but go to their Dad’s on the weekend, I do a lot of holding down of the couch. Someone’s got to hold down the couch! It may float away.

K: What do you do while you’re holding down that couch?

S: Usually watching live PD. I love that show.


K: What is your go-to kind of music?

S: Oh, I like all kinds of music. I think I was either a singer or DJ in my other life. I’d be lost without music.


We proceeded to watch a 10-minute video of a competition of “elders” trying not to sing along, dance, head-bob or lip sync to iconic songs of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It had us laughing out loud and embarrassing ourselves in the tech lab. Both of us totally lost the competition once Simon and Garfunkel and Aretha Franklin came on.


K: Is there anything you wish you knew more about?

S: I just love learning in general. I’m full of a bunch of trivial knowledge that no one cares about.

[Should we add her to our trivia teams?] Do you know why someone gives you a cold shoulder? It was a British thing way back in the 1700s or 1800s. Apparently, they partied for days on end, and when the party was over, the host would come and put a piece of cold meat on your shoulder, and that meant it was time for you to leave. Isn’t that the creepiest thing you’ve ever heard? I learn a lot of my trivia watching CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley.


K: What are you addicted to? What life luxury could you not live without?

S: Live PD and coffee. My email address is “queenacafina!”


K: And most importantly… do you have a celebrity crush?

S: YES, I DO. Richard Rawlings. That’s it.


When I asked Sybil if there is anything else she wants students to know about her, she said it would be her depth of dental knowledge. Sybil has worked in the dental industry for over 30 years as an Expanded Duties Skills for Dental Assistants (EDDA) and lab tech. Most students do not realize that she is a great resource to go to when issues in lab arise. If you haven’t already, introduce yourself to this awesome woman dressed in vibrant scrubs breaking up our monotony of navy blue. You won’t regret it!


Kimberly is a second-year dental student at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. She grew up on the east coast and graduated with a degree in biology from James Madison University. Kim enjoys exploring the mountains, running, and reading.

At the beginning of last winter break, I was relishing in the fact that I had just completed my first semester of dental school and was looking forward to three weeks of school-free bliss. My sister Erin, a pharmacy student at the University of Colorado, was busy studying for her finals, which overlapped with my first week of break. I remember going into her room giddy to be done with school, and her playfully telling me to “Get out of my room with your break-y self!” Once she was done, we had plans to head out to Mexico for a couple weeks of sun bathing and relaxation with our parents.

A week later, my entire life had been turned upside down. My little sister, lifelong roommate, and best friend was gone. She had Cystic Fibrosis. The number 37 was burned into my memory. That is the average life span of a person with CF today. I had always tried to push that number out of my head, but how can you forget something like that? She was only 25.

It all happened so suddenly. It didn’t feel real. She was just here. After the shock came the realization that school would be starting again in a week and a half. I knew I didn’t want to put my education on hold, but I wasn’t sure how I would be able to focus when she was all I could think of. Before school had even started again, I felt overwhelming support from my classmates. They messaged, texted, sent flowers, and some came over to see how I was doing. It was amazing to me how the love and support from people I didn’t know six months before gave me such assurance that I wasn’t alone going forward. Her memorial was held at the school, and people from my class filled the back of the room. Some of my classmates had met her, and some had not, but so many of them were there. It meant a lot to me and my family, and I will always remember it.

Before I started dental school, I had been out of college for three years and didn’t see friends on a regular basis. Erin and I had moved to Denver the year before when she started pharmacy school, and she joked that she was excited for me to start school so “she wouldn’t have to be the center of my social life.” It was true. I often think about how much harder losing her would have been without these friends. I would have felt so alone. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever faced, and continue to face, but having so much support during the most difficult days of my life helped me adjust to my new reality.

When classes started up again, the school was very accommodating and ensured me that if I ever needed more time or to take a day off, to just let them know. But dental school doesn’t slow down for you. You have to take every test and complete every assignment at some point, so pushing things back is just using borrowed time. With this must-keep-going mentality, it’s hard to know whether you are hurting yourself by not taking enough time to process, or if the busy schedule helps alleviate the sadness by retaining your focus. I think it’s some of both. Although dental school seems like our entire lives sometimes, many of us have real life struggles we must face during an already stressful time.

Finding positivity and motivation after such a life changing event requires not only support from others but strength within yourself. One of the most amazing things about Erin was that despite the fact that she had a chronic and sometimes debilitating disease, she never complained and never used it as an excuse. She went to doctor’s appointments regularly, had cabinets full of medications, and spent time every day managing her health. She was also forced to face the reality of what living with a chronic and fatal disease meant for her future. While dealing with all of this, she continued to pursue her education and excelled in pharmacy school. She was witty, insightful, and incredibly smart. Only those who knew her well were aware she had Cystic Fibrosis. She is the one who gives me my inner strength and reminds me that even the most difficult challenges do not justify self-pity and stagnation.


Jennifer Terrio is a second year dental student at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. She graduated from Colorado State University where she majored in Nutrition and Food Science. She enjoys skiing, eating at Torchy’s Tacos, and flossing twice a day.


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.

Having a Life in Dental School

DSC02067 You know that dream where you’re cutting a crown prep on those dorky little plastic teeth, and all the faculty are gathered around saying, “Wow, that’s amazing!” and, “You were born to be a dentist!”…?

No? Well then I’m sure you’re familiar with the dream where you’re cutting a crown prep on those dorky plastic teeth and you slip and destroy your prep, and can’t quite remember what you were supposed to be prepping anyway, and it just happens to be a practical and Dr. Wollum is standing right by you in stone silence.

I can no longer recall how many of my dental student peers have shown up one morning and related one of these dreams to the rest of us. While this can be a sign that we are losing our minds, I think it is also indicative that we care a lot about our work here in school.

Dental school is an immersive experience; we live it, dream it, and spend most every waking moment thinking about how to become better at it. We become so focused on it, that I often hear or read statements about how we can find balance in our lives while we are in school. I’ve thought a lot about this over the past year and a half since beginning dental school, and I’ve come to a simple conclusion: we will not live a balanced life in dental school. In fact, we will probably never have an equal balance of time between work and leisure until we are nearing retirement. The key to feeling well-balanced, I believe, is to recognize that our situation is a good one, and to commit whole-heartedly to the work before us.

I had intended to write this article about family life while in dental school, and while there are a few additional responsibilities that go along with having a family, everyone still has to find a way to have a life while in dental school.

The first step in having fun while in school, is to actually do well in school. This means that we need to schedule and commit to a significant amount of time studying, practicing in the Sim Lab, or treatment planning for our patients. I have found that two to three late nights each week, along with a couple Saturdays each month work great for me. It gives me ample time to cover lecture material and to practice my drilling. You may need less time, or maybe even more.

This means that I should have two free evenings during the workweek, those nights I have committed to being with my family. My son, Rivers, knows that I will be home to put him to bed every Tuesday and Thursday night as well as the weekends. He knows that I will do nothing else on Sunday but spend time with him. That consistency means a lot to him, and it means a lot to me as well.

If you don’t have a kid, then schedule a couple evenings to spend time with friends.  If you don’t have friends, then spend some time with your dog. And if you don’t have a dog, maybe go workout or something.  Basically, what I am saying is that it is important to find something to do with yourself that is socially enriching.

I’ve found that when my family and friends know the schedule I’ve committed to, I get a lot of support from them. My wife and son are totally okay on the nights I stay at school until 8:00 or 10:00pm, because they expect it. It makes it so much easier for me to remain committed to my work because I get used to the consistency of my schedule.

I could continue to talk about this subject for quite some time, but I’ll sum it up here. Making a consistent routine out of your time commitments makes everything in dental school go so much smoother for you and for those who care about you and need to spend time with you. This may require you to say no to things that no longer fit into your routine, but that necessity to simplify will more than likely enrich your own personal dental school experience.

We are all so fortunate to be where we are right now. Stay committed to your work, and allow yourself consistent time to fulfill the responsibilities you have to your friends and family.

Military Dentistry: the lowdown

IMG_0696 - AFA dental visit I grew up being interested in serving my country because both of my grandfathers had done so.  My only dilemma was how I could accomplish that. While applying to dental school, I realized that I could be a dentist, serve my country, and have my schooling paid for. All of my ducks were nicely lined up and I began my journey to become a dentist. Now let’s dive deeper into my decision to serve.


My life in dental school is much easier thanks to my military commitment. The full ride scholarship is welcomed, especially during a time when dental schools are charging 4 year tuitions that equate to a full mortgage. You graduate with a foundation but no house to show for it. My fellow militia and I also receive a monthly living allowance that can be fairly generous if you live within normal means. Oh, and cross your T’s and dot your I’s at the right time and you may qualify for a large signing bonus!


I know what you are thinking, “With all of these benefits, there must be a catch, right?”. Well yes there is…kind of. A military lifestyle is not for everyone. A 4-year scholarship requires a 4 year pay pack while living in about 2-3 different locations. As an officer, it is expected that you will move about every 2 years, and you might not have much say in where you will be going next. This nomadic lifestyle can be stressful on a family, and difficult for a spouse with their own career. If you do not like taking orders, clearly, the military is not for you. Many people choose dentistry for the autonomy. Autonomy does not mix with the military for obvious reasons.


Besides financial benefits, there are many other great reasons to choose the military route. Every day you are serving individuals who are sacrificing their lives for this country. This is an intangible gratification. You can travel and have the opportunity to live almost anywhere in the world. You have 4 years to focus on improving your dental skills. Another overseen aspect is that your patients are not limited by finances and are able to receive the best possible care. This will not apply to the civilian side, but will allow dentists to hone many new skills.


Now lets do some rough math. Out-of-state tuition is roughly $75k a year, roughly $300k at the end plus about $50k in interest at an average rate of 7%. For the military, you can add on an income of $25k a year while in dental school. That is a total scholarship value of $450k. Now the field evens out because the military salary will range from $80-95k. As compared to the average new dentist making $90-130k a year minus debt payments. I did a full break down but I will spare you the minutia. After paying off some of the debt, both parties make out pretty even after 4 years post graduation.


I view my scholarship as a tool to advance my career. I know that it will be hard on my future family and moving around will be cumbersome. There will be days when I envy my civilian counterparts as I float along on a ship in the middle of the ocean. There will be plenty of hardships and unfortunate circumstances. I like to live life with an open mind. I know that this experience will help my career and my family to grow. I will gain experience working with specialists of all kinds and have unique experiences that only a military dentist can have (helicopter rides, aircraft carriers, etc.)


I was given some advice years ago, “Do not choose the military scholarship for the money. Choose to serve your country and the finances are a perk.” I think this sums things up nicely. The money looks really nice in order to avoid the student loan debt, but there are many costs of every day life as a military dentist. I like to put it this way: You have to pay someone either way, it just depends on how you want to pay it. The traditional student is paying monetary debt. The military student is paying with their time. If you want to serve your country and do dentistry, the scholarship is a good choice for you.