I started my new “medical mentorship” last week with a local dentist just down the street and across from the UMC medical and dental schools. First, I should explain that a Millsaps Medical Mentorship is a program that pairs students up with local professionals, usually in the field or fields that students think they may want to enter after college, and gives credit for shadowing that professional for the semester. So, as I am interested in dentistry, I was matched with a local family practicing dentist, who also teaches Endodontics at the dental school.
I thought I knew what to expect, having seen working dental practices before, but these first two weeks proved me wrong. The practice is small as Dr. W does not have any partners, and I had no idea just how loud and sassy a team of three employees could be. His chair-side assistant is young and fun and already treats me like a BFF, and the receptionist tries to pick fake fights with her all the time. They even have an imaginary line that divides the practice in half; when one crosses the line, the proverbial gauntlet is considered thrown.
But Dr. W is a great teacher and I already love spending my time there. I’ve seen root canals and restorative amalgams, cavities and dental nerve tissue, as well as begun building my arsenal of dentistry vocabulary words. Aside from seeing the patients and watching dentistry in action, I also get to hear stories “from the front,” from a patient that Dr. W saw as a resident that turned out to be a convicted murderer, to people with such drastic side effects to simple medications that they ended up with thick infections in their mouths (too gross?) and everything in between. It gives me a solid, realistic look at the medical world that I am seeking and is also teaching me priceless lessons in people skills and how to treat your patients. Just a hint- if you’re looking at taking the health sciences route, sometimes the toughest guys with the biggest muscles hate needles more than anyone else and take a little pep talk to calm down…
If you are interested in pre-health while you are in college, do some sort of mentorship. It opens you up to the real world of medicine and gives you an up-close-and-personal look at the patients and cases you will see on a daily basis, and also some of the wild cases you will just encounter every now and then. Most important for me, it’s going to help me decide if this is really what I want to do, or what type of dentistry I want to specialize in. The worst thing I could imagine would be to go to all the trouble of applying to dental school, get in, and work really hard, only to find that it’s not for me. But if the mentorship continues to be as great as it is so far, I don’t think that will ever happen.