Name: Liya Gebru
Type of Project: Internship
I worked as an intern at Star Dental Clinic. As an intern, I attended the office daily and sometimes on weekends and assisted with tasks. These tasks included restocking cabinets, setting up rooms for appointments, cleaning around the office, patient-side assistance, and running errands for the dentist I shadowed.
As a future health professional, my desire to make addressing health disparities a lifetime goal of mine was reaffirmed. A fear of mine as a prospective dental student was always that I would grow desensitized to the things I see. After completing a certain amount of redundant dental procedures, could I remain interested in the work I do? This internship, however, illustrated the impression dentistry has on you beyond physicality.
Being able to work closely with patients of different ethnic, financial, cultural, religious, etc. backgrounds is more satisfying and stimulating than the actual physical work I will be doing. The parts I enjoyed most as an intern were conversing and building relationships with all the patients that would come in. Additionally, being able to work in a low-income area allowed me to witness the disparities that are present in oral care. It was inspiring to see that the dentist I shadowed was willing to treat patients regardless of their financial condition. She was not motivated by money, but rather the desire to do good things for people. And that was reaffirming of the kindness that exists in the world.
As a student, I can say that I have been relatively successful. My passion for success came not only from the desire to benefit myself and my family living in a third world country, but also as a fear of failure. As an adolescent, so much pressure was put on me to be an extraordinary student. I spent hours upon hours studying and striving for success not because I had such a desire to do so, but because I feared what judgement would be bestowed on me if I was not what everyone expected.
Carrying that fear into college, I needed to find a way to be sure I would happy with the occupation I chose to pursue. This internship gave me the tools I needed to affirm my passion to become a dentist. The daily interactions with patients, particularly, gave me the extra push in continuing to pursue this career path. For example, with one simple visit with a 10-year-old, I learned that he has only visited the dentist twice before in his life. From the smile on his face, I could see the tooth decay that is already taking place and the amount of money that it will cost to address his issues. I could see his mother’s concern when the dentist informs her of the measures that will need to be taken to correct the issue. Seeing this with different people causes an obligatory feeling of duty to overcome me.
I want to be a dentist that can help people who may not be as fortunate receive the oral care they are entitled to. The relationships I built with patients and other staff reassured me that dentistry is the work of a team. And within a team, there is one primary goal. This transformation gave me different motivations for wanting to be successful. They go beyond my family and I. They extend beyond the depths of my greatest fear and tap into depths of my greatest passions.
This transformation is extremely significant to me because it enabled me to answer the ultimate question that would decide my professional life. When tasked with answering the question, “Why dentistry?”, I have an answer. I began the 2017 application cycle for dental school prior to the start of this project, and I found myself at a standstill. I was confident that I wanted to be a dentist, but I was unsure how to describe exactly why. This project encouraged me to explore more, and with that, I was able to write this paragraph in my personal statement.
“With the experiences I continue to gain while shadowing, I am confident that dentistry fits my passions and values. The doctors I work under share the ability to create long-lasting relationships with hundreds of individuals, each with a different story to tell. Regardless of the differences between them, any unique combination of persons will have at least two things in common within the walls of each of these dental offices: a dentist that cares about their health and well-being and the need for oral care. In a time where people are being divided because of their disparate identities, the community that dentistry is still able to inspire is what I think of when people ask me, “Why dentistry?’”