Let me give you a brief history of my dental school experiences.
Two months after I began dental school at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine my father was diagnosed stage IV renal carcinoma.
At first, he was given four months of life. However, he lived for another two-and-one half years. He died three days after I had taken part II in the National Board Dental Examination.
Due to the stress caused by his death and subsequent passing, I was only able to complete 50% of my graduation requirements the day before graduation.
I was supposed to graduate May 17, 2009, but I did not “clear” from Tufts until June 10, 2010.
To add insult to injury, I then didn’t pass the Western Regional Examining Board exam.
I couldn’t practice dentistry. I couldn’t do the only thing I had trained to do.
Jeannette Holloway D.D.S. was one of my mentors and I learned about the General Practice Residency Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry was the school I applied to and it opened in June 2011.
I took the Southern Regional Testing Agency exam during my residency, finally passed, and got my dental license in 2012. It was three long years after I was supposed graduate and to be licensed.
It sounds so trite to say that I would tell my dental school self, “You will be OK,” so I won’t. Truthfully, I could tell so many things to myself that it was hard for me to know where I should begin.
I would tell myself: It will be worthwhile.
When you have patients tell you that you are the best dentist they’ve ever had, it will be worth it.
When you have assistants tell you, “I’ve never had a dentist tell me ‘Thank you’ before,” it will be worth it.
It will be worth it if a colleague tells you that an assistant was crying when you left, because she was going missing you so much.
When you organize a Give Kids A Smile event at the Federally Qualified Health Center where you work and have enough connections that you get the story on the local news, it will be worth it.
It is worth the effort to create a mentoring program with Indiana Dental Association.
It is worth it to mentor young Black women and help them find a career in dentistry.
Dear Young Dental Student Liz: All you can see right now is sadness, frustration, and anxiety. But these experiences will fuel you to become a better dentist and a better friend, family member, community member, and person. It will all be worth it.
Elizabeth Simpson D.M.D. from Indianapolis is a general dentistry. Her dental education was received at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. She completed a one year General Practice Residency at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry after graduation. She is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at Indiana University School of Dentistry. She is the incoming vice chair of the ADA’s Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, and a medical reviewer for the website Everyday Health as well as a guest blogger with the ADA New Dentist Now Blog.