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Big and Little Extracurriculars

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The week after orientation, bright posters stood tall upon tables encircling the common area of the Health Professions Division building of my school, encouraging students to join various dental-related clubs. The posters offered everything from free protective eyewear for future patients to externship opportunities for the new D1 class. It was the end of the day, and we had just survived our first anatomy lecture as D1s.

            With all the chaos of choosing between fraternity benefits and membership fees, I couldn’t help but question what all of these clubs were for and why people preferred one fraternity over another. I approached the tables and spoke with several upperclassmen about what each club had to offer, only to realize that most clubs were meant for networking and were supplemented by benefits that students could enjoy. This included future malpractice insurance and lunch-and-learn programs, where students are provided with food and encouraged to meet professionals in their specific scope of interest.

            The following afternoon, the D1 class was getting acquainted with their new stations in the simulation lab. As I opened the lock under my desk, a small, neatly folded paper tumbled out. Confused, I opened it to discover that it was a note from the D2 that shared a station space with me. The sweet letter explained that the D2 took it upon herself to be my mentor for ASDA’s big/little program, and included her contact information in the event that I had any questions or needed any advice about how to succeed in my first year of dental school, or if I needed help on perfecting my technique on wax ups, block and carves, or restorations before practicals.

            Although organizations such as ASDA have wonderful benefits to offer, mentorship is the single most important benefit that any club can provide. The saying, “Nothing is more valuable than experience,” rings especially true for D1s. My mentor shared her lab tips and the best way to study for challenging classes. Before practicals, she showed me the instruments that work best to perfect a marginal ridge on a Class II amalgam or composite restoration, and how to flawlessly complete the anatomy before the material set. Mentorship programs build better future practitioners, especially when they have already mastered the skills that their underclassmen are learning, and have the ability and proficiency to work with students one-on-one in order to ensure their success.

            Not only did my mentor help me in school, but she also made my transition into dental school much smoother by introducing me to other students in her class, who eventually helped celebrate our successes. Recently, we began to exchange tips and help each other become better student-dentists in the clinic, and helped others by spreading the knowledge we learn from each other.

Mentorship programs produce friendships that last a lifetime, and although I did not realize it in my first week of dental school, I now see the importance in joining my peers in extracurricular activities. Besides the benefits they have listed on their posters, they also offer connections that are formed by spending time with peers who help build long-lasting professional networks. Together, we work as a team to help others and continue to grow as future healthcare providers.