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Finding A Mentor: Why Is It Important?

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Throughout dental school, there is a multiplicity of course and clinical requirements that students must complete in order to proceed through the years and graduate with your doctorate.  Often mentioned, but hastily glossed over, is the option of finding oneself a mentor.  A mentor is someone who can help guide your way through the field of dentistry, evolve your understanding of what it means to be a dentist, and assist in narrowing down the fields/specialties in dentistry you may choose to follow.  It may seem like second nature and/or common sense to find someone who has experience in the field and can offer a wider perspective of dentistry.  However, coming from a new program and as part of the inaugural class, there are many other things on the minds of faculty trying to establish a brand new dental school. 

Now in my fourth year, I realize how important it is having a mentor and the role they can play in the evolution of my own career.  Their experiences can shed light on certain areas of dentistry that some students may not have the luxury to explore on their own.  I strongly believe and cannot emphasize enough the importance of finding a suitable mentor during your fourth year or even earlier.  For prospective students or even first and second years students, this may seem a little preemptive.  With all the other responsibilities students must take care of during dental school, I can assure you it is not.  The earlier you find one, the more you are exposed to their knowledge and understanding of dentistry which will help you make decisions about the path you choose to take in our honorable field.  You can always get an early start by joining ASDA, ADEA, AGD, or shadowing dentists if you have the time, and doing research, etc to network and meet people effectively increasing your perspective on your career of choice. 

Where the mentors and their mentorship really come into play is during your fourth year when students are on rotation.  The fourth year, in essence, is all about transitioning into the real world.  What better way to have an upper hand on this process than by having a mentor who’s past experiences have been helping guide you along the way throughout dental school.  Even if you plan on doing a residency, they can help guide you in the right direction or realize what it is that you do not want helping you narrow down your choices. 

Here at UNE, we have practice management courses available, however, they can only teach you so much without real life experience or exposure and this is exactly where and why these mentors play such an important role for current students and future dentists.  The knowledge and experience that they impart on us is so valuable it may in fact be priceless.  According to a recent survey our class's student government conducted, more than half of students are planning to go straight into the real world job market and start working, 80% of which plan to join as an associate, which is why I believe it is absolutely crucial and imperative to your career and life to find a mentor.