I just finished my second year at Temple’s School of
Dentistry. Right before we begin to see patients in clinic, we have our white
coat ceremony. Students, faculty, and loved ones gather to celebrate our
achievement thus far. I have never been a fan of graduation-type ceremonies.
That is, until I got my white coat.
Incidentally, my mentor gave the keynote speech. Her voice
rang out, “Today is a new beginning for you. The next phase of your career. You
are the lucky ones. The next two years you will develop your diagnostic and
treatment planning skills and the art of dentistry on a live patient in the
mouth, with big tongues and chubby cheeks and moving heads, on patients who are
coughers, gaggers, and dental phobics, oh my!” At that moment it dawned on me
that my journey is now going to intimately involve the lives of the patients
that I serve. No longer is it just about me doing well on a typodont in
preclinic. No longer is it all about studying until I cannot see straight (I
hope). My mentor spoke of responsibility and obligation, the attainment of
knowledge, and the aim to benefit all of society. After two years of struggling
and fighting to survive, we are now student dentists. We are no longer
struggling and fighting for ourselves, we are struggling and fighting for our
After the ceremony, I went out to dinner with my family to celebrate.
I realized that the people I was sharing a meal with could now be the people
that I provide care to. I imagined doing dental work on my mother and how much
I would study and work to make sure that I did her no harm and gave her the
absolute best care. I would expect nothing but the best of myself with the goal
of improving her dental health, overall health, and her life. Of course, I feel
this way about by father and sister too, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousin
who were also celebrating with us.
After my uncle, the dentist in the family, coated me on
stage in front of peers and superiors, I realized that I ought to treat each
and every one of my patients as if they were my mother. It shouldn’t be about
how many crowns I can get my patients to do, (even if they don’t necessarily
need one), or how many patients I can get to do whitening. When I enter clinic
it will be tempting to convince patients to do certain procedures that will help
me graduate, but I will only do it if the procedure is appropriate. I will do
the right thing. I will always work to understand the unique patient in my
chair and balance their wants and needs with my skills and knowledge.
Happy graduation season to all!