When I ranked UW and Seattle first during the Match process, I was really excited. This was the only program where you could dual train in pediatric dentistry and public health and get paid to do it. I was even more excited when two weeks later I found out that I’d matched to one of the two spots in the country available. Awesome – I would earn not only my Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry (which alone qualifies you to be a pediatric dentist), but also my Master’s of Science in Dentistry and my Master’s in Public Health. It was the ideal triple threat combination that lets you go wherever you want. Bonus: I loved that Bri was the other person who matched to the position; we got along great and I knew we’d make an awesome team. But then, fast forward a year and some initially trying months of residency later, and my program told me that the grant that made all this possible no longer existed. Done. Gone. Over. No chance of finding additional funding. Sayonara. Goodbye.
I was, needless to say, a tad upset. I had moved not only myself, but my husband, 2,853 miles across a continent for this. I ranked other really good programs lower to do this. I gave up just going straight into a lucrative, safe dental practice to do this. I had already been accepted at UW’s School of Public Health – a top ranked institution. Not cool. Seriously, not cool. My program gave me two options: 1) just drop the MPH and complete the traditional pediatric dental residency and graduate in two years with the Certificate and Master’s of Science in Dentistry or 2) continue with the additional Master’s of Public Health track, knowing that I would not earn a salary for my third year and I would be responsible for the additional tuition. Option #1 was out – I’d already going through too much to get here. Option #2 was really out, because seriously y’all, I’m in the 22nd grade, and all those years of schooling don’t come cheap. Until we win the lottery I’d rather not add to the debt load already bearing down on us. I was crushed.
But this story has a good ending (though for many sleepless nights there didn’t seem like there’d be one): through some hard work and a lot of good luck I was able to fall into the right place at the right time with the right people. I’ve been awarded a T90 postdoctoral trainee grant from the NIH to continue my work in pediatric dentistry and start my MPH classes next week. It comes with the stipulation that I spend a majority of my time in research, an area I’ve always loved, but have recently fully embraced as where I’m supposed to be. This puts me on the path to Academia, a world I know well from the student side and am learning more about each day from the teaching side. I’ve always had lingering doubts about running a private practice as a solo practitioner, and this solidifies that that probably was never going to be the right choice for me. The one downside of all this is that I’ll have less time to spend with my co-residents, whom I love and whose friendships I cherish very much. They’ve been very supportive in the transition and I’m thankful that we’ll still share a few clinics and more importantly, many happy hours together.
Thanks to all of you who lived out this saga in real time through phone calls and emails; your support sustained me. Thanks for never giving up on me and more importantly, for never letting me give up on myself. Thanks for reminding me that life has a funny way of always placing you precisely where you need to be.
This isn’t the direction I set out on, but I’m so freaking excited to see where it goes.
MPH orientation today
Getting some work and blog posting done on my research time.
Last night I was chopping vegetables for the week because it turns out I let them rot in the fridge if I feel too lazy to do it when I get home from work. I’ve been using emeals to help us plan and keep a budget (remember when I tried to meal plan on my own? hahahah, turns out not so much) – plus it’s fun to try out their recipes. Right in the middle of grating some ginger my pager went off; there was a three year old with facial swelling and infection due to a large cavity at Seattle Children’s Hospital and my co-resident Bri and I were being called in to take care of it.
Annoyance. Seriously? The best time you could think of to take care of your kid’s cavity was at 8:30pm on a Tuesday? Oh, it’s been like this for weeks. Great. All cavities are preventable you know, with a toothbrush, good diet and some floss. We like to fix things before they get too big and create a medical emergency. Cavities can kill. You’ve already seen two other dentists today? They did nothing? Why, we’re all trained how to extract teeth in dental school and they’ve been dentists way longer than I have. Plus, it’s not a super complicated procedure. Oh, they didn’t feel comfortable treating children.. Perfect excuse. At this time of night I have none of my magic tools to make it anymore comfortable than you could’ve done earlier today and saved this family a three hour trip and overnight stay in the city. I certainly wasn’t trying to do anything else tonight after a long day of work.
Thanks. Thanks for pagers, so I don’t have to sleep overnight in the hospital waiting for the kids to come in and I can hang out at home or go to the grocery story or do anything else in a 20 minute radius of Children’s. Thanks for good co-residents to share the burden of trying to treat a hurting child when they and their parents are not at their best and have already had a long day. Thanks for a car to drive me to the emergency department so I don’t have to take the bus or walk and for good, safe, paved roads to drive on. Thanks for hands (that yesterday smelled like ginger) to help lessen the pain. Thanks for student loans to pay for the lessons that have molded these hands over the past almost five years. Thanks for antibiotics so this kid won’t die of a toothache. Thanks for parents who trust that I’m only trying to help. Thanks for good lighting, clean facilities, a plethora of gauze, sterile instruments, a dental chair. Thanks for working suction. Thanks for the Starbucks to grab a quick tea while waiting for the ED nurses to be done with their assessment. Thanks for a dictation system so I don’t spend 30 minutes writing my notes. Thanks for a great partner to work with. Thanks for the chance to heal.
It’s all about the perspective.
When I was really young (pre-K, back when a visit to the pediatrician was a regular thing) I was mildly obsessed with where doctors went when they had to go see the doctor. Can one see oneself? Is that allowed? I know, I know, I was a weird kid.
But fast forward twenty years or so and now as a board-certified, licensed, honest-to-God dentist, where does one go? Does one go? Can’t I just take some x-rays on myself and call it good? Also does it matter that I haven’t been to see a dentist since I was on my parents’ insurance at least seven years ago? Eek. Embarrassing! To back up my rationalizing, in dental school plenty of classmates looked in my mouth, I do a good job with my Sonicare, and I floss a majority of nights out of the week, but still.. yikes. Hypocrite central. Plus, we’ve got some great insurance right now so we might as well take advantage of it!
So with the new year I made Jeff and I appointments at a dentist who came recommended by some people from work (I mean, what better recommendation for a dentist that one that comes from other dentists?). Then though I was even more anxious: Do you tell a dentist that you are also a dentist? Or do you just let it go? Which is more awkward?? My first thought was to just show up, not mention I was in dentistry as well and just see how it went, but Jeff blew that for me by telling him at his appointment that his wife was a dentist.
Note to self: Pretty awesome dental book to add to the collection!
It ended up not mattering at all; Nikole O’Bryan and her staff were just so delightful and awesome. She did a very thorough exam and the assistant even emailed me my FMX (full mouth series) so I could keep it. Very professional, extremely nice people. I was impressed 🙂 So here hopefully ends my streak of not getting regular check-ups and living up to what I’ve been harping on to my patients. Yay! But seriously folks, make a dental appointment if it’s been awhile.. we can check more than your teeth and screen you for even scarier systemic diseases (hypertension, diabetes, oral and other certain types of cancers).
And yay for no cavities (for me or Jeff)!
This week I’ve been rotating at Children’s to learn more about airway management in kids. It’s a nice break to be away from the regular stresses of the dental clinic and see some new things (very medical, non dental-y things!). I just hope I remember how to hold a handpiece when I get back!
The Children’s hospital was full of adorable mini-dinos, fairy princesses, furry animals and Batmans. Too cute. I was uncooly dressed as a pediatric dental resident on her anesthesia rotation.