For disclosure – not take-out, but it was made from a lot of cans.
I’ve been in midterms for the past two weeks and then to round out the spectacularity of being in the twenty-second grade, I was on call with an incessant pager and worked the holiday. There’s something about it all piling on at once that can crush your soul a bit.
Each time that I find myself so exhausted that I want to take a nap in my car in the few moments between class and clinic or want to complain that I have to go in to the hospital again right when I just.sat.down to eat the dinner I was interrupted from three hours ago for another call or when I’ve had problem sets due every day and sometimes on lectures we haven’t had yet or when I’ve spent several precious hours researching medical complexities on patients who then don’t make their appointments or how it’s now the second day I haven’t seen sunlight because our nights are so, so long or when I realize we’re eating take-out again because I can’t find a moment to do adult-like activities like grocery shopping…
I just take a good, deep breath of our cool, rainy air. This is all part of it. No one reminds you when you tell them your plans that it’s going to be a long string of tired. It’s going to be many weeks of constantly feeling like you should always be doing something and lots of take-out food. But if this is anything like dental school was, there is the sweet, sweet amnestic healing that comes with being another semester (or quarter or even half quarter) closer to your goal. You forget how stressful the last push was and continue onward.
As I hurry between buildings on campus, I find myself quietly rejoicing that I am fortunate enough to have a coveted parking spot so I can drive between class and clinic. When I walk into the Emergency Department I remember how blessed I am to be on call for such a great hospital, and how I’m so very, very thankful to be in this program I fought so hard to continue. I am grateful that I can work in this fun, little waterlogged corner of our country. I feel like I’ve made it. I feel like I have so far to go.
Beyond anything else, I feel so incredibly lucky to be living my dream.
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