Written by Shelby Maurice
101 days ago, I closed the trunk of my car over the last packed crate, hugged my dog and little sisters, and set off on a cross-country drive from Michigan to California to start my D1 year at Western University of Health Sciences. Since then, my life has changed and been enhanced in unique and challenging ways. I could not imagine a better start to a career of serving others through dentistry.
Firstly, on the journey to school, I experienced parts of the country that I had not yet encountered from behind the wheel of my car. Seeing America this way showed me how many areas are underserved and reinforced my desire to help ensure quality oral care is available to all. WesternU emphasizes service, care, and holistic treatment. These elements were a constant in my mind while traveling across the rural United States. When orientation for the College of Dental Medicine started, the opportunities for involvement and volunteering emphasized the importance of service and professionalism within out program. As a first year student, I was unsure of what to expect; hearing from faculty, staff, and upper classmen about their experiences motivated me to find my own passions. However, there were more pressing issues: classes.
I jumped headfirst into our curriculum: Medical Gross Anatomy and Essentials of Clinical Dentistry, with a dash of Service Learning on the side. Having just earned my bachelor degree, I have made many adjustments to my studying and time management to keep up with the rigors of a doctorate program. Despite the stress from impending exams and project deadlines, there is still a vibrant energy from my peers. The best part is that, for the first time in my life, I am completely surrounded by other people who are all equally as interested in the oral cavity as I am. These former strangers, now friends, are what make dental school fun.
On another note, throughout high school and college, I found my drive from extracurricular organizations and I knew I wanted to find something to contribute to while in dental school. When I first started at WesternU, I wanted to be involved, but had no idea where that would take me. I was very excited to I have been selected as my class’ representative for the California Dental Association and have been able to attend a regional leadership meeting and district conference with the American Student Dental Association. Through these avenues, I have already been able to meet the Vice President of CDA, members of the Tri County Dental Society, and other students from many dental schools around the region. Being able to speak with these professionals and peers has opened my eyes to many different aspects of dentistry, especially regarding advocacy, legislation, involvement in the tripartite, and the importance of maintaining an active role in the dental community throughout each stage of one’s journey and practice.
Furthermore, the people I have met since leaving Michigan have truly made this experience worthwhile. From our outstanding faculty members who are always there when we need them to my incredible classmates, who are always willing to study or eat (or both), and do everything with a sense of humor. We all agree that we could not ask for a better group of people to go through the dental school journey with. The upperclassmen that I have gotten to know thus far have encouraged me to continue my involvement in organized dentistry and other clubs on campus. They continually inspire me with their optimism, their attitudes towards patients and the school, and the willingness with which they give advice for a successful D1 year.
Even after a few months time, I still am occasionally overcome with euphoria when I realize that I’m not dreaming – I really am in dental school. I am learning what I love in beautiful Southern California. I am surrounded by remarkable people who strive to change the field and world around them for the better. I cannot wait to see what opportunities and experiences I will find through organized dentistry, research, and service as I continue working towards my DMD.
From the first time I looked into the College of Dental Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences, I knew it was special. When I stepped on campus, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Since orientation, I have known that I am here for a reason and that I made the right choice in joining this incredible family. The first 101 days of my professional school adventure have been an unforgettable transition. I cannot wait to continue to laugh, learn, grow, and help others as a member of my class, college, university, and profession.