1. What kind of work and/or schooling are you currently involved in?
My name is Carl Leiner and I am a first year dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. As a D1 student, my classes vary in academic sciences as well as didactic manual dexterity courses. These include gross anatomy, neuroanatomy, dental anatomy, operative dentistry with DentSim rotations, and foundations of interprofessional practice. Along with exams, we have several projects due like carving assignments and cavity preparations. The D1 class has just finished some of these classes, as they follow a 6-week accelerated curriculum. Our new courses in microbiology, immunology, periodontal disease, and clinical skills will start at the beginning of next week.
2. What was your experience like at Georgetown, and how did your time here inform your outlook and career choices?
My experience at Georgetown was awesome! I always felt like I was studying “intro” level classes until I was exposed to neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and pathophysiology. In these courses, Dr. Reddaway, Dr. Whitney, amongst the other outstanding staff, taught us so far in depth that we hit the point where research is currently involved! It was inspiring and humbling to be studying at that level with all of my colleagues, who were mostly preprofessional, premedical, and predental students as well.
As a prospective dental student, I asked several dental students what topics they wish they had been exposed to before going to dental school. The answers were unanimous, they all had wished they had taken some form of neuro and pathophysiology. This opportunity to cover both of these classes in the Master’s in Physiology at Georgetown was a continuation step from my Advanced Biomedical Sciences G-Squared Program from George Mason. Most professional schools, be that medical or dental, are so academic – they want to see that you have the determination to pursue the academic world around you and that you are always seeking opportunities to learn.
3. What advice would you give current or prospective students looking to get into your line of work?
My advice for any predental students out there is to NEVER GIVE UP! I’m serious, you are reading about a predental student who did not get into dental school until his third time applying. If a predent is not hearing positive feedback from the school he or she is applying to, take a look at your numbers. Research your designated schools and make sure you have a competitive GPA and DAT for their admissions. If your numbers are under the cutoff then consider retaking the DAT and pursuing graduate work in biology or a related science to show admissions you can handle graduate level education. Also, dive into the field! This part is fun because it is a lot of volunteer work that’s related to dentistry. I volunteered at several Give Kids a Smile and Mission of Mercy events around the state of Virginia. These are incredibly rewarding experiences as you help the underserved populations throughout the state. If anything these experiences give you the drive and motivation if you’re serious toward a professional career in dentistry.
4. What are your current academic interests and foci within your field?
My current academic interests are usually whatever dental school has me studying, haha! I’m serious, let’s take gross anatomy for example, we were set at such an intense pace with cadaver dissections from 7:50am-11:00am with a lecture to go along with our lab from 11:00am-12:00pm Monday through Friday. This schedule at first felt like boot camp, but as time progressed I started to gain an appreciation for gross anatomy like no other subject I’ve ever studied.
Dental school definitely knows how to change my focus in the blink of an eye. At one minute, all I can think about is how I am going to cover all the material presented during the week in the academic classes before the exam – and then suddenly I’m attempting to carve a permanent maxillary central incisor out of wax down to the finite detail. I then spend a lot of time thinking about how I can carve more efficiently and effectively to pass the practical, then we have to drill cavity preparations with the DentSim technology using the calibrated handpiece. I would say my most recent focus has been on DentSim and how to improve my hand-eye-coordination and handpiece maneuvering. At the end of the day there’s a lot to think about during a typical week in dental school, but if you can be confident in your strengths, and prioritize to keep studying and improving your weak areas, then dental school is achievable in all aspects, both academic and clinical!
If there is anything else you'd like to add, please feel free to do so!
I have to mention that success in dental school takes a tremendous amount of dedication and hard work, but also knowing when to ask for help from the faculty is integral in making it through. If a concept is confusing or you are having trouble with handling an instrument, ask for help! The faculty and upperclassman at VCU have exceeded my expectations in the how determined they are in MY SUCCESS. Also, my colleagues, the other D1 students, the class of 2019, we together support each other in every effort! In just six weeks, I’ve made lifelong friends, and my classmates have become my family. This family nature from VCU has made it the best school for me to pursue my dental education.