Students Sink Their Teeth Into ‘Discover Dental School’
Program gives aspiring dentists a head start on their careers
Stony Brook University student Anna Lubitz ’14 can say with confidence that she knows the drill — along with an assortment of other dental instruments. The biology major was one of 53 students from five states and 23 colleges and universities attending the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine’s inaugural Discover Dental School program, held the week of August 4 at Stony Brook University.
Through an intensive, closely supervised hands-on curriculum, students like Lubitz who are interested in pursuing dentistry as a career experienced what it is like to go to dental school and gain practice skills in different specialties. Thirty Stony Brook faculty members and 30 dental student “peer” mentors guided the pre-dental students — 18 of whom are current Stony Brook students — as they immersed themselves in the challenging program, which included a one-day dental boot camp.
For Lubitz, Discover Dental School reinforced that she made the right decision to pursue dentistry. Now she is getting ready to apply to dental school — and Stony Brook is at the top of her list.
“With each workshop that I’ve gone to, I’ve learned a lot, from drilling a tooth to filling a cavity. I am jumping into the dental field and loving every second of it. I really feel like dentistry is the right fit for me,” she said. That’s just the kind of enthusiasm the creator of Discover Dental School, Dr. Ann Nasti, a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of General Dentistry at Stony Brook, was hoping she would see from those attending the program.
“At the dental school we are constantly looking for ways to educate potential applicants about the many aspects of the profession, as well as to foster leadership and service opportunities for our current dental students,” said Dr. Nasti.
Many of Discover Dental School’s activities were held in the Thomas and Nicolina Nasti Simulation Laboratory, a high-technology teaching classroom that provides a realistic simulated clinical environment. There the students watched faculty demonstrations of different procedures in restorative dentistry.
Working on typodonts — a mannequin head with an oral cavity — the students learned root canal technique, placed orthodontic brackets and made pediatric occlusal guards. In addition, faculty demonstrated how to perform an oral cancer screening and reviewed salivary analysis protocol with the students.
The students also trained in Stony Brook Medicine’s Clinical Skills Center, a state-of-the-art resource for physicians, dentists and other healthcare professionals, located in the Health Sciences Tower. They practiced their skills in the fields of dental anesthesiology, periodontics, and oral and maxillofacial surgery on computerized mannequins, learning about such procedures as IV placement, scaling of teeth, suturing and intubation.
For Discover Dental School participant Allison Johnson, working with all that cutting-edge technology was worth the nearly nine hours’ drive to Stony Brook from upstate New York. Johnson, a biology major entering her senior year at SUNY Potsdam, said that although she had spent more than 200 hours shadowing her own dentist back home, working in the simulation lab was a completely different experience.
“In the simulation lab I was able to get hands-on training, which is something I’ve only dreamed about doing. And now that I’ve done what I’ve watched my dentist do so many times before, I understand the level of expertise that I need to pursue this career,” she said. “Participating in a program like this before going into dental school really gives you a better, more competitive edge.”
Although much of Discover Dental School focused on clinical procedures, there was a significant component dedicated to helping pre-dental students navigate the road to dental school.
Dr. Hugh Finch, director of admissions and student affairs, who led a workshop on how pre-dental students can better their chances of being accepted to dental school, said it all comes down to knowing the kind of curriculum load they need to take and honing their interview techniques.
“We gave them a lot of information on the basic things they should be doing prior to applying to dental school. We also set up a faculty panel in which they asked us questions about the interview process,” he said.
The School of Dental Medicine’s peer mentors also played a major role in educating the pre-dental students by performing mock dental school interviews with them.
“The dental students from our school are the best able to do this because they just went through the process themselves,” said Dr. Finch. “Based on the feedback I’ve received, the Discover Dental School students got good advice from their peer mentors.”
And it is that advice that brings additional value to a comprehensive program like Discover Dental School.
“My wish is for our program participants to experience the enthusiasm and energy we have for dentistry at the School of Dental Medicine,” said Dr. Nasti. “Our goal is to lead by example, not by words, and for our participants to understand the lifelong commitment to learning that is inherent in being part of our profession.”
The following faculty members provided guidance to the Discover Dental School participants to help make the program a success: Dean Ray C. Williams; Drs. Nancy Amoia, David Anolik, Marty Boorin, Ana de Oliveira Botta, George Bruder, Debra Cinotti, Gabe Conte, Maria Cordero, Ralph Epstein, Richard Faber, Anthony Fazio, John Foti, Joseph Graskemper, Ying Gu, Richard Imparato, Christopher Joubert, Jimmy Kilimitzoglou, Stephen Kruger, Allan Kucine, Nick Lavoie, Bonnie Lipow, Steve London, David Paquette, Robert Reiner, Georgios Romanos, Chris Salierno, Jeff Seiver, Denise Trochesset, Mary Truhlar, Barry Waldman and Steven Zove; and the following staff: Lisa Borzumato, Carol Sloane and Janet Tuthill
— By Susan Tito; photo by Dan Goodrich