THE NEXTDDS presents a new monthly series that will highlight our outstanding Student Ambassadors stationed at dental school's across the country. Starting off our series, meet Justine - our Ohio State ambassador and Regional Delegate for the midwest area.
Justine Bednarski recently started her third year as a dental student at Ohio State University College of Dentistry. If you’re seeking information regarding signs in the oral cavity signifying systemic issues, be sure to read her latest blog, Oral Manifestations of Gastrointestinal Abnormalities. In this interview for THE NEXTDDS, Justine talks about what drew her to dentistry as well as the aspects she finds most interesting. She also shares several challenges dental students face today and what she loves the most about dental school.
THE NEXTDDS: Why did you choose dentistry as a career?
JB: My decision to enter the field of dentistry stems from when I had braces at the age of 13. During this crucial time in adolescence, I was pretty insecure with my appearance, and let’s just say my smile was not one to be proud of. However, after one short year of wearing traditional braces, my smile drastically improved and I began to have a little more self-confidence. It always amazed me that one person, my orthodontist, could cause such a remarkable change in both my physical and more importantly in my internal self-image.
Upon deciding which career route to take, I kept thinking of a quote my father would always say, “Choose a career that will bring joy, be a challenge, and provide inspiration every single day.” The more I thought about what would make me happy day in and day out, the more I realized that dentistry was the career for me. If I can make a difference to at least one person in terms of boosting their self-esteem through improving their smile, that will make this career choice worthwhile.
THE NEXTDDS: That’s great. That’s similar to many of the students we talk to, yet unique as well. Is dentistry generational for you?
JB: I do believe that dentistry is, to an extent, generational. With new technologies coming out every year, we as the younger “tech-savvy” generation will be utilizing them in our practices whereas the older dentists know that the old ways have worked well for decades. However, I also believe that certain older dentists are aware of the new technologies and are starting to use them in their practices more and more.
THE NEXTDDS: Are you excited nervous to treat your first patient?
JB: As I am finishing now my second year of dental school, I have not had the opportunity to see any patients yet. However, in our Intro to Clinic course at Ohio State, we were able to bring in a family member to be our “first patient”. I brought in my father and we did a typical new patient appointment. This entailed a thorough medical history, dental charting, head and neck exam, periodontal charting, plaque index, and a standard prophy.
I was a little nervous, but more so excited about this appointment--especially because I was able to show my father all of the knowledge I’ve gained thus far in dental school. My father loved the experience and felt extremely lucky to say he was my first patient, an experience neither of us will ever forget.
THE NEXTDDS: That’s fantastic! What aspect of dental school is the most challenging for you?
JB: The most challenging aspect of dental school is balancing a busy schedule. Not only do we take over 20 credit hour semesters, which usually entail 6 to 9 classes, but we also enjoy engaging in extracurriculars, like ASDA or being an ambassador for THE NEXTDDS. I often laugh and wish I had more hours in a day to get everything done, but with organization and finding one night a week to completely relax, it is definitely doable to get everything done each week.
THE NEXTDDS: What roles do social media and educational sites such as THE NEXTDDS play in your dental education? How frequently do you access them for school-related activities?
JB: I believe that social media and sites like THE NEXTDDS are useful as adjunct teaching tools. The professors at our schools do their best to teach material as thoroughly as possible, but when certain procedures don’t fully make sense, looking into other sites are helpful to find videos/case studies that pertain to the subject matter learned. I access these adjunctive learning tools when I have practical/competency exams when my hands are put to test just to see the correct ways to perform the procedures asked of us.
THE NEXTDDS: What do you envision your next five years of dentistry to look like?
JB: Of the next five years, the first two will be spent in class and clinic. I am very excited to develop my skills on patients since I have only been in pre-clinic practicing and haven’t had the chance to interact with patients yet. Following dental school, I plan to do a 1-year General Practice Residency-- (GPR) hopefully back home in Chicago—but am also open to traveling to a new city depending on the opportunities available. After the GPR, I then see myself as an associate in a successful private practice in a big city somewhere in the U.S.!
THE NEXTDDS: Sounds like you have a vision taking shape for what’s next. What clinical topics do you find most intriguing?
JB: My favorite clinical topics are those that are centered on esthetics, especially because that is the reason I chose to go into the field. Seeing case studies on orthodontics, whitening treatments, crown lengthening, and veneers put a smile on my face in class and constantly remind me of why I chose to enter this remarkable field of dentistry. Although I am unsure of where my path will lead, I envision my future practice being centered on cosmetic dentistry to help others not only obtain the best oral hygiene measures but to boost their self-confidences with winning smiles.
THE NEXTDDS: What clinical topics would be most beneficial to illustrate online?
JB: I think case studies and presentations are always the best way to teach/show clinical topics. It is often hard to simply read about what happens clinically and, thus providing plenty of procedural images really helps in learning how to perform them. Since more and more people are getting implants, I think more case studies and videos on this topic would be beneficial for all students to use.
THE NEXTDDS: How has THE NEXTDDS Student Ambassador experience helped you in networking with your peers?
JB: The student ambassador experience has helped me network with my peers in a significant way. With support from THE NEXTDDS, I was able to attend the 2016 ASDA Annual Session and share the experience with students across the country. I was able to post social media blasts for THE NEXTDDS and handed out literature to a great number of the 600 dental students at the conference. Traveling as a representative of THE NEXTDDS allowed me to interact with more students than I would have otherwise and I was able to learn about their experiences at their individual dental schools. This was such an amazing and unforgettable experience, and if I wasn’t a Student Ambassador I would have never had this opportunity.
THE NEXTDDS: Chief concerns about being a dental student?
JB: Student debt!!! This is the one topic that frustrates dental students the most because our debts are constantly growing and on our minds while in school. When we all have friends and family members who are successfully making money while we are continually falling deeper and deeper in debt. It is often discouraging. With tuition rates constantly rising, I frequently wonder when these rates will ever stop increasing, if ever.
THE NEXTDDS: What do you enjoy most about being a dental student, or dental school in general?
JB: My favorite part about being a dental student has been the opportunity to get involved with ASDA and travel to various conferences across the country. To date, I have traveled to Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington D.C., and at each conference have heard influential leaders speak along with meeting a ton of dental students and representatives from several dental companies. Without these opportunities, I would not have heard about THE NEXTDDS, would not know how different dental schools operate, and would not have learned that dental students can make a drastic impact on legislature that will concern us as practicing dentists. I am very grateful that our university supports ASDA and that I became involved as early as I did. The students involved are the ones who continue to inspire me to be the best dental student and best dentist that I can be.
THE NEXTDDS: It’s been a pleasure for us too—we really appreciate all your contributions and your insights. We know you have bright things ahead and look forward to our ongoing collaborations.