Dare to Go Dental

For many individuals, going to the dentist elicits a feeling of dread. Anticipating what the dentist has to say about the state of our mouth and what has to be fixed  is an additional, yet fortunate, emotional price we pay for first world dental care.

Becoming a dentist, for those who choose to provide that care, has its own share of challenges. From the Dental Admission Test to grades and getting experience in the field, an aspiring dentist or medical student can find themselves lost among all the jargon and knowledge.

Students in the Pre-Dental Society (PDS) at UC Irvine can find assistance and guidance from not only professors and professionals, but among their most available resources — each other.

“Pre-Dental Society at UC Irvine is an academic and social organization,”  Stephen O’Donnell, a fourth-year biological sciences major and president of PDS, said. “We reach out to those interested in exploring dentistry or have interest in a pre-dental path, which includes getting into dental school.”

PDS began as the American Student Dental Association at UCI in 2000. O’Donnell said that at a certain point, however, the club hit a “regression period” until the end of last year, when PDS changed its name and rebranded its image.

“We started to change our momentum, and we rebounded,” he said. “We focused not only on making our club more social and interactive, but also making people want to proactively engage and contribute to one another instead of contributing to their own application, because anyone can do that on their own.”

The Pre-Dental Society places just as much focus on the “society” aspect as much as the pre-dental. From its bi-weekly general meetings to its work in the community, PDS offers opportunities for pursuing career options — with others.

“We want to break this bio-sci stereotyped mentality where everyone is individualistic, doing their own thing and on their own path,” O’Donnell said.

“In the real world, especially in dentistry, you’re going to be working in a team. You’re going to be leading the team as a dentist in your office, or in some other setting.”

PDS participated in the California Dental Association (CDA) Cares San Jose free clinic, which took place over the weekend on May 18-19. The clinic is one of the main events PDS participates in every year, and students who go are able to work alongside dentists and other professionals, utilizing their skills and gaining valuable experience.

“A lot of our members are very diverse,” Kristine Angeles, a third-year biological sciences and studio art major, said. “A lot of them were translators, dental assistants, and some were actually allowed to take X-rays. You could see the talent in that group and what they are able to do.”

PDS has also begun hosting more frequent workshops regarding the Dental Admission Test, manual dexterity and several others that Angeles says are usually quite expensive for a cheaper price.

PDS members are also able to participate in fundraising for Smile Train, an organization that provides operations for children with cleft lip. Those who enjoy working with children can join other members in teaching children in Montessori schools the importance of oral hygiene, brushing their teeth, flossing and other basics — while making it fun for them.

For those who have no experience, Angeles said these workshops and volunteer opportunities are a great place to start and become engaged with their own career and their peers.

“Everyone starts with nothing,” she said. “They always ask, how did you do this? But we really started with zero experience — we were able to network, and we can share that to other students.”

Stephanie Fukawa, a second-year biological sciences major, is a general member of PDS and, like the others, appreciates the direction and opportunities the club has provided.

“From my experience, I think it is really like a society,” she said. “Everyone tries to really reach out and help you. They tell you what to do, how to do it; they share their experiences. It’s not a cutthroat environment, and we’re all helping each other.”

PDS meets every other Tuesday, including this week, at 5 p.m. in Natural Sciences II, Room 4201 (fourth floor). More information about PDS is available at http://www.clubs.uci.edu/pds/.