High Schoolers Explore a Career in Dentistry

Oct. 12, 2015

students making moldsLearning about orthodontics by making impressions and molds and bending wires was by far the most favorite part for the students participating in Exploring Oral Health, a career awareness program held recently at Eastman Dental, part of UR Medicine's Eastman Institute for Oral Health.

"I'm very interested in the field of Orthodontics and I know with this job, you can make people's lives better and I love helping with that," said Josh Rosen, of Pittsford, one of the 10 participants whose ages range from 13-17 from Rochester, New York City, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

hands on activityEach day for a week, students visited a different specialty area within Eastman Dental, where the students see a case presentation and participate in a hands-on activity.

Clare Shaffer, RDHMarking the 10th year EIOH has sponsored this program, Clare Shaffer, RDH, JMS, administrator, EIOH Office ;for Quality Improvement and Compliance, says its success is due in large part because of faculty, staff and residents' support with organizing, participating and mentoring the students throughout the week.

"During our visit to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, they toured a surgical suite at Strong Memorial Oral BiologyHospital, and reviewed some cases such as wisdom teeth removal, a procedure which some of the students can personally relate to," explained Shaffer. "While visiting Periodontics, they reviewed a case of gum surgery and learned how to take a medical history, chart periodontal conditions and take intra oral photographs. They also visited the EIOH library and Center for Oral Biology."

For Margaret McGuire, the week helped her decide that dentistry is a career that combines her interest in chemistry and microbiology, as well as artistic hands-on practices. "I'm still unsure if I want to specialize in some form of dentistry, but I really enjoyed the hands-on activities and learning about tooth diseases," she said.

students in actionThe week's events confirmed for Spencer Burkert and Aarya Patel, their desire to be an orthodontist. Thomas Frumusa, however, was undecided before this program between a career in dentistry or computers. "The best part of this week was when we visited the Orthodontics department," Frumusa said. "But I have now decided that I want to be a dentist and not a computer scientist."

Melanie Jaquez went to the program because her guidance counselor and college advisor both recommended she check it out. "The majority of my family has suffered because they never took care of their teeth," Jaquez said as to why she chose, Exploring Oral Health. "I enjoyed every day of this class. My favorite part was visiting the Orthodontist center. I've always wondered how braces were put on, and it was a great experience learning to mix, use appropriate tools, and how to treat a patient."

hands on activityJasmin Patel took the class to gain a better understanding of what dentistry is all about. She, too, especially enjoyed the orthodontics section, and helped her realize that she would like to go into pediatric dentistry and orthodontics because "the daily procedures seem more appealing to me than that of prosthodontics and periodontics."

When Craig Rosen was 'examining' co-participant Spencer in the Periodontics part of the program, it hit him all at once. "I smiled, and said to Spencer, 'this is what I want to be.' This job is very fun as well as involving lots of work and effort, and I want to put the work into helping people."

For Shaffer, who's been coordinating and developing the program since its inception, she says working with the students and watching them explore and question various aspects of clinical dentistry or research is what continues to be the most rewarding part. "The students come in with an initial curiosity about dentistry, and throughout the week, I love watching their interest, and  thus their knowledge expand. And, that's exactly why this program exists."