by Riley Schaff, University of Michigan (2017)

As the Class of 2019 donned their white coats for the first time, I couldn’t help but think back two years to my own White Coat Ceremony.  Bright-eyed and smiling, I remember as we posed for photos with the eager anticipation of being one step closer to that prefix “Dr.”  As I’m sure could be easily surmised, I have not been bright-eyed and smiling every day since then.  Getting through each day in dental school can be an arduous task at times, and, as I’m now entering full-time clinical care, school has a whole new set of stressors and challenges.  I, like many of my classmates and third-year counterparts at other dental schools, often feel a little wearied.
Seeing patients full time has been something I’ve looked forward to since I decided I wanted to become a healthcare professional.  Being able to interact with people while helping them achieve better health is an incredibly rewarding experience, and, even after just a few months in the clinic, I have already had my fair share of hugs and thank you notes from my patients.  However, as every third-year (and fourth-year) dental student knows, those experiences are balanced by long days in clinic when things don’t go as planned and patients who don’t show up.  As I reflect on the experiences of both the last few months and the last few years, I do see how I’ve grown both as a person and as a professional. There are many days indeed I feel jaded and dread heading into school, but I am coming to realize those days are balanced by seeing grateful patients that reminds me why I chose dentistry.  Those tough days go a little smoother as I have begun to feel more comfortable and confident in my skin as a clinician.
This halfway milestone, beginning my third year, reminds me why I began dental school bright-eyed and smiling, wearing my white coat free of PVS stains and die stone on my sleeves.  I want to regain my optimism and positivity and cast off this jadedness. Two years closer to my DDS with two years to go, I’m focusing on this contagious excitement to be a member of this profession.  The white coat-donning eagerness of the new D1s is reinvigorating, and I hope I can continue tackling the challenges and triumphs ahead with the D1-esque smile.

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