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Jonathan Miller, 1st Year Dental Student

Jonathan Miller spoke to the ADA while enrolled as a first-year dental student at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

7:15 a.m. I use two alarms to wake up—the alarm on my phone and a machine that shakes my pillow until I turn it off! I shower, swallow my daily vitamins and eat a breakfast bar. I can walk to class in seven minutes—I’ve timed it!

8:00 a.m. The lectures start at 8:00 a.m. and we have another class from 10:00 until noon. We get a five or 10 minute break every hour, but it’s a lot of sitting. This morning’s class is Radiology.  Today we’re covering the radiographic presentations of various bone lesions.  I love this class because reading radiographs is a practical skill and it feels like I am really developing my diagnostic ability.

10:00 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. today we have an EME (End Module Exam) for our Integrated Medical Sciences (IMS) course.  This class is system-based, which really meshes well with my style of learning.  For example, the module we’re completing today is on the nervous system.  Rather than studying the histology of many systems at once (e.g. nervous, cardiac etc…) in IMS we’ll cover the anatomy, histology, physiology and pathology of the nervous system all at once, so you can see how everything is integrated.  There’s a ton of material on this exam and I’ve been preparing for weeks- I’ll be so relieved when it’s over!

12:00 Noon We have an hour for lunch each day. Sometimes we’ll gather at somebody’s house near campus and order pizza, but other times I just buy my lunch and squeeze in some extra studying if I have an exam coming up.  Today I’m just sitting around with some of my friends and relaxing after our tough exam earlier this morning! 

1:00 p.m. Pre-clinic is my favorite part of the day! Even putting on the mask and gloves makes me feel like I’m becoming a dentist. We have a lot of skills to master before we do even simple procedures on patients. For the past week we have been waxing up #21.  You really have to master the tooth’s anatomy and be able to translate those details artistically as you sculpt the wax.  I loved building model planes as a kid, so I think that really helped develop my manual dexterity; but these assignments can be challenging if you haven’t worked on tedious projects with your hands.

5:00 p.m. I’m in a bowling league with other grad students—some of us are in medicine but we’ve also got law and social work students—it’s one of the highlights of my week!

8:00 p.m. to Midnight If I have pre-clinic the following day, I’ll go back to the lab and continue work on waxing up so that I can present a final product for my instructor tomorrow.  Otherwise I’ll go home and study for three or four hours. My first semester I tried to reserve weekends for fun, but the workload is too heavy for that this semester.

I think it’s important for students to know what they’re getting into when they enroll in dental school—that’s why I’m a student mentor for someone who’s still in college, but is considering dental school. My undergraduate mentee has come a few times this year to shadow me and hang out, and I’m sure she’ll be back once or twice in the fall.  I shadowed dentists myself—it’s how I knew I wanted to become a dentist!