A New Way to Learn Dental Medicine

By: Hannah Stern

Throughout my life I have been a chronic doodler. Starting in elementary school, my notebooks and, dare I admit, textbooks were covered in drawings. I created characters that I carried with me throughout the years, making appearances wherever I had room to fit them. At first, my doodling seemed to be a distraction from my work, but quickly I realized that I could combine doodling and learning into one process. While working toward my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Syracuse University, I built my pedagogical practices around exploration, art, and discovery. I found that not only is doodling fun and engaging, but also the physical act of drawing, interacting with the material, color coordinating, and participating in cross disciplinary projects allowed my students, as well as myself, the opportunity to interact with the content in a multifaceted manner. When I decided to make a career change to dentistry, through a series of events and experiences, I realized that dentistry would allow me to pursue my love for art and science and combine them in one.  While completing my post baccalaureate program at New York University, my doodles became crucial for keeping track of the vast material I was absorbing at a fast pace. I was creating endless study guides composed of gel pen doodles. These doodles were beautifully chaotic and helped me to recall information during assessment; the bright green words describing the secondary structures of proteins in juxtaposition to the metallic purple describing motifs flashed in my mind, allowing my recall to function.

Since entering The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine program my doodles have progressed to being digital, which gives them even more flexibility. The aspect I have most enjoyed in my new world of doodling is creating guides to learn anatomy. Truthfully, before arriving to dental school it had never occurred to me that each of our teeth have complex differences in anatomy. Sure, one tooth is slightly more pointed than the other, but in reality each curve and groove serves crucial purposes, and we really need to remember them all. When learning about the subtleties of theanatomy, my eyes, brain and fingertips often begin to sparkle with the excitement of doodling.

Creating these doodles allows me to carefully go through the information and organize it into functional and helpful tables. My doodles have progressed into new styles and are inspired by not only the materials I am using, but also the artists that came before me, such as the famous Dr. Frank Netter and the recent Sidney Kimmel Medical College graduate Dr. Mike Natter. Dr. Natter has inspired me to create an instagram account @dentaldoodles forming a catalogue as well as having some fun along the way as he did. I hope others enjoy my doodles and perhaps use them as fun learning tool. I’m sure as my knowledge grows so will my doodles. I’m excited to continue on my journey to becoming a dentist and to have my doodles create a memoir of the process.  

Follow Hanna Stern @dentaldoodles to see some of her cool artwork!

About the Author: Hannah Stern is currently a D1 at Penn Dental Medicine.