Path to Residency

Welcome to the resident’s corner! Penn ASDA interviewed past graduates of Penn Dental Medicine who became residents in specialty programs. We hope that this page will serve as a resource for all of those interested in specializing after our DMD degrees.

Endodontics

 

Henry Ma: Endodontics

University of Pennsylvania

What are you most proud of from dental school?

My proudest moment was when Dr. Karabucak accepted me into the Penn Endodontics program. Dental school posed a multitude of challenges, but finally achieving the goal I worked towards all those years felt pretty good.  

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to specialize?

I would take the time to shadow in every specialty clinic and pick the brains of all the faculty/residents to find out about the type of procedures performed, lifestyle, recent developments, and academic opportunities available. Find someone who will honestly tell it as it is without any sugarcoating. Give each specialty a fair chance. If necessary, private practice experience or a GPR can help to further solidify your decision.

 

What’s one thing you love about the specialty you chose?

I love how endodontics requires extremely detail-oriented work that serves a functional purpose in laying down the foundation for all restorative treatment.

 

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider?

I hope to one day serve as a clinical professor, where I can clearly and simply breakdown the minute details of endodontics. With all that I learn from practice and education, I aim to pass my knowledge on through lectures around the world.

 

Melanie Martel: Endodontics

University of Pennsylvania

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of from dental school?

There was a moment towards the end of my fourth year when I was presenting a comprehensive treatment plan to a new patient and it struck me just how much my knowledge of dentistry had grown.  Starting as first year knowing essentially nothing about this profession, to being able to propose various options to this patient in a way they could understand to make an informed decision about their care was so fulfilling.

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to specialize?

If you want to go into a residency, then find a mentor that you feel comfortable asking all the minute questions about the specialty. Dental school gives you a good taste of what the various specialties have to offer, and you will know if you feel drawn to one.  Having that go-to person is a great resource from whom to learn the ins-and-outs of the field. Next, I suggest attending a conference.  Conferences provide a greater perspective of the specialty, where it has been and where it is going.  When I attended the American Association of Endodontists Annual Session towards the end of my third year it solidified my interest in Endodontics and gave me an added push of enthusiasm right before the application and interview process.  It is also a cannot-miss opportunity to get to know the faculty, who are important for letters of recommendation, more candidly. Talk to the residents!  Frequently, we were just went through the same experience you are currently in: trying to find a specialty that fits, getting to know the field, program reputations, applications, interviews…the list goes on and on. Do not be afraid to ask questions when you are on rotation or assisting us! Ultimately, make the most of your time in dental school and learn as much as you can; the best specialists begin as well-rounded generalist!

 

What’s one thing you love about the specialty you chose?

Seeing myself as a general practitioner when I started dental school, I was surprised to find how interested I was in the process of coming to a diagnosis.  The art of framing the patient’s subjective explanations and sensations alongside the objective clinical signs and symptoms fascinates me.  Each case is a new mystery!  I find this facet of dentistry most prominent in Endodontics. I’m the type of person who likes to know a lot about a little, instead of a little about a lot.  Compared to general dentistry, in Endodontics there is a smaller repertoire of procedures that I can render precisely and as perfectly as I am capable of, and it is that perfection that drew me.

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider?

During dental school I was very involved with the Penn Dental Women’s Network, an organization aimed at fostering relationships between female dentists and helping each other succeed.  PDWN offered me an extraordinary opportunity to sit on a Continuing Education panel organized by the Lucy Hobbs Project and Benco Dental.  During this conference, female leadership equality within dentistry was the main topic of discussion.  With my career, I hope to continue to bring light to this issue through my own involvement in organized density, both within Endodontics as well as throughout the profession.

 

General Dentistry

Michael Nguyen: General Dentistry 

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of from dental school?

I wish I could say things like, “I found the cure for periodontal disease” or “I was part of a research team that found a way to grow human teeth in vitro,” but really all I did was grind the good grind until graduation. So I guess while my classmates were out saving the world I was just focused on being a student. I suppose there’s something to be said about that though, because finishing dental school is no small accomplishment and therefore I think all students reading this should take a little pride in themselves that they’ve come this far in life. The light at the end of the tunnel is so close! (and believe me, it’s much better on the other side).

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to work right after dental school? – if I remember correctly that’s what you did right?

My biggest piece of advice for someone who wants to work straight out after graduation is never settle. Know your value, know your worth, and channel your inner Harvey Specter to negotiate a respectable contract. A lot of my classmates rushed into corporate dentistry (myself included) with high hopes of fat paychecks; but in the end, it’s about doing what you love, the way you feel comfortable doing it, and leaving work knowing you did your damn best for your patients.

 

What’s one thing you love about the profession (GP or specific specialty) you chose?

I really love being a general dentist so that’s a tough question. Graduating from a school like Penn comes with a strong implicit sense to overachieve and specialize. Don’t fall into this trap. Do what you love and what you’re passionate about. Don’t let the pressure define who you become, you should be the one to decide that. I personally love doing a bit of everything everyday. I thought I wanted to do peds once, then endo the next day, then even oral surgery after that because maybe I saw one cool surgery that day, and flip flopped like that about a thousand times. In the end, I’m pretty happy to be a cavity filler, a tooth straightener, and a smile designer, all in one.

 

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider?

I don’t have any lofty goals of becoming someone famous, or well published. My goal in life has always been the same since when applying to dental school: to make a small difference in my community, and to redefine what dentistry means to those who really need it most. If any student is reading this, know that you have such a beautiful and bright future ahead of you. I mean, we get to change a small part of people’s lives every day in a very personal way, we get more autonomy in our work than most doctors and we’re better compensated. We’re already smarter than everyone else purely based on our career choice alone! And to those of you who are stressed cramming for a pathology midterm, or busy memorizing a silly detail in an obscure powerpoint page, or unable to recall all the cells types in a histology slide, or even failing a practical because your provisional broke 5 minutes before turning it in; know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there, wading through the darkness, just barely keeping our heads afloat. I promise you, it’s all worth it in the end.

Kayla Pietruszka: General Dentistry 

Navy Hospital: Camp Pendleton

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of from dental school?

I’m most proud of staying involved with organized dentistry throughout my four years of dental school. Doing so provided countless opportunities to appreciate how significantly organized dentistry plays a huge role in protecting and advancing our profession.

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for D3/D4 students trying to choose their career path?  

When it comes to choosing a career path, my advice is to hone into your self awareness. Know yourself, know what you value most, and recognize what aspects of dentistry you enjoy the most. If something excites you, follow that passion and you can’t go wrong!

 

What’s one thing you love about the profession (GP or specific specialty) you chose?

One thing that I love about our profession is that it allows for lots of flexibility in terms of how you shape your career. From a career as a general dentist, to specializing right out of dental school, to specializing ten years down the line, there is a trajectory that can work for everyone. I believe that just like most things in life, this profession will give to you as much as you put into it.

 

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider?

I hope to impact dentistry by working in academia at some point in my career. I attribute the core of my professional growth thus far to the wonderful mentors that were involved in my dental school education, so I hope to one day do the same for young dentists.

Oral Surgery

MaryJane Anderson: Oral Surgery 

University of Pittsburgh 

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of from dental school? 

The diversity of experience I gained at Penn has proven to serve itself well in my specialty training. Gaining competency across a wide spectrum of patient care and treatment methods continues to inform my decision making as a specialist.

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to specialize? 

Look beyond the scope of the specialty you are interested in. Pay attention to the relationships the people you shadow have within their office staff, with their referring colleagues, and with other health professionals in their community. Examine not only the treatment they execute, but also the way in which they affect their patients.

What’s one thing you love about the specialty you chose? 

We really get to be creative in caring for our patients. In OMFS, we care for a wide range of patients, including those seeking relief from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, individuals with craniofacial growth discrepancies, people who had undergone facial trauma, and even patients who are seeking oral rehabilitation in the setting of dentoalveolar bone loss. We work incredibly hard to find solutions for patients who don’t always have a “textbook presentation” of their condition.

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider? 

I am really excited to continue adapting to the new technology available to us as providers. I think we are entering the profession at a time that is revolutionizing the efficiency and ease in the way we can treat patients. I aim to improve the quality of life of the patients I treat by offering them comprehensive care with my general dental, prosthodontic, and orthodontic colleagues.

Orthodontics

Riddhi Desai: Orthodontics

Oregon Health Sciences University

What are you most proud of from dental school?

I would have to say one of my most proud accomplishments from dental school would be the numerous patients I treated when being a part of the Honors Clinical Program. That program taught me to think “outside of the box” for each patient, allowing me the opportunity to go above and beyond for these unforgettable patients. Dr. Ingber promoted critical thinking and allowed for ingenuity when it came to treatment planning cases, proving that dentistry is so much more than just “filling holes.” Although the program was intense and challenging, I believe that it made me a stronger, well-rounded practitioner in all fields of dentistry. I highly recommend applying to the program at the end of your third year in dental school.

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to specialize?

My biggest piece of advice for someone who wants to specialize directly after graduation is to go for it! I chose to apply for an orthodontics residency program. I remember my class having an extremely high number of exceptional applicants, but I didn’t let that deter me from applying. It is definitely a stressful and daunting task during the fall of your fourth year but well worth the effort. That being said, if you do not know if you want to specialize directly after graduation do not fear – you can always practice as a general dentist for a few years or do a GPR/AEGD for a year and figure out where your true passion lies in the field of dentistry and apply later.

 

What’s one thing you love about the specialty you chose?

I love being able to see not only the physical changes, but the social psychological transformations patients go through as orthodontic treatment progresses. Many patients come in timid with their head down and over time their confidence radiates with smiles stretching from ear to ear. I also appreciate the personal connection I have been able to make with many of my patients. From appointment to appointment, I am able to follow their sporting events, life endeavors/achievements, and even their homecoming dances.

 

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider?

 

Throughout dental school and now residency, I have had the opportunity to learn from outstanding faculty, mentors, and colleagues. I hope to have the opportunity to take what I have learned and apply their teachings to help thousands of patients throughout my career. Not only do we as practitioners have the ability to change countless people’s lives, we can also help generations of new and hopeful dentists. I hope to inspire, encourage, and eventually teach dental students that will later serve an even greater community.

 

Mark Guevarra: Orthodontics

University of Pennsylvania

What are you most proud of from dental school?

I was a TA for a bunch of courses throughout dental school, and it makes me so proud to see my former students stepping into similar roles and passing on some of my pearls of wisdom to the next generation. I guess you can say that’s how I left my mark at Penn Dental. See what I did there?

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to specialize?

Be sure about your decision about pursuing a certain specialty. Our exposure to the specialties in dental school can often give you a limited or skewed view of what specialists actually do on a day-to-day basis. Take time to shadow, and experience what that specialty is like in private practice day in and day out. You have a huge network of alumni eager to mentor fellow Penntists, so make use of it!

 

What is one thing you love about the specialty you chose?

I’m fascinated by the treatment planning aspect of orthodontics. From embryology and anatomy, to biomechanics and neurophysiology, there are so many factors that we take into consideration before we can start moving teeth. Ortho is like a giant puzzle; it’s 80% cerebral, and 20% procedural, so I love that it keeps me on my toes.

 

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a health provider?

I am a big believer in paying things forward. There have been so many mentors at Penn Dental who have shaped me as a clinician: they have changed the way I view my cases, and influenced the way I treat my patients. I would love to come back one day as a clinical faculty and work with students every day. For me, there’s no bigger way to impact dentistry than by shaping the next generation of dental professionals.

Pediatrics

Colin Robinson: Pediatrics

NYU Langone Health

What personal accomplishment are you most proud of from dental school?

Needless to say, graduating from dental school is an accomplishment of which I am extremely proud. However, my most prideful accomplishment was being an active participant in promoting diversification within Penn Dental. Attracting more students of color not only adds to the diversification of the school, but to the profession as a whole. Representation within the medical field is something that gets little attention, but can have a profound effect on patients and treatment outcomes. Therefore, this accomplishment is something that is near and dear to my heart.

 

What is your biggest piece of advice for someone that wants to specialize?

My biggest piece of advice is to allow yourself to be flexible. Anything of value takes hard work, dedication and patience to obtain, and even after all this, things don’t always work out the way you plan. Grades and test scores (ADAT, GRE, CBSE, etc) are important, but allow yourself the opportunity to remain a well-rounded and social individual. Most likely, you entered into dental school as a social and active person, with many more items on your resume other than a GPA. If that’s true, residencies want to see that you maintained all those great qualities throughout dental school and didn’t trade them in for books, lab instruments and endo teeth. I know dental school is tough but pick a couple things you love to do and keep up with those one or two things. This will leave you with topics to write about for your personal statement, make you look more well-rounded, and could surprisingly be the major topics of discussion during your interviews!

 

What is the one thing you love about the specialty you chose?

One of the many things I love about pediatric dentistry is that, unlike any other specialty, the biggest hurdles are social, not technical. The procedures common to pediatric dentistry themselves are not extremely difficult, but patient management is a huge concern. Each child presents a different challenge, and every pediatric dentist is trained to know how best to treat each child. Due to the special training pediatric dentists receive, it equips them to handle most types of patients, including children and adults with mental disabilities. This is something I love about pediatric dentistry, having the tools to deal with almost any type of patient.

 

What is one way you hope to impact dentistry as a healthcare provider?

I hope that I continue being an active participant in diversifying healthcare by reaching underserved communities and showing them that healthcare providers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. As well, I hope that I can help to enhance and continue the practice of culturally-tailored and individualized treatment for underserved populations, which can only be accomplished through diversification.