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Chatter: Meet IUSD Student Ryan Smith

9/26/2012

The Indiana Dental Association randomly selects a member to interview about a variety of questions, ranging from practice advice to favorite hobbies. For the October issue of the Indiana Dentist newsletter we chatted with Ryan Smith, a third-year dental student.

When did you decide you wanted to go into dentistry?
I knew that I wanted to go into dentistry after I got my braces removed in ninth grade. I had a huge diastema between my central incisors and had always been self-conscious about it. But when my braces were removed, I gained a confidence about myself I never knew I had, and I haven’t stopped smiling since! I wanted to be able to give others the same feeling that I felt and knew I had to pursue dentistry as a career. 
 
What is your favorite part of dental school?
Every day when I come to school and work with patients, I get to learn something new and exciting. Every patient is different, and I love interacting, working and learning with each of their cases.
 
Which area(s) of dentistry are you most excited to be learning about?
I love learning about periodontics and endodontics. I think that they are two fields in dentistry that are constantly expanding and growing. My professors who teach the subject are excited and passionate about their fields, too, which encourages me to want to learn more about them as well. 
 
What are you afraid you’re not learning enough about in dental school?
IUSD should place students in clinic to work on patients earlier than they do. Before I started clinics this summer, I felt confident about my hand skills, but had almost no experience working with patients. This was a huge concern for me and my classmates. I think that first- and second-year students are not learning enough about patient care, which is one of the most important aspects to quality dentistry.
 
The average amount of dental education debt in Indiana is at an all-time high. How are you and your peers dealing with this?
It really is a concern for a lot of my classmates. My situation is a little different than the majority of my peers, because I signed up with the Army’s HPSP military scholarship. Not only does the Army pay for my tuition and fees, but I also receive a monthly stipend as well. It’s nice to be able to have a little side money to treat myself when I want, although some of my classmates still live on the Ramen noodle diet. I will serve in the Army when I graduate, which may not be for everyone, but I’m happy with my decision. 
 
What do you think the most valuable benefit the IDA could offer students would be?
We need mentors. There have been times during first and second years when the IDA has sponsored dinners for us during difficult exam and project weeks, which my class really appreciated. I hope that during third and fourth years that the IDA is there when we really need some guidance on how to best approach dental offices to intern and shadow.
 
Do you have a positive or negative impression of the corporate practice model?
I understand their place in the dental business world, because they are able to see so many patients in one day. My question is whether the quality of care is at the level that the ADA expects all dentists to perform for their patients. I think the profession is still forming an opinion on the care these businesses ultimately provide, since they are still a relatively new concept.
 
What do you do to maintain sanity in the midst of your studies? 
I recently started up IUSD’s first a cappella group with a second year student, Annissa Michaels. We had auditions last week and found more talent in the dental school than we could have hoped for and are excited to show the school what we’ve got soon…stay tuned!

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