As I was accepted into dental school at UWSOD, I was under the impression that the difficult part was complete. It seemed that all I had to do to become a dentist was to show up to class and learn everything well enough to pass boards. Though passing boards may be the only necessary ingredient to make a dentist, the recipe for an excellent care provider requires more.

I realized that my education as a dental student is not confined to the walls of the classroom or the walls of the lab. Dental school not only offers the didactic and clinical aspects of our education but access to extra volunteer events, and other opportunities aimed at advancing our preparation to be confident and competent dentists.

To those who are unfamiliar with it, the Regional Initiative Dental Education (RIDE) program at UWSOD was founded on the efforts to explore new ways to educate dental students. Another goal of the program was to inspire more dentists to see to the disparity in oral health that is so prominent in the smaller, rural communities on the east side of Washington. After our first year, RIDE students are assigned to a one-month rotation in an eastern Washington city to start building relationships with the clinic and the community. Near the end of fourth year, we will return for a five-month extended rotation to provide dental care to the community of that area.

The RIDE program has a great track record of preparing dentists to be ready right out of dental school to go out and treat the underserved communities of Eastern Washington. I initially chose RIDE because of my past volunteer experiences with a dental van providing care to uninsured and underserved families. Serving the underserved community is what inspired me to go into dentistry in the first place. Being able to have the extra clinical experience during my fourth year was the cherry on top.

Though we are connected to Seattle through zoom meetings to every lecture, our education can still feel very disconnected. During our fall quarter, I felt that the didactic classes were teaching me a lot of medicine, but I still didn’t know a thing about dentistry. I started to worry about what I didn’t know, what I should know, and what was missing from my education to prepare me to be sure in my skills. Being UW RIDE students, we still received emails about the dental related volunteer opportunities and extra CE events that were being hosted in Seattle and I wanted to be involved, but I was five hours away. *Right-click and delete* became the natural routine.

After our first quarter in Spokane, I decided to go to the ASDA D10 conference in Portland. I learned that as an ASDA member, opportunities to learn and grow in your skills as a dentist are numerous. ASDA seemed to provide means to further myself as a clinician, a networker, and communicator. At the conference, I met a lot of other dental students from other schools, and I got to practice drilling, suturing, and placing implants. I heard speakers who helped developed new technologies for scanning and even tried using those scanners myself. We also got a taste of the business aspects that go along with owning a practice. Lastly, it was extremely helpful to learn about different issues going on in the dental world including policies being made that would one day affect my profession. Leaving the conference, I felt more informed and excited about dentistry. I joined ASDA because there is so much more to practicing as a dentist that school can’t teach.

About the Author: Jess Cayetano

Jess is a 2nd year dental student and the RIDE representative!