One more down...

As this quarter approaches its end and as I frantically prepare for the (seemingly) innumerable final written exams and competency exams, I reflect on the changes I have seen in myself this quarter and this year. 

I have come to realize that I am more than what is reflected in grades and scores. I am beginning to feel my focus shift from the didactic component of school to the clinical aspects of school and of my future career. It is one of the most liberating feelings on this earth. 

Any person who strives to get the perfect grades, be on top of the class, and desires academic excellence can understand the stress and anxiety that comes with the need to achieve and excel.

To all those self-acclaimed nerds and bookworms, my heart is with you. We feel the need to be one step ahead, to achieve not only academic distinction, but also obtain leadership positions, be involved in community service and research, gain publications, and obtain general recognition. This makes us look amazing on paper and to others (rightly so, it’s hard work), but at what cost? Stress? Panic attacks? Anxiety? Self-doubt?

My parents taught me that it is not intelligence that gets you places, but utilization of that intelligence. It’s about hard work and self-respect. I thought that others would share these views, but naivety gets the best of all of us. Instead, I have learned about the harsh reality behind achievement. It is an unfortunately common practice and mentality that to achieve and excel, others must fail.

This is extremely saddening and disheartening, however it is the reality for many of us in higher education (and I’m sure other areas as well). 

Now back to my epiphany – I am more than a grade on an exam. I am more than the whispers behind my back. I am more than one singular achievement. I am more than my résumé.

I am how I treat others. I am how I care for those less fortunate than myself. I am how my future patients view me. I am whom my family loves.

Instead of focusing on memorizing a crown preparation or finishing that one composite for a grade, I have found myself focusing on how each and every day will lead me to be the best clinician I can be. I am focusing on how each day’s knowledge will allow me to care for my patients in the best way possible. I am focusing on how to manage disease, minimize pain, and increase quality of life.

THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is what dental school is all about and it’s only taken me four quarters to figure it out. I hope to take the next ten to become the best dentist I can be, and better yet, the best person I can be.