D4 in the Quar
We’re deep into Quarantine life, and whether you’re a dentist or a layperson (like me), COVID-19 has shaken up your life like no other. Many of us have lost family members or friends or survived the virus ourselves; many of us have faced unemployment or dire financial situations; all of us have struggled with the isolation and loneliness that comes with social distancing. I know I’m not alone when I say my mental health has been tested in these last few months.
That’s why it was so refreshing to hear Jerrell sit down with Student Dr. Ryan Turner and Student Dr. Maurissa Lester and talk about how the myriad consequences of COVID-19 are affecting their dental careers.
Student Dr. Maurissa Lester is from Marietta Georgia and is currently a 4th-year dental student at UNC Adams’ School of Dentistry. Student Dr. Ryan Turner, also a 4th-year dental student, hails from Chicago, Illinois, and currently attends Howard University College of Dentistry. Both student doctors filled us in on why they chose their respective programs, and then launched into the details of quarantine dentistry.
At UNC, Maurissa said that D4s typically have the opportunity to work with patients… but COVID-19 put a stop to that. Their clinic sessions have been pushed back from May to September, and Maurissa isn’t sure what’s coming next. She also shared that the global pandemic has been a huge reminder that nothing is given. “The things that I want to do and accomplish outside of dentistry have to be… put in order,” she said. Focusing nonstop on dentistry and studying is great, but sometimes, that focus allows other priorities: finances, relationships, mental health to fall to the side. “During COVID, I’ve learned so much about life in general,” she said.
Maurissa also filled our cavities of knowledge on the Board exam process. COVID pushed back their initial exam, which Maurissa will now be taking this fall. The patient exam is usually taken during the spring semester of D4, and Maurissa speculated that it might be done on mannequins now as a means of protecting against the spread of COVID-19. For some recent grads, the chaos is even more pressing—they received temporary licenses but still have to return to campus to pass their patient exam… on a mannequin.
Ryan Turner, in turn, is one of Jerrell’s longtime mentors. He says he sees dentistry as a combination between art and science, a manner of truly transforming a patient’s life. “I enjoy it,” he said, “I love it… I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m doing dentistry. I’m free and at peace with it.” As for why he chose Howard? It’s home to him.
Ryan said that, like Maurissa, he and his classmates were in clinic when the pandemic hit. That was shut down for months, but is starting back up now with appropriate testing and safety precautions. He and his classmates saw their mission trip to Jamaica cancelled, their residency visits rain-checked, and their classes shift to online. Ryan shared his worries about staying safe while treating patients this fall, and his concerns over the uncertain nature of fast-tracking a vaccine.
The world is pretty uncertain right now, but one thing is for sure: we’ll all be better for having these two dentists practicing and treating patients with compassionate care. So I’m wishing the best of luck to Maurissa and Ryan, and hoping they’ll give me that friends and family discount in a couple years!