Friday, January 16, 2009

Air Force HPSP

I thought I'd write this post to explain what the HPSP is all about. I know when I was applying to school and started to look at the high costs of dental education, I supplemented my time researching schools with looking at ways to pay for school. HPSP stands for Health Professions Scholarship Program which is offered by three branches of military which are the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Now there are many ways to get people or organizations to pay for your dental education. There are people in my class who come from undersearved states where their education is being payed for with the agreement that the student comes back to the state to practice for a given length of time. A popular rout in the south west is IHS, or Indian Health Services. Similar to many programs, the IHS trades tuition reimbersment for working on the reservation. I know that the National Guard also offers a tuition reimbersment to dental students who sign with them. There are many ways in which you can have your dental education expenses paid for other than out of your own pocket, these are the methods I am most familiar with. Of course, if you were one of those super applicants, you can always receive some sort of scholarship from the school to soften the blows.

I decided that I would apply for the Air Force HPSP. There are two ways to obtain the scholarship. First, you can be "matrix qualified" as an applicant which means you have a DAT score of greater than or equal to a 19 with a GPA of at or above a 3.5. I fell slightly short of the DAT qualification with an 18 so I was not qualified thus I had to go through the pleasant application process. I also applied to the Navy HPSP as a back up in case my Air Force application was denied. The good part about the Navy is they offer a $20k sign on bonus where the Air Force does not. I am no too fond of spending time out at sea so I pushed Air Force a little harder. Being on a ship might be cool for a week or so, but after several months I think it would become pretty old.

To make a long story short, The application process consisted of me jumping through hoops, and dancing around in a monkey suit. I finally got the call from my recruiter that I was in. I was so excited to get the scholarship I bought myself a new bike (a Felt F1 for all you bike people).

Now the scholarship pays for my tuition and school related expenses (to a degree) as well as pays me a stipend of just under 2k a month. This will all start next year as I have a 3 year contract. There are a lot of details to the contract but the bare bones of it all is that they pay 3 years, I work for them at an Air Force base for 3 years. I've always been interested in the military, afterall who wouldn't want to be surrounded by all the cool stuff on a military base. All I need to do is find out how I can get my hands on one of those F-16s.

Here I am just after getting sworn in by Col. Terry. He runs the dental clinic at Luke AFB. I have sworn to protect this country from enemies foreign and domestic, so if you do anything suspicious, it's my duty to split your lip.

Here is my "coin". I received this from my recruiter the day I was sworn in. I call it my "butter bar". This is the symbol for a 2nd Lieutenant. I am now a 2nd Lt and will be promoted to a captain after I graduate dental school. I really don't know what all of this means, military people tell me that it means people will have to salute me. As long as my school gets paid for, people can call me whatever they want. I guess there is a coin tradition within the AF. If you challenge someone to a "coin challenge" and they fail to present a AF coin, then they have to buy you a drink. You know you've made it in this life when you get to carry a butter bar coin around to win free drinks all day.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What do D1's do?

I thought I would dedicate this post to illustrate what goes on in a typical day as a first year dental student (D1) at Midwestern. I win the award at school as being the student that lives the farthest away from the campus. I live exactly 50.1 miles away in the town of Gilbert, which actually ends up being a little longer because I ride in a carpool with another D1 and a first year med student who live in Mesa. The little detour I take to get to the rendezvous adds about an extra 5 or so miles to my total trip. "Why do you live so far away?"-you are probably thinking. I have lived here for a few years and purchased a house and with the housing market taking a dump, I am upside down on my mortgage and am kind of stuck for right now. Anyways.....

I leave my house around 6:10am and end up on campus around 7:35. Class usually begins at 8am. The twenty five minutes before class allows me to get a breakfast burrito or some sort of greasy breakfast food stuffs from our friendly staff in the cafeteria and play a quick game or two of ping pong.

Although we have many graduate level health profession programs at MWU (Osteopathic medicine, Podiatry, Pharm, PA, etc), we take all of our classes with only the dental class. The same basic science faculty work hard to educate all of us. Since all 111 of us are together all day long in one big room, we have become good buds after just a few months. So... We usually have a couple basic science lectures (50mins a piece) mixed with a dental lecture on prevention or ethics or human behavior followed by lunch. After lunch we usually have a few more science lectures and finish by around 4pm.

I really like the way our basic science curriculum is laid out. It is different from the traditional style like we all had in our undergrad courses. For example, at ASU I would have something like Biochem, Genetics, Micro etc in a semester. Here at MWU we only take one class at a time, one grade. For example right now, our only basic science class is "DENT 1504". Our sciences are all integrated but central to a particular biological system or theme. Right now we are studying lymphatics. So we have our professors from the Anatomy department come in and lecture on the anatomy of lymphoid tissues for an hour, then we might have a professor from the pathology department come in and lecture on pathology of the lymphatic system, then the next hour have some biochemistry of some processes that go on in the lymphatic system etc. It is nice because for each system there is some overlap so we are reviewing old material every time while applying it and building it on a new system. I hope that all made sense. It is great for retention. So we do this for a whole week and are tested on a week's worth of material every Monday. It's Friday night and on Monday we will take a scantron style multiple choice test covering 15 science lectures which is fairly average.

Sometimes four straight hours of pathology feels like five thousand hours. You need to dig down and get comfortable.

Ya, sometimes you have to take extreme measures. Here we have a student who was so overwhelmed with joy after going through 364 power point slides on circulatory system related pathologies she had to take a break. To her credit she is still following along.

The first year of school here is pretty heavy with sciences as I am sure all dental schools are. After our exams on Monday morning, we get to spend the rest of the day up in our simulation clinic and work on clinical things. Sim clinic is great because it is our chance to de-stress from the exam and turn on our laptops, open up our iTunes, and mingle with adjunct and full time dental faculty in an informal and relaxed atmosphere while working on various projects. I am planning on making a post about our current project, which will take some time to complete. We have taken impressions of our typodonts (fake set of maxillary and mandibular arches mounted on an articulatorr), poured up the casts from our impressions and then mounted the casts on our whip-mix articulators. We ground down four teeth on our mandibular left side starting with the first premolar to the second molar. We are building the crowns back up with wax in a very organized and step-wise manner so we learn fundamentals of canine guidance, cuspid rise and group function as well as occlusal relationships between the arches while in centric, lateral and protrusive excursion. It is really a lot of fun to throw wax around for several hours every Monday and learn the dynamics and the science of dentistry pertaining to occlusion. Sim Lab time is where we are reminded every week that we are actually in dental school, not just an amped up and high pressure version of undergrad intense science course nightmare. I'll make a post on this project after I complete it so I can show all the steps in one post.

That's it for now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Waxing #30 and White Coat

Well during our Christmas break, we had the opportunity to take home a block of wax and do our best to carve out tooth #30 (lower right 1st molar). I am not finished with it yet but I thought I would take a break from carving and throw up a few pictures of the progress. Carving wax is not too hard, it just takes a lot of patience and an eye for fine adjustments. If you think you can just whip out a tooth like it's no big deal, you have got another thing coming, unless you are a lab tech or something. I have found that it is not too difficult to get "almost done" with a waxing project, it is very time intensive to get it "done", and by this I mean all of the little touches such as polishing and getting in some of that sweet occlusial tertiary anatomy and getting all of the crests of contour just perfect etc. I could probably spend a week on this thing doing the fine adjustments, but I think I would go crazy before then. Although "almost done" is pretty good, I try not to finish the job untill it is "done". The difference in a clinical setting between "almost done" and "done" is the difference between a successful restoration and a failure which can lead to progression of disease or other serious occlusal/mastacatory (the way teeth fit together)or TMJ problems.

I have had two sweet weeks off of school and will begin classes on Monday. It is always nice to have a break in dental school to regroup and get excited about sitting in basic science classes for a few more months. Also, here is a video that our class historian BJ has put together. He does a great job at capturing the highlights of our adventures of the inaugural class at Midwestern. These are images of the white coat ceremony.
That's all for now!