Frantically trying to get the Play-Doh out of my mouth, I felt my heart pounding as my dad opened the door. I met his horrified expression with a sheepish look, scrambling for words to explain what I was doing. I attempted to create an impression of my teeth like I had seen on career day, not knowing that taking dental impressions would someday become a standard procedure.
I was immersed from very early on in human anatomy and medicine. My mother, a rheumatologist, often conversed with my father about the latest breakthroughs published in high-impact journals, and it was not long before I began to pay attention. I was always fascinated by science and the interconnected systems of our bodies. I was especially inspired by how my mother used her medical knowledge and experience to impact patients' lives positively. I knew I wanted to pursue a career combining science and medicine to help people, but I was uncertain if I should follow in my mother’s footsteps or venture onto a new path.
In my freshman year of college, I volunteered at a free dental clinic, Hope for Tomorrow, serving in dental screening. I arrived early and already saw a line of people waiting for attention. Once the doors opened, the influx of patients was non-stop for the next eight hours. After attending to countless patients who could have prevented the progression of their disease with standard biannual dental visits, I reflected on the importance of access to dental care. I also greatly underestimated the importance of maintaining proper oral hygiene. I left the clinic with a new appreciation for and curiosity about dentistry and a strong desire to help more patients. I purchased a dental hygiene textbook to familiarize myself with instrumentation and techniques and began watching videos of dental procedures online.
Not long before, I shadowed Dr. Tong at his private clinic, doing fillings, treating sleep apnea, and making temporary crowns. He taught me some of the most essential and basic skills and techniques in Dentistry and how to provide meticulous care to all patients. His compassion manifested in various ways, such as working additional hours after closing to accommodate emergencies and maintaining professionalism with patients who arrived frustrated by their pain and discomfort. His passion for dentistry and genuine empathy for his patients are attributed to which I now aspire. Shadowing and working alongside this outstanding dentist for the past two years has been an invaluable experience that has cemented my decision to pursue dentistry.
I believe that a good dentist should be skillful, provide high-quality care, and commit to dental science and research. I have also volunteered to serve alongside dentists and medical clinicians at the National Cancer Institute, studying chronic graft versus host disease. While processing patients’ dental biopsies and blood samples, I realized the importance of collaboration between dentistry and medicine, learning as much as I could about how the health of the oral cavity is a strong indicator of overall health.
My parents immigrated to America from China, and I look forward to putting my bilingual abilities as a dentist to work at the service of the Chinese-American community. I also want to develop a particular focus on older Chinese elders, researching their oral health care needs since they are the Chinese in America who have most often tended to neglect their oral health and have the greatest need for dental treatment. They often speak little English and have the most to gain from a dentist who is a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese.
While shadowing and working as a dental assistant, I encountered many elderly patients who were scared to get a cleaning because they thought the dental instruments would weaken their gums and cause infections. Many are in great need of oral health care services and education concerning preventive precautions. This results in frequent tooth extractions and prosthetic treatment for Chinese patients and reinforces their fear of visiting the dentist due to the high cost.
I seek to become a dentist who gives her all to the underserved. Nothing brings me the kind of joy of helping older Chinese people to be able to eat and socialize without fear, shame, or discomfort. I want to reach out to them.
I thank you for considering my application to dental school.
Dental School Application Personal Statement