The "Incisal Scoop" @ Rutgers: Four, Short, Long Years
Do you want to hear about what makes the Rutgers experience unique? Well I have the inside senior scoop for you, year by year.
D1: You start off in the preclinic, saved by our patron saints, Loida and Audi. They are the two behind the preclinic window that save you. Missing a tooth and the practical starts in 5 minutes? They got you. Have no idea what you're doing but don't want to embarrass yourself in front of faculty? Ask Loida and Audi. Need two new moms that will love and support you for all four years? You found them.
You get used to the structure at Rutgers - getting your hands on a drill immediately in preclinic, balancing the lectures, and getting used to Newark as a city. You'll be going back and forth between school and the dorms, and often 180 West Market Street. But, you won't be exploring Newark much because the best part of Newark is its proximity to New York City.
But once you get past D1 you’re a D2! Suddenly, you have people looking up to you when you're still adjusting to cutting teeth with a mirror. If D1 was the adjustment phase, D2 is the drinking from a firehose phase. You learn to balance a stack of plates higher than your head, and the year feels like a marathon. Back when I was a D2, we worked through winter break to study for two weeks straight to take NBDE Part I, and then came right back to school once New Years finished. We were always in preclinic practicing, or in Fixed Prosthodontics from 10am to 5pm every Wednesday, wondering what made us choose dentistry.
But then you get your early clinical experiences! You put rubber dams on each other and wonder how patients ever tolerate it. You poke your friends three or four or even five times trying to find an IAN (inferior alveolar nerve) block. You have an upperclassmen calm you down before you see your first patient… for a prophy. It eases off, and after a whirlwind of a second year, you feel like you had a mini-graduation. Preclinic is finally in the past. You're moving to the big leagues. You're seeing patients. This is what you wanted.
…Until you ACTUALLY become a D3 and you wonder, “Wait, what AM I doing?” You know how to cut a Class II (on plastic teeth), you're ready for PFM and FGC crowns (on plastic teeth), but you wonder - how do I treat a real patient? What do caries even look like? You're assigned at random to one of four groups: A, B, C, or D. You hope luck is on your side and you're in C or D clinic rather than in the relic of history that is A or B clinic.
Upperclassmen teach you how different clinic is from preclinic. They guide you since they've been in your shoes. Upperclassmen teach you how to take an impression, calm you down when an emergency patient comes in needing a temporary crown recemented, and they teach you who the best faculty are and the ones to avoid.
But despite the work, you’re happy you’re at Rutgers. People tell you you’ll walk away with a great clinical experience because of the amount of requirements you have: 12 units of removable, 19 units of fixed, 400 operative points, 8 root canal treatments, and a ton of SRPs and Perio Diagnosis competencies. It’s great. You’ll walk away with so much experience.
It’s not great. You’re a D4. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FINISH THESE REQUIREMENTS?! Somehow everyone graduates but at this rate you’re not sure how. On top of balancing requirements, you apply to GPRs and other residencies, study for the NBDE Part II boards, take 3 mock boards for endodontics and fixed prosthodontics just to prepare you for the real boards, have the operative and periodontics boards in the winter, and by the time May swings around, somehow you find yourself done. You’re walking down the halls of the NJPAC ready for graduation. Some of you get your diploma that night, others finish a few of their requirements after the ceremony. Either way, you make it out.
Somehow you escape this rollercoaster of an experience. Dental school is a whirlwind of emotions. It’s like a marathon; the longest four years of your life when you’re in it, but when you look back, you’re surprised that it was ONLY four years.
Blog Contributor: Tom Viccaro, Rutgers, '19
Class of 2019, President
The Dental Post, Editor-in-Chief
NJDA Governmental Affairs Committee, Student Representative
NJDA Passaic County Dental Society, Student Liaison
RSDM, Planning Committee Member
AGD at RSDM, CE Chair