Choi Chung, RPh, BSc Pharm
One of our values that we believe in is helping patients make informed decisions through health promotion and education. One of our aims with this interview series is to bring awareness to the different healthcare professionals and health advocates around the world and how they’re actively involved in bettering the lives of others!
We were able to catch up with and interview Lauren Rebecca Sheline, a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) candidate from the Indiana University School of Dentistry, Class of 2021! Check out the interview below as she talks more about her profession and how she’s actively involved in oral health education and advocacy!
#1 First off, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Lauren. Tell us a bit about yourself!
Of course, thanks for having me! As mentioned, my name is Lauren Sheline, and I am a second year dental student at Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis, Indiana. I grew up in Elkhart, Indiana, which is located nearly 5 minutes south of the Michigan border. Growing up in such close proximity to Michigan provided me with a ton of memories lakeside and also made me very fond of the snow! Some of my hobbies include winter activities like snow skiing and snowmobiling. The majority of my family is in healthcare; my dad is a dentist (another Indiana University School of Dentistry alum) and my mom is a nurse. I have two siblings, a sister and a brother. My sister is a nurse, like my mom, and works in the neurocritical care unit at a hospital here in Indianapolis. My brother studies business at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Growing up in a family that was as healthcare-oriented as mine made deciding what I might want to do for my own career easy. Observing and helping my dad at his private dental office showed me how unique dentistry is in the world of healthcare, allowing me to find a career that fit perfectly with my own passions and talents. I am a 2015 graduate of Greenville University, located in Greenville, Illinois, where I earned my Bachelors of Arts in Biology. During my time in Greenville, I had the opportunity to play collegiate volleyball for three of the four years. After undergrad, I spent a year working as an orthodontic assistant, which developed skills that later would help my transition into dental school. My studies were furthered when I earned my Masters of Science in Biology from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI) in May of 2017. Immediately following my first introduction to graduate studies, I was warmly welcomed into the DDS program at Indiana University School of Dentistry.
#2 Can you tell us about the role of a dentist in the healthcare system? What roles are exclusive to dentists?
Dentists certainly play a unique role in the healthcare system. We are often overlooked and deemed “not as necessary” or “not as important” health-wise when compared to the typical physician because most people don’t realize the importance of oral health. Most don’t realize the impact oral health has on one’s overall health as well. The role of the dentist is to provide holistic oral health prevention and treatment options to their patients, while also providing education. Each appointment is centered around ensuring that the patient leaves with a better understanding as to the importance of maintaining their teeth in prime condition for as long as possible. The necessary tools for good oral health include effective brushing and flossing techniques, mouthwash with fluoride, and a proper diet. An appointment every six months with your oral health care provider makes these goals achievable. Also, it is important to realize that dentists are often the first to detect or diagnose many non-oral health-related diseases or disorders. We are trained to observe the patient “as a whole” and not just focus on what might be happening with the teeth. We are trained to screen for early signs of cancer by detecting lesions in the mouth and elsewhere, and we know the early signs of countless other disorders that can allow the patient to be referred to the proper healthcare professional for earlier care. With each patient visiting every 6 months, this becomes a very important role for the dentist.
#3 Can you share with us what the day-to-day looks like for you as a dental student? What does the day-to-day look like for the average dentist?
My day-to-day as a second year dental student is very inconsistent and all-over-the-place, to be honest. However, a number of trends can be noted. A typical day is 8 am to 5 pm. My days include numerous lectures, and some days include time in a bench and SIM lab. In both labs, we learn clinical skills that will allow us to eventually execute treatment plans with our patients. On other days, I have rotations in clinic where I work with third and fourth year students to perform my first of a number of procedures on patients. In the first year of dental school, a majority of our time is spent in didactic lectures. The second year of dental school is more lab time. Finally, the third and fourth years are spent providing actual care to patients, all the while trying to get a certain number of each kind of procedure accomplished in order to graduate with the DDS degree. The day-to-day for the average dentist is an 8 am to 5pm schedule as well. The dentist sees 8-10 patients each day, and the procedures also vary from day-to-day. After becoming a dentist, your days are not only spent with patients, but also serving as a team leader for your dental staff. Hygienists and assistants work with you to provide the best oral health care possible to your patients. As stated before, the goals of the dentist for each day are to provide effective prevention, education, and treatment options for the patient.
#4 What was it that drew you into the field of dentistry?
Committing my life to the pursuit of dentistry was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made. It has become my ultimate ambition and the driving force for all of my academic successes. In my early years of making this decision, these are the trends I noted at the offices I shadowed/worked at that confirmed my desire to become an oral health care professional: Each dental procedure strongly incorporated the meticulous use of hands and logic, appealing to my innate attention to detail. Service was another recognizable trend. During my time playing volleyball at Greenville College, I was introduced to the concept of servant leadership. The concept declares that the best leaders lead by humbling themselves, putting another’s needs above their own. Dentistry allows me to dedicate my life and energy to learning how to best serve individuals in this way. Lastly, passions for science and knowledge were evident in each professional I observed. Entering college, I surprised myself with a passion for the sciences, a passion for the discovery of new things and the way life works. I desired to further my knowledge of this study by diving deep into the oral sciences. Continuing to build upon these desires and skills has allowed me to achieve academic prowess in a study that I am truly passionate about.
#5 What would your ideal practice look like after you graduate?
My ultimate goal in the pursuit of dentistry has always been to become a practicing oral health care professional in the state of Indiana, all the while exhibiting skills of a community leader and of one who constantly strives to offer themselves to those in need. When building my practice, I imagine it will be centered around a couple key features. First, I desire to have an office that is warm and welcoming. The idea of seeing a dentist is scary enough, so by creating an environment with an inviting atmosphere, I will be able to put my patients at ease. Second, I would like to develop a dynamic with my patients that makes them feel comfortable to share information without feeling intimidated or unheard. Similarly, with this dynamic established, they will feel able to ask any and all questions, so that they might be maximally educated. Lastly, I desire an office that remains up-to-date on the latest technology and treatment options so I can present my patients with the best possible care. Additionally, I have also been open to exploring what life as a part-time dental educator would look like, as I believe that my skillset may be useful in teaching future dental practitioners. I have found great satisfaction in helping my dental school classmates with their studies, and I am curious to find if that translates into a passion for education. However, in all circumstances, the life I envision for myself involves the ritual pursuit of knowledge and hands-on interactions. I also hope to remain highly involved with all that is going on in the world of dentistry at a regional, state, and national level. Dentistry is unique in that it develops skills that can effectively attend to oral health care needs while creating a platform that people look to for addressing real-world community issues.
#6 How are you currently involved in promoting oral health education?
One area that has allowed me to further my passion for oral health education is my involvement with our Indiana University ADEA student chapter. ADEA is a nationwide chapter for dental students, residents, and fellows that have a passion for making positive changes to their dental education and in providing oral health care education to the community. I love to see the small changes my own voice can have at my school in maximizing our dental education, but also enjoy seeing the impact that a group of students with one goal can have on the community by providing effective and engaging oral health care information! Another platform I use for providing oral health care information is through my Instagram blog, The Tooth Diaries. By creating this blog, I hope to better serve others through encouraging words and to create a space that would shine light on all things dentistry-related. I hope to provide information that gives clarity to commonly-asked oral healthcare questions and demonstrates the importance of taking care of your teeth. Lastly, I wanted to create a page that shows what it looks like to pursue your dreams while being transparent about the roadblocks along the way. Dentistry has always been a passion of mine, but now that I’m the one behind the chair, I love sharing with others what it is like to be on this crazy tooth-centered journey!
#7 Where can our audience reach you if they have any further questions for you?
If anyone has any questions or simply desires to learn more about the life of a dental student, follow me on Instagram @the_tooth_diaries. Looking forward to connecting with you, and I hope this interview gave insight into the role dentistry has in the world of healthcare!
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