At 26 years old, there are only a handful of moments in my life that I would define as “life-changing” to date – one of which was the day I received a phone call from Dr. Paul Allison, former Dean of Dentistry at McGill University, informing me that I had been accepted into dental school. I will never forget that feeling of euphoria and that moment of knowing that my life had been forever changed; I was going to pursue my childhood dream and become a dentist!
My dental school journey, however, has probably been an even more life-changing experience in itself. It has truly been a growing experience, and I would not be the person I am today had I not faced and overcome the challenges and experienced the joys of dental school thus far. I remember starting off first year thinking that I knew what to expect as I had several friends in upper years in the program, and my father who is a general dentist had been telling me stories about his dental school experience my whole life. As it turns out, nothing could have prepared me for the balancing act that is life as a dental student. My non-dentistry friends have a hard time grasping that not only do I provide dental care, I also do lab work, manage coursework and exams, and do a ton of administrative work as well. On top of this, I try to balance a social life, extracurriculars and volunteering. Life as a dental student is never really on “pause”; a night-off still often involves answering patients’ phone calls/text messages and washing my scrubs. Correction: life as a dental student was never really on “pause” until March 2020…
March 2020 was one of the most pivotal months in my dental journey. During the first two weeks of March, I completed my third-year oral surgery rotation, spent a day providing dental care to Montreal’s underserved community at the Jim Lund Dental Clinic, completed six restorations, root planed several quadrants, and finished my first root canal. It’s safe to say that I was finally starting to feel confident in clinic and was on-track to complete my third year credit requirements. Everything changed on the evening of March 13th (Friday the 13th – coincidence?!) when my classmates and I were informed that we would not be returning to clinic and would not have class for two weeks. Two weeks quickly became four, which in the blink of an eye quickly became six months. As I sit here writing this article following my full day of online Zoom lectures, reminiscing of the days of “normalcy” pre-COVID-19, I cannot help but wonder what my final year of dental school will bring.
I am currently preparing to return to clinic, and I know that I am not alone in wondering if those skills that I was finally beginning to feel comfortable with will come back in September when I start seeing patients again after six months of not doing any dentistry. I wonder whether being unable to visit my top choices of residency program will affect my odds of admission. I wonder whether my patients will be willing to return to the undergraduate clinic. I wonder how I’ll manage working with all of the new PPE that I am not accustomed to. I also wonder how the clinic functioning at 50% capacity will affect my ability to finish all of my required credits on time. Thankfully, I know that I am not alone in these concerns and that they are echoed by students across the country. Throughout the pandemic, the sense of community amongst Canadian dental students on a national scale has become increasingly important and is stronger than ever.
The Federation of Canadian Dentistry Student Associations (FCDSA) was established in 2012 in part to create a nation-wide community to provide support to Canadian dental students. Our mission is to connect dentistry students in order to foster the sharing of common interests, challenges, advocate as a unified national student voice for the promotion of accessible, optimal dental education and patient care, and provide an avenue to involve students in organized dentistry. The FCDSA is a non-profit organization comprised of two students from each of the 10 Canadian dental faculties; representing their dental student associations. These representatives are introduced to the realm of organized dentistry through their work on several committees. The FCDSA is relatively new as a federation, and this means that we have the ability to adapt to the needs of our members. This adaptability became increasingly important during the pandemic, and, this past June, led to the establishment of a committee solely dedicated to advocacy. The FCDSA served as an avenue for members of the Class of 2020 to connect across the country and as a means of communication for the Presidents of each school’s dental student association to strategize and problem-solve collaboratively.
The ultimate goal of the FCDSA is to serve as a nationally integrated community in order to enhance the dental student experience. Since its inception, one of the FCDSA’s top priorities has been to organize opportunities for dental students to connect in person – a goal we were able to achieve for the first time in 2018 in Toronto, again in January 2020 in Vancouver, and are hoping to achieve in 2022 in Montreal.
With over 450 students hailing from across the country, the second-ever Canadian Dental Student Conference (CDSC) in Vancouver from January 10th-11th 2020 was a huge success. Learning from the popularity of the hands-on implant workshop at our first conference, we tried to have as many hands-on sessions as possible – including endodontics workshops, a Bioclear workshop, implant workshops, a laser therapy workshop on pig jaws, and more. These sessions were balanced out with lectures, a research competition, networking opportunities (including “Breakfast with the Specialists”) and wellness sessions (including yoga and therapy dogs). Students were able to become engaged by topics that they may not have otherwise been exposed to. For many, this conference served as an opportunity to gain knowledge outside of the regular curriculum and allow them to better understand what kind of dental professional they hope to be post-graduation. Other events at the conference included a number of panel discussions hosted by our friends at CDA Oasis focusing on career path options, advocacy, and dental public health; as well as a formal gala closing event. CDSC 2020 created an opportunity for students to take a step back from the stress and demands of dental school and appreciate dentistry in a new light. We look forward to hosting Canadian dental students once again at CDSC 2022 in Montreal.
I am so fortunate to be working with a team of such creative, hard-working, and motivated volunteers. Even though there are provinces between us, I regard this incredible group of individuals as a second family. It is unbelievable seeing what can be accomplished when we work together towards a common goal. Over the summer, the FCDSA has put together two webinars, a charitable virtual walkathon, and much more! The events and services organized by the FCDSA would not be possible without the generous support from our sponsors and, of course, the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). It has been an immense pleasure working with such passionate and talented students – the future of dentistry is in good hands!
About the Author
Stephanie Wiseman, President FCDSA. Stephanie currently a fourth year dental student at McGill University and in the process of completing my residency applications for specialty school. Her alternative plan is to work with her father post-graduation at his dental practice in Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec. It is her immense pleasure to be representing Canadian dental students through the national platform of the Federation of Canadian Dentistry Student Associations.
To see more articles from Oral Health’s Student Issue, please click here!