Once Upon A "Pre Dental" Time


I am in the middle of accepting my Nobel prize
     I am in the middle of accepting my Nobel prize for my many contributions to the
field of Dentistry when I am rudely awakened by the sounds of loud static noise
shrieking from my radio alarm. Wednesday has begun. I get ready, grab a
powerbar and leave my apartment. After a morning spent on bacteriology and
biochemistry, I have a grilled chicken sandwich and a bottle of water before my 
last lecture for the day. In need of a break, I head for the gym to squeeze in a quick
workout before going to work. Seeing how helpless my dad felt after his
pacemaker operation made me understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
This motivated me to become a personal trainer to not only change my own
lifestyle, but to help others change theirs as well.
     A refreshing shower energizes me for the second half of my day.  As I approach 
the Pacific Beach United Methodist Church, I see homeless people already forming 
a line for the free weekly meal distributions. I walk inside the church and go down 
stairs, where I see a few people filling out dental history forms.  An old lady 
wearing a colorful scarf sitting in the first seat smiles once she sees me in my worn 
out blue volunteer uniform that I’ve had since high school.  I smile back and enter 
the church storage room, which today acts as a free dental clinic.  I look around 
the room enthusiastically, trying to picture where I should put the new cabinets.  
As a result of the success of the free dental clinic, the church decided to move the 
storage items to further encourage its development.  The founder of the clinic 
accepted my offer to renovate the clinic.  I pull out my camera and take the ‘before’ 
pictures of the clinic.  After the expansion project is completed I plan to create a 
web site for the clinic, on which I will include the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.  My
thoughts are interrupted by the floor manager.  He tells me the first patient has 
finished filling out the forms and is ready for me to take her x-rays.  As the old lady
with the colorful scarf walks in, she smiles again and informs me that she has 
waited in pain for two weeks to see me, since the clinic was canceled last week.  I 
help her into the seat and ask where the problem is. She opens her mouth to 
expose but five yellow, rotting teeth and points to a molar on her right side.  As I fit
the rod and ring x-ray device in her mouth I notice that her palate is rather small.  I 
bend the x-ray a little and put it back in, using a cotton roll to help stabilize the rod 
when she bites down.  I throw on what I like to call the “bullet proof” (lead) vest 
and hurry behind the wall to press the glowing red button.  Then I remove the x-ray
device from her mouth.  She smiles at me with an amazed look.  She tells me that 
was the “most gentle x-ray” she’s ever had taken.  As I walk her out, she shakes my 
hand and says, “Thanks a lot doc.”  Part of me wants to correct her and tell her that 
I’m just an x-ray technician but I decide to keep the compliment.  “You’re very 
welcome,” I respond.
     For the rest of the evening I continue to take the x-rays and develop them before 
the volunteer dentist arrives.  The compliments from my patients keep me smiling 
and motivate me to continue being gentle with the rest of my patients.  The 
highlight of my evening is being able to utilize my Spanish to communicate with a 
Mexican immigrant.  On my way out, the floor manager informs me that a few 
patients already scheduled appointments with me for next week. My efforts in the 
clinic are rewarded by the satisfaction in knowing I play such an important role in 
the clinic.
     After a hard day’s work, I meet some friends at a local Mexican restaurant.  Over 
the past few weeks, I have been very busy and unable to go out much so they are 
happy to see that I am still in the country.  One of my friends holds up his glass and 
yells out, “A toast!”  We all raise our glasses and toast “to our senior year.”  I then 
briefly reflect on how fast these years have gone by.  So much has changed and yet 
so much has remained the same.  Along the years I’ve slowly learned to manage my 
time more efficiently, this year working five jobs up to and sometimes over 40 hours 
a week while maintaining my full time student status.  Now looking at how much of 
an important role dentistry plays in just one day of my life, it’s almost strange 
thinking about how unfocused I was in my career choice when I first started college.  
And as I recall how through everything I’ve always managed to hang out and relax 
with my friends, the pleasant aroma of a chicken chimichanga brought me back to 
the restaurant table.  Not the healthiest choice but I’ll make it up with an extra mile 
or two tomorrow.
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