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CDA Update

CDA members and California’s dental community turn to our association for timely, trusted information about current and developing issues in dentistry. The Update provides resources and guidance on topics affecting dentists, their patients and their profession, including dental benefit plans, regulatory compliance, legislation and advocacy, patient safety and practice management.

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May Student Spotlight

Quick Summary:

Get to know CDA’s May Student Spotlight, Michael Mears from Western University’s class of 2023.

Describe your experience as a dental student during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First off, I would like to acknowledge the devastating consequences this pandemic has caused many families, particularly for underserved communities, and the pain it still continues to bring across the world. I am very privileged to be living in a protective environment that adheres to strict pandemic protocols and to attend an institution that vaccinates its students.

In my experience as a dental student, online lectures have proven to be an enjoyable experience for at- home comfort. While there have been distractors such as finding ways to focus at home and combating loneliness, I am thankful to have had the experience I had. It has taught me valuable lessons on how to manage periods of isolation, whether it be reconnecting with friends virtually or going for an evening walk.

How do you see dentistry evolving amid the ongoing pandemic?
In terms of PPE, I think dentists may be expected to routinely wear N95 masks and face shields from here on out. I recall that in the late 1900s the CDC mandated that dental professionals wear gloves. In terms of dental professionals being qualified to administer COVID-19 vaccines, I’m curious if we will be able to administer other vaccines, such as the flu shot. I wonder what other innovations and evolution the field of dentistry will see as time progresses.

What has been your most memorable dental school moment or experience so far?
Even as a pre-dental student, I always knew that the second year of dental school would be difficult. I mentally prepared myself for the fall semester of 2020, but nothing could prepare me for the challenges ahead. On top of challenging didactic courses, we learned technique-sensitive skills, such as Class II restorations/preparations and PFM full crown preparations. I remember spending over eight hours on my first crown preparation and still not achieving a great result.

On top of this challenging semester, I was balancing extracurricular duties as the social media manager for both the Student Dental Association and the American Dental Education Association clubs at Western University. To say I was relieved when I passed my PFM full crown preparation would be an understatement. This moment made me realize I could achieve anything if I remain determined and work hard. Reflecting back on these challenging times helps me see how much I have grown. It also serves as a reminder that, no matter what obstacle may arise, there is considerable power in believing in yourself.

What made you interested in dentistry?
I was very shy and reserved as a kid to the point I would not talk very often. Most people didn’t seem to care, while others would take advantage of my lack of voice to bully me. However, the staff at my dentist’s office would always go the extra mile to ensure I left not just with a clean mouth but with a smile.

One day, a hygienist who had recently graduated cleaned my teeth and intrigued me with her dental didactic. From that moment, questions about what lay behind the doors of dentistry began to linger in the back of my mind, and I would further explore those questions in undergraduate school.

Have you discovered a dental specialty you would like to pursue? If so, which specialty and what helped you realize this passion?

I am particularly interested in the field of pediatric dentistry. My interest started when I shadowed at a dental clinic during my time at UC Davis and was able to see every part of the office except pediatrics, which made me curious.

For months I wondered what pediatric dentistry was like, attending various pre-dental events and learning about health disparities in the pediatric population. When I moved to San Francisco I found work at an endodontist office and then a pediatric office soon after. Later I would move and work at an orthodontist and prosthodontist office, but nothing compares to working at a pediatric office!

In the pediatric office, I came up with silly yet informative ways to teach kids how to brush their teeth, floss and mitigate feelings of fear. It wasn’t uncommon to see a child come in nervous or scared; I saw this was a calling for me to make that child’s experience better than how they may have initially perceived it. Nothing compares to the sheer thrill and pride in successfully taking X-rays on a mentally disabled patient or even accommodating patients with an extremely sensitive gag reflex. I strive to treat every patient with the same amount of care and to always encourage adolescents to use their voice and pursue their passions.

Has a current dental school professor made a positive impact on you? What would you like to say to them?
Second to pediatrics, I’ve discovered I have a passion for teaching. I have met so many amazing staff, faculty, and professors during dental school that it would be a disservice to select only one.

My advisor, Dr. Sahar Mirfarsi, has given me incredible guidance along my journey to residency. She is always an email away and encourages me to constantly innovate. Dr. Hooman Mir is an incredible faculty member from the podiatry program, underlying the prominence and impact of interprofessionalism at WesternU. He goes above and beyond for his students and gives his all in whatever he does. I am also inspired by Dr. Setareh Lavasani, an experienced oral radiologist who teaches with kindness. She reminds me to have fun while in dental school and to enjoy the little moments in life.

This is just a handful of the many incredible clinical and academic faculty we have at WesternU. They are humanistic teachers who truly enjoy what they do every day. I am incredibly honored and privileged to be surrounded by so many amazing faculty at WesternU!

What’s your favorite guilty-pleasure movie or TV series?
Currently, I am watching Demi Lovato’s latest YouTube documentary “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil.” As a “Lovatic” since high school, I enjoy learning about what my role model and idol has been through in recent years.