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Get to know CDA’s August Student Spotlight, Alyssa Nowlen from UCLA School of Dentistry class of 2022.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
I am a BIG desserts gal. I love to bake, so normally I will try to make a healthier version of a favorite treat (sub almond flour for regular flour, use stevia instead of sugar, Greek yogurt in place of oil, etc.). But brownies have always been a huge weakness of mine (from the box, Ghirardelli brand, no exceptions). The brownies with a layer of Oreo and chocolate chip cookie are also hard for me to pass, and anything involving peanut butter.
What has been your favorite dental school moment or experience so far?
Hands down it’s Give Kids a Smile Day! The Section of Pediatric Dentistry holds the event at a site in Inglewood where children and teens can receive free dental services, but we also aim to use this opportunity to educate the kids on oral hygiene and nutrition. It was such a fun day serving the community alongside faculty, residents and, of course, my pre-doctoral peers. At one station, some of my friends and I worked with the kids to give “check-ups” to stuffed animals, so we would talk to them about health, the parts of the mouth or really whatever the kiddos wanted to talk about – it was ADORABLE! I had an interest in pediatrics going into dental school, but this event has made me think of the pediatric dentistry path more seriously.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Sleep? What’s that? Just kidding, but that’s tough. My hope is that I would use the time to do more of what I love! Go to more concerts, create more recipes, see friends outside of dental school or just enjoy more “me” time to relax. But in all honestly, if our days got longer, I would probably just end up using that time to study more.
What’s one thing about dental school you wish you could make your friends who aren’t in dental school understand?
Being in dental school isn’t easy, and we don’t expect friends or family to try to understand what it’s like completely. Our time, unfortunately, has to become reallocated, and school will receive a lot more of that time and attention than it ever has before. The hard part is that maintaining positive relationships also requires time and attention, so while we might not be able to give the same quantity of time that we have in the past, hopefully the quality will remain the same for the moments we can share. Dental school is temporary but friendships can be forever, so with that, it is important to maintain your friendships with others outside of dental school. It’s refreshing to not talk about carious lesions or stannous fluoride sometimes too. But, while I don’t expect understanding from all my family and friends, I do ask for mercy for the times I have exams or what may seem like a million projects and cannot always be there like I want to be.
What has been the most surprising thing about dental school?
Before coming to UCLA, the idea of dental school seemed extremely daunting, as if it was this monster that was impossible to beat. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the information we learn in class is never more difficult to understand or more complex than anything I saw in undergrad. Some concepts are new, whether it is the physical sciences or in our dental classes, but it never feels wildly abstract. What makes dental school so challenging is the volume of information you have to learn in such a short amount of time. But even still, you will quickly find which of your study tactics work, which do not work, and you will amaze yourself by how much you can learn!
How do you relax after a long day at school?
Working out! Some may relax from winding down with their favorite show or book, but especially after a day of sitting through class or lab, I am always anxious to get up and MOVE! I have a gym walking distance from my apartment so I like to use the walk/run there to clear my head of any stress going on so I can spend the next one to two hours focused on myself and empowering my body! I do strength training most of the time but also love throwing in a cardio class like Zumba or kickboxing or HIIT to mix things up. Even as future health professionals I think it is easy for some dental students to let go of certain aspects of their health, but I’ve found working out to be extremely beneficial both for my physical and mental health.
What made you interested in dentistry?
As cheesy as it sounds, I have always loved smiles and making people laugh. Before I decided on going into dentistry, I even wanted to be a cast member on “Saturday Night Live”! But since deciding I liked California weather a bit more than New York, dentistry seemed like a perfect fit as a profession! I’ve always been interested in health, enjoy being crafty and working with my hands and love to see transformations. But, of course, the cherry on top is that every day I get to create smiles that will help improve others’ quality of life through the comfort and confidence it brings. And that, to me, is worth getting out of bed every morning!
Why are you #cdaproud?
Being a part of CDA, it is incredibly humbling to be included in a group of individuals who are so passionate about their field. We get to be among exceptional leaders in research and academia paving the way for future methods in practice, those civically engaged who fervently advocate for our rights and the rights of our patients, and role models in their communities whether it be via service or in the ways they show care and compassion in their practices. It excites me for the years to come, where I can also give back to this community and help others to be #cdaproud.