They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry put its best foot forward on Thursday, March 23, for the 2017 Impressions Program hosted by the UMMC chapter of the Student National Dental Association.
The program invites up to 35 undergraduate students from across Mississippi who are interested in a career in dentistry to the school for a day of networking, Dental Admission Test preparations, mock interviews and even some hands-on dental work in the simulation laboratory. The program is designed to help underserved students gain the knowledge to better navigate the challenging path to being accepted into dental school.
Leading the program were current dental students who are members of the SNDA, many at the national level as well. Third-year dental student Jiman Nelson is the president of the local SNDA chapter and holds the position of corporate roundtable representative in the national organization. He and members Alexa Lampkin, fourth-year; Clora Evans, third-year, and Amadia Giles, fourth-year, welcomed the undergraduate students to the school after breakfast with Dr. David Felton, dean of the school.
Dr. Wilhelmina O'Reilly, professor of pediatric dentistry and community oral health and assistant dean for student affairs, is the faculty advisor for the program.
“We reach out to colleges all over the state,” O'Reilly said. “We contact the pre-health advisors, and they send us a list of students who are interested. They really enjoy the hands-on in the afternoon. They are constantly asking for more of that.”
During the afternoon, students visited the fifth-floor simulation laboratory to pick up the dental handpiece, tooth etching gel, sealant and curing light. With giant-sized clear acrylic teeth, they practiced applying sealants and prepping teeth for restorations. Alexa Lampkin and classmate Keisha King joined third-year dental students Andrew Sinclair and Jamie White in leading these activities.
But before gaining access to the sim lab, students attended a tour of the school, led by third-year students Alyssa Ables, Clora Evans, Trisha Patel and Maureen Malingkas and second-year student Devin Stewart. They also participated in a DAT preparation class led by third-year dental student Andrew Tran and second-year dental student Tylere Nunnery.
Nunnery is no stranger to the program. He took part as an undergraduate from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2014.
Nunnery, right, is assisted by former student Kefei Duan during the 2014 SNDA Impressions Program.
“I heard about the Impressions Program through an organization at USM called IMAGE, Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education,” Nunnery said. “I emailed Dr. O'Reilly about it, and she put me on the list.”
He said the day of activities helped him prepare for the DAT, giving him better testing and studying strategies and helping him narrow down the myriad of study resources online to the best four or five.
After lunch, Dr. John Smith, assistant dean for admissions, led the students in mock interviews and introduced them to the admissions application process.
Daii Gardner is a biology and pre-dental major at Alcorn State University who took part in the activities. She said that she first became interested in dentistry in high school.
“All my life I had issues with my teeth, with cavities,” Gardner said. She said that she was influenced by her visits to the dentist as a child.
Not only is Gardner a student in pre-dental studies, she works as a dental assistant at Vicksburg Family Dental.
“I drive from Lorman to Vicksburg every day after class. I go to class and go to work, and I study,” she said.
Gardner says she wants to apply for dental school in 2018. She plans to take the DAT as soon as she's finished her pre-dental undergraduate courses.
“I've decided that I'm going to add an extra semester to give myself more time to be prepared for dental school,” she said. “When I started out, I knew what I wanted to do. But understanding how to do it was hard for me. Now that I've matured a little bit, I understand more what I need to do to reach my goal.”
There were a couple of bits of good advice Nunnery had for the current set of Impressions visitors to take home with them.
“First, the DAT is hard. You can't just take it off of basic knowledge,” he said. “Second, you need to have a follow-up with all your references and the admissions committee to make sure all your materials are in. Those play a factor in getting in. I wasn't accepted the first time around because one of my references didn't send her letter.”
Nunnery said that, ultimately, the burden is on the prospective student to ensure the requirements are met.
“This is professional school so it is all your responsibility.”