I was given the chance to spend my summer working for a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in rural Vermont. Based on what I had learned from other dental professionals, I had this preconceived notion that the FQHC was going to be stuck in the stone ages with only one shade of composite and second-hand instruments donated from private practices. Thankfully, that was very, very incorrect.My first day consisted of getting to know the office, staff, instruments, materials, and the computer system. I had the pleasure of working with three different doctors (preceptors) and four different assistants. Each doctor had a different set of materials and instruments that they preferred to use, so I was able to look through their set ups and make my own kits. The same was true for materials; I got to try three different types of composite and two types of bond throughout the summer, as well as a different polishing system and the Septodent Ultra Safety Plus safety syringe. Turns out that some of my classmates that spent the summer in a private practice didn’t have as many materials available to use!
Throughout the twelve weeks, I was able to improve my speed and clinical knowledge. I started off seeing 3 patients per day and ended with seeing 6-8 patients per day. I also was able to comprehensively treat a few patients; after completing their new patient exam, we were able to work through and complete their treatment plans by the time I completed my rotation. It was super rewarding to have a few patients try extra hard to come in so that we could complete their treatment plans together; I even got a few hugs at the end of the summer!
I was also lucky to have Tuesdays off every week. While it’s not as ideal as what some of my other classmates had (Mondays or Fridays), I tried to make the most of it. Since I’m from Michigan and plan to move back that way after graduation, I wasn’t sure if I would ever live in Vermont again, so I made a bucket list of things to do during my free time. I went hiking, toured museums, and visited a few breweries (check out the Vermont Brewery Challenge)!
Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot about myself, dentistry, and Vermont. I also realized that public health is a potential career path I could happily pursue – especially with the possibility of loan repayments! 🙂