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DDS Dental School, Shadowing, Korean Immigrant

"Smile, say cheese," I said to my family before taking a picture. Everyone smiled except my father. Whenever I think of my father, he reminds me of a poker face because he is a person who never talks and smiles. Even as a child, I feared my father because he always looked rugged. His attitude had left me with a strong negative impression. My sense of curiosity developed, and it would only be much later that I would come to understand why he never talked and smiled. My father has yellow, ugly anterior teeth. When I discovered this fact, I became profoundly intrigued by the question of how important teeth are to living a whole and rewarding life.

I was born and raised in Korea until I was 16. My mother, brother, and I immigrated to America primarily to pursue my educational and health care career goals. I was always interested in the health care field, but my decision to pursue a dental career stems from my volunteer and work experiences. In the last two years, my attention has become focused on dentistry as I feel this profession offers the best opportunity to pursue my overarching goals.

To better understand what a dentist's life would be like, I started volunteering at the family dental office near my house. This dentist was disappointing, however, as I soon came to realize that he was a person who worked primarily for money. Dr. XXXX was kind to his patients, but he did not give them what I like to call "sincere" care. He finished all appointments in about 30 minutes and finished every treatment, as I see it, too rapidly. Some of the patients came back to the office and complained about the pain, and I was disappointed by his attitude; I quit volunteering at his office about five months later. Fortunately, I found work as a dental assistant at another general dental office. I count myself supremely lucky to have met Dr. XXXX, who had high spirits, a great sense of humor, and a highly sympathetic manner for his patients. He always trie his best to provide genuine care and fully satisfy his patients.

There was one patient who received the fixed treatment for about three months, and I still remember how she looked and what she said on the last day of the treatment. She had some of her upper anterior teeth extracted and had a bridged crown. It took longer because Dr. XXXX had to send the height back to the dental lab two times to make her satisfied after multiple checking. On the last day, when she finally had the crown cemented on, she looked much younger and brighter than ever before. She said she did not talk much, and her ugly teeth kept her from always smiling. When I heard her saying that, it reminded me of my father. Reflecting upon his physical and emotional suffering from time to time continues to animate me to work as hard as possible in my chosen field.

I really enjoy working with Dr. XXXX and learning how to use many of the dental instruments and participate in treatments—finding ever greater delight at my expanding capacity to assist. I find fulfillment in the physical and emotional commitment and self-sacrifice to provide the highest possible quality of patient care. I see dentistry as a uniquely challenging profession that offers the highly satisfying opportunity to alleviate physical and emotional suffering.

I was an active volunteer member of Mill Wheat Mission and helped many disabled children and their families to make progress with learning activities. Assisting disabled people was not an easy job as it was heartbreaking at first. I could not understand what they were saying and did not know what they wanted. But as I interacted with them more frequently, I learned how to be more patient and to understand them better. As an active member of the New Life Volunteering Society, I learned to connect with people of various ages and social backgrounds. Volunteering at a Chicago public school, I used a soothing tone of voice and simple vocabulary to put children at ease. These experiences have helped me to develop the essential characteristics for a dental career. For the moment, I am continuing to volunteer and work as a dental assistant and try to learn as much as possible before entering dental school. There is no greater pleasure than the ability to use one's intellect to alleviate people's pain and physical and emotional suffering of one's patients, bringing back their smile.

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