Tried and Loved

Exposure plays a critical part in career decisions. Because of that, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) offers pathway programs for varied educational levels of cohorts, to allow participants to get an insider’s look into dentistry and dental school.

One of those is Gateway to Dentistry and another is the “Fundamentals of Pre-Clinical Dental Skills.” Both are five-day programs that stimulate being a dental student for a whole week, allowing participants to take lectures, be in the lab, shadow clinic, and meet RSDM students and faculty mentors. They provide an opportunity for participants to test the waters before pursuing a dental degree.

The Gateway Program introduces college students and recent graduates to a wide career option in the dental profession. This year, 30 aspiring dental students attended the program, which reaffirmed most participants' desire, like Alexa Powers, a college senior preparing to apply to dental school.

Alexa Powers
Alexa Powers

“This program has been one of the best experiences I've had,” she said. “This gave me the ability to see exactly what dental school is like and talk to actual dental students, so it makes me feel more comfortable with the path I'm taking, and it 100 percent solidified exactly what profession I want in the future.”

Powers’s interest in dentistry began with braces. “Just seeing … how much of a change someone can make in my life with the way I smile inspired me to think that maybe this is the path I want to take,” she said. At Pennsylvania State University, she began studying biology and taking the prerequisites for dental school. She joined pre-dental clubs and did some shadowing, but RSDM’s Gateway Program gave her first dental school preview.

In the program, she met RSDM students and learned that although dental school is demanding, there is a supportive community made up of classmates, faculty, and mentors. “Just listening to the dental students, … it's not as scary as it may seem from the outside.” The hands-on exercises led her to discover her artistic side. Conversations with faculty informed her about the profession and different specialties within dentistry. Meeting other students with the same goal of attending dental school made her feel less alone during the application process.

“Fundamentals of Pre-Clinical Dental Skills” Program, on the other hand, provides an opportunity for master’s students in Rutgers School of Graduate Studies' Dental Track to experience RSDM.

Abiodun Akinmoladun
Abiodun Akinmoladun

For Abiodun Akinmoladun, a dentist trained in Nigeria, the program offered a chance to peek into the American educational dental system. “‘Fundamentals of Pre-Clinical Dental Skills’ course is one of the highlights of being in this master's program,” he said. “We had lectures in all these specialties of dentistry, even forensics dentistry. The program basically exposed me to all the different aspects of dentistry on an introductory level.”

He also learned about cutting-edge research at the school. He met with the admissions team to learn about the application process. When a fourth-year student told him about going to the Dominican Republic for an outreach program, Akinmoladun felt excited about the possibility of going back to community service at dental school.   

“All these reaffirmed my decision to want to come to RSDM,” he said, planning to apply to RSDM’s Internationally Educated DMD Program this cycle.