Mentorship Event Gives Real-Life Insights to Students

Rutgers School of Dental Medicine (RSDM) Alumni Association and the New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA) organized their first joint mentorship event on March 21.

“We were excited to partner with the NJDA in this venture. Mentorship is an important principle for the NJDA and the [RSDM] Alumni Association,” said Donald Lapine, the president of the RSDM Alumni Association and assistant professor of restorative dentistry. "It is an important process of growth personally and professionally.”

Said NJDA President Renee M. Arace, “NJDA was extremely excited to partner with RSDM for this first-ever mentorship event. We have many resources and mentorship opportunities available to assist these dental students in making their transition as a dental professional entering the workforce and community.”

The event featured a panel discussion followed by a Q&A and one-on-one discussions between students and mentors. Throughout the event, the students had the opportunity to ask questions on a variety of topics ranging from private practice to student loan repayment to specialties to postgraduate education. 

Students talking with alumni
Eleanor Reynolds (back left) with classmate Olga Lorenzo of the Class of 2024, talking to John Graeber '72 about expectations versus reality in dentistry. 

Orthodontist Kathleen Hargaden ’91’94 joined the event as a mentor, thinking her experience as a practicing clinician could be helpful to students. “Explaining the realities of practicing and engaging with patients is something that is not easily taught in dental school. I think real-life work situations are probably shocking to new dentists,” she said and added: “Being honest and open with students, explaining to them what real life is going to be like, is so important.” Hargaden received her DMD and orthodontic certificate from RSDM along with an MS in oral biology from Rutgers School of Biomedical Sciences. “I am very happy I attended the event,” she said and to have met students and recent grads.

Eleanor Reynolds of the Class of 2024 attended the event, seeking answers to her questions as she prepares to head into a pediatric dentistry residency at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Paterson, NJ. “I'm very excited about that but it's quite terrifying,” she said. “[The event] was really good for me because there were a few pediatric dentists, so I was able to have one-on-one conversations with them. They really explained to us what real-life dentistry is like … [The event] was very informative and interactive.”

Originally from Jamaica, Reynolds is in the Internationally Educated DMD Program. She fell in love with pediatric dentistry as a dental student back home, and her love solidified at RSDM as she learned more about the wider applications of pediatric dentistry. “I feel the most fulfilled when I'm seeing kids.”

The event helped her feel more comfortable with her decision to go into residency. “I'm now more aware of what to expect when I graduate. Before, I thought that jobs available for someone like me [an international student] were far and few between. But now I know that there are a lot more opportunities available,” Reynolds said. “I'm very, very fortunate to be in this position at Rutgers and have all this exposure. Honestly, sometimes I have to pinch myself.”