• The Power of Intention

    Yours truly overseeing clinic operations during a Husky Health Bridge outreach event for Tent City 3, a city-sanctioned homeless encampment in Seattle, Washington.
    Dennis Wise/2017

    Dental school requires a great deal of time, energy, and money, so it's adventageous to make the most out of your investment. In my opinion, there are at least two ways to go through dental school: 1) show up, take what you're given, and go home; or 2) rise above the monotony and seek opportunities beyond the curriculum. Both offer the same end result: everyone graduates a fully functional oral healthcare professional. But if you really want make the most of your four years, you've got to take advantage of the plethora of opportunities that arise during your time in school. In doing so, you'll build invaluable relationships within the dental community, gain access to a wealth of free professional resources and advanced training, and develop exceptional skills that will set you apart from your colleagues both during and after graduate school.

    It's All About Mindset

    Let's face it, dental school is challenging for even the most disciplined students. Days are long, professors can be intimidating, and learning the material necessary to safely and successfully conduct surgery on a live patient is like drinking water from a firehose. But excuses only get you so far, and constantly whining about a choice you willingly made for yourself is no way to achieve greatness. I'm routinely asked how I have so much time to explore the outdoors with my friends and family, participate regularly in community outreach, and attend continuing education (CE) courses hosted by our profession's top experts. My answer is always the same. I stay engaged in class, manage my time wisely, and avoid any distractions that take my focus away from my end goal. It's all about mindset. Graduate school is not a place for the "college experience." That's what undergrad is for. Graduate school sets the stage for a long and prosperous career, so long as you pursue it with foresight and intent.

    Seek Meaningful Relationships

    Midway through my first year, I applied to the Washington State Dental Association's (WSDA) mentorship program. I was paired with a local dentist who owns two dental practices, plays a major role in dentistry advocacy throughout Washington, leads a beautiful family of six, and serves in the Air Force Reserves. While many of my friends were impressed that he treated my wife and I to a soccer game during our initial meeting, I remain fascinated by my mentor's ability to take on and manage a myriad of personal and professional pursuits with seemingly little to no effort. I strongly believe our pairing was not a coincidence, but a recognition of the similarities in our work ethics and lifestyles. It's a direct representation of what Dr. Wayne Dyer coined the "Power of Intention." Dr. Dyer believed that no one attracts what they want, but rather what they are. So if average suits you, do the bare minimum. But if you want to be great, go above and beyond. You'll find that greatness will soon surround you.

    Associate With Professional Organizations

    Don't underestimate the value of joining and associating with professional organizations. They offer significantly reduced or free membership to dental students while in school, giving student members complete access to the same membership benefits provided to practicing dentists. Unfortunately, too many students fall into the heirarchy of dental school thinking professional events or CE courses are beyond their current capabilities, and that's nonsense. If you want to be great, you absolutely must challenge yourself! Plus, dental students bring new, fresh information to these events and their attendees. It's a win-win for everyone. Whether your interests include advocacy, networking, or supplemental training/continuing education (CE), organizations like the WSDA, Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), and Spear Education all offer a plethora of opportunities to grow among the dental community, and they're always seeking dental students to join their ranks! Of course, it's highly likely one (or all) of these organizations are well-integrated within your dental school, so seek out their representatives and never miss an opportunity to reach your full potential again.

  • The Struggle Ends When Gratitude Begins

    Rays of light strike a trecherous ridgeline during an early morning sunrise atop Mount Pilchuck. 
    Brandon Walker/2016

    If you feel like you're treading water and just barely staying afloat, you may need to head to higher ground. The demands of a dental school curriculum can be quite burdonsome, leaving even the most organized and highly prepared scholars gasping for a breath of fresh air. If this sounds familiar, seeking and exploring new perspectives may help clear the smog. But if you're seeking a more permanent solution to the stress, consider first finding the spirit of gratitude in all you do.

    Gratitude is life-changing, but in today's world, discovering gratitude isn't as easy as it sounds. We live in an unforgiving, fast-paced society where those who master time find success and those who confuse their priorities find themselves left in the dust. Indeed, achieving success requires hard work, discipline, and resiliance, but no one gets there on their own. We all owe a great deal of our success to our family, friends, and mentors who guide and support us through life's greatest challenges.

    My most recent run-in with gratitude happened atop Mount Pilchuck, 1.62 kilometers above 7.3 million other Washingtonians. A few classmates and I embarked on a challenging midnight hike in order to reach the summit just in time for sunrise, and mother nature did not disappoint. As I perched myself atop the spectacular Pilchuck ridgeline, I found myself less concerned with the clinical implications of Warfarin therapy and more thankful for the opportunity to escape the stress of dental school (and life in general). I relished in the moment, wishing it was anything but temporary.

    Look around. We are inundated with daily reminders that what we have is not enough, and what we need to be happy, healthy, or succeed is merely a click away, so long as the item is in stock and a valid credit card is provided. We're misled by our peers into thinking being liked is more important than having sound morals, ethics, and values. We focus too much on what we don't have and ignore millions of others who have far less. At some point we all take life for granted, but a solution lies deep within us. Recognize the value of what you do have, and being thankful for it.

    It took a mountain to re-introduce me to gratitude, and since then, life has been much more simple. I now see greater value in the life I've lived and relationships I've cultivated along the way. I no longer desire more than I already have and instead seek ways to help those who struggle with far less. My energy is focused not on distractions and detours but on achieving maximum potential. I cherish every new day and welcome the challenges they bring, regardless of how difficult they might be. So if you too find yourself bogged down by stress, try being thankful.

    Indeed, the struggle ends when gratitude begins.

  • Mastering Time (When There's Never Enough)

    "Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." - William Penn
    Creative Commons (CC)

    It's 2016, and still the biggest brains on Earth have yet to figure out time travel, so without a feasible way to set the clocks back, we might as well talk about ways to more efficiently utilize our time. But first, realize this: time management is highly dependent on setting priorities, developing a rock-solid routine, and utilizing the proper tools to get the job done. If you're deficient in any of these three areas, you're probably not making the most of your time, and that's no bueno if you're planning on making it big. Here's the down and dirty on how to combat the ever-so-dreadful 24-hour workday.

    Setting Priorities

    Many people struggle through their workdays by simply failing to set priorities. If you've ever complained about not having enough time to complete a work project, study for an exam, do the chores, cook at home, exercise, or sleep, while everyone else around you is getting promoted, graduating, and taking gym selfies while curling in the squat rack, then you know what I'm talking about. The answer, however, is simple: set goals, and put those goals first! This often means putting your social life, favorite TV shows, and personal hobbies on the back-burner, but it doesn't mean giving them up all together.

    Developing a Routine

    Every day in Marine bootcamp is the epitome of a rock-solid routine, but unfortunately we're not all privy to our own personal drill instructors. If we were, we'd all be waking up at five o'clock in the morning, efficiently carrying out our daily tasks, and hitting the rack again by ten. It seems crazy, but this sort of routine isn't exclusive to Marine Corps bootcamp. Success isn't achieved by sleeping in till noon and partying till midnight. Success requires ambition, motivation, and most importantly, discipline. Here's how I developed my new dental school routine (for DS1 Summer quarter).

    1. Ask yourself one question

    Question: What is most important to me (from most to least)?
    Answer: family, dental school, fitness, sleep, coffee, social life, entertainment

    2. Write your daily schedule (that you cannot control)

    0830-0930: Intro to Prev Dent/Patient Care
    0930-1030: Exam Instruments
    1030-1130: Intro to the Medical History
    1130-1230: Intro to the Dental Exam
    1230-1330: Lunch
    1330-1630: Small Group

    3. Modify your daily schedule (with what you can)

    0500-0600: Hygiene, Walk Dog, Breakfast/Coffee
    0600-0730: Gym, Shower
    0730-0830: Transit to School, Post-Workout Meal

    0830-0930: Intro to Prev Dent/Patient Care
    0930-1030: Exam Instruments
    1030-1130: Intro to the Medical History
    1130-1230: Intro to the Dental Exam
    1230-1330: Lunch
    1330-1630: Small Group
    1630-1730: Transit Home, Check Mail, Walk Dog
    1730-1930: Dinner, Family Time/Entertainment
    1930-2300: Study, Hygiene, Shower
    2300-0500: Sleep

    Of course, this hourly breakdown is only meant to serve as a guideline and is subject to changes based on various uncontrollable factors, but the playbook approach here is key in ensuring I accomplish everything that is important to me in one given day. My hygiene and mealtimes will always vary (I can shower and eat within minutes), and my transit times have been mitigated by strategically selecting an apartment within a very short walking/biking distance from campus. I also maintain a small collection of gym equipment at home that I can utilize in a pinch. All of this works for me, and while it may not work for everyone, the basic concepts and reasoning behind my routine are universal.

    Utilizing the Proper Tools

    We're fortunate enough to be living at a time when technology is right at our fingertips, with a plethera of apps and digital resources that make our everyday tasks easier to plan, manage, and execute. As a Mac user, I have tried a variety of apps for notetaking, studying, and keeping my body in tip-top shape. Highlighted below are a few of my favorites.

    iA Writer

    iA Writer is all about simplicity. Touted as a light-weight and elegant digital writing tool, iA Writer draws focus and concentration to your words rather than a messy, setting-splattered user interface, which makes it perfect for taking notes on the go. I use it to draft these blog entries, but it's also super for jamming out lecture notes during class. Two of my favorite features are FocusMode, which advocates writing one sentence at a time rather than one paragraph at a time, and Markdown support, which allows you to implement simple formatting without having to touch a mouse. If you're guilty of editing while writing (aren't we all), you too might find the simplicity of iA Writer quite refreshing.

    You can download iA Writer on the Mac App Store for $9.99 USD.

    Flashcard Hero

    Flashcard Hero is a simple app designed to make your monotonous flashcard study sessions more interactive and effective. I have always liked making flashcards, especially since I can easily carry them around and whip them out while held up at a draw bridge, waiting for an elevator, or standing in line at lunch. Flashcard Hero takes flashcards to a whole new level by allowing you to easily type, add photos, audio, and other multimedia on each card, while storing it all on your laptop or iPhone for even easier access. The study and quiz modes provide you valuable feedback on your progress, which helps you ignore what you do know and focus on what you don't. If you're wasting time writing out all your flashcards by hand, Flashcard Hero is definitely a worthwhile alternative.

    You can download Flashcard Hero on the Mac App Store for free.

    Do Yoga With Me

    Do Yoga With Me offers online yoga classes, poses, breathing techniques, and anatomy videos brought to you by a passionate group of experienced instructors - all for free. In a world where our minds and bodies take the brunt of everything life throws at us, the last thing anyone wants to do is spend one more minute on the road or out of the house. Do Yoga With Me brings a wide variety of relaxing yoga routines straight to your living room. Choose from a list that matches your ability, or target specific trouble areas such as the neck, shoulders, or lower back (I'm talking to you, dentists!). This is an outstanding resource far too few people know about, so roll out your mat and get stretching!

    You can perfect your downward dog for free over at