One of my main extracurricular involvements at UCLA SOD is our American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Pre-Dental Outreach Committee. The committee is comprised of 8 members: 2 second-year Chairs who lead the organization and 6 first-years who are divided up into lecturers, external, and internal co-chairs. The two co-lecturers, Armen and Brian, give presentations to and lead discussion groups for pre-dental students. The two external chairs, Layla and Andre, coordinate large-scale socials and workshops. And our two internal chairs, Kristen and I, plan UCLA’s Shadow Days! In addition to these general responsibilities, the committee maintains an Instagram account (@ucla_asda_predental), monthly blog posts, and helps edit the undergraduate pre-dental committee’s newsletter, Leeway Space.
Shadow Days are a unique opportunity for pre-dental students to come to UCLA and get a taste of the dental school experience. Attendees join in on a lecture, eat lunch with dental students, tour UCLA SOD, chat with our Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and then hear a presentation about ASDA and the application process from D1s. While it might seem like a long day, Shadow Days always seem to fly by. We’ve already hosted nine since October! The committee is always seeking to expand its outreach efforts, but is unfortunately limited in manpower. For example, our Associate Dean Dr. Bibb is not always available, so we rely on the kindness of other dental school staff and faculty (such our Admissions Coordinator, Noemi, or the esteemed Dr. Hewlett) to step in and talk about the admissions process from their end. Last quarter, Kristen and I consistently missed a Friday afternoon lecture to give tours to the pre-dental students. Even now, our two external chairs miss part of our Friday morning lecture to organize and chat with the Shadow Day attendees before starting the day. That being said, I think it’s definitely a worthwhile experience for both the pre-dents and us! It is rewarding to be able to provide mentorship to students who are considering and/or committed to the field of dentistry.
We cater to both undergraduates and alumni, although our outreach is primarily directed to college pre-dental and pre-health organizations. We aim to have a healthy mix of students from both private and public colleges as well as community colleges and 4-year universities. This quarter, we’ve hosted and/or scheduled future Shadow days for students from Chapman University, the Claremont Colleges, UCLA, Cal State Long Beach, Occidental College, and Sacramento State.
I was very impressed with the students from Sacramento. Their pre-dental society organized a road trip during their last week of winter break to officially tour 5 schools: University of the Pacific (UoP); University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV); Western University; University of Southern California (USC); and UCLA. I may have misremembered one school on their itinerary, but these students visited one dental school per day while driving to their next location and exploring the city (when they could) in the evenings. What a way to end winter break! That is some serious commitment right there.
If your pre-dental organization offers this type of opportunity, I would highly recommend participating. You can get to know the different curricula, extracurriculars, and equipment/spaces offered by each school. It also definitely helps to chat with students and hear honest responses about why they (hopefully) like the school they attend. Also, you can slowly refine your questions as you get to know different schools. In particular, I remember one student’s question this past week. (She had seen other dental schools previously.) The undergraduate student asked me to compare the patient demographic between UCLA (West LA) and USC (downtown LA) and how it affected which procedures we do and our ease of completing graduation requirements. She was definitely thinking ahead!
If you don’t have this touring opportunity, don’t sweat it! You can also learn about a school by surfing its website, tapping into your alumni network, or even visiting the school on interview day. There were some schools I had never visited prior to interviewing, but I feel that I got a decent understanding about their school’s mission and values from their presentations and student-interviewee mixers. The extent of my involvement in the Penn Pre-Dental Society was rather limited. I volunteered for the dental school’s Annual Oral Cancer 5K and attended intermittent general body meetings (GBMs). Because Penn’s Pre-Dental Society was rather nascent at that time, it’s eye-opening to be on the other side of a very large and well organized undergraduate-dental school collaboration at UCLA.