I joined the General Practice Residency program at Highland Hospital, Oakland in June of this year. We are slowly approaching the 6 month mark! While I can definitely say that I am excited to be closer to the finish line, I am also saddened because I know how much I will miss this place, once done.
Over the last few months, I have received several questions regarding the program. Here is what you can expect in a residency at Highland:
A good residency will provide you with extensive experience in endodontics and oral surgery. We are taught by an endodontist twice a week and while he’s attending, I typically see between 2-4 patients that need root canals, daily. One quarter in, and we have all been completing close to 5 root canals per week! By the time I graduate, I hope to have finished 100+ cases and gain more confidence in root canal treatments than before.
We have a 4 year OMFS (Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery) program alongside us at Highland Hospital. As GPR, we rotate through OMFS for a month and are treated as their first year interns. While in this rotation, we get experience in a variety of procedures, outside of just taking out teeth! Biopsies, cancer/trauma follow ups, consults for IV sedation, botox for patients with TMD and more. This experience can also teach you how hard an OMFS program can be, and whether you are cut out for it, or not!
We routinely see patients with special health care needs and determine, based on compliance and motivation, who may benefit from full mouth dental rehabilitation in an Operating Room. 6 times a month, we take selected patients to the operating room to do extractions, biopsies, full mouth scaling and root planing, and restorations. Delivering care in one of the only surgical centers in the East Bay Area is, without a doubt, one of my most fulfilling experiences. Many of our patients struggle with a lack of access to quality and timely dental care. Being able to serve them is a true highlight of this program.
Once a month, we review oral pathology cases with OMFS residents. These cases are presented to us by faculty from the University of the Pacific over an evening session. It is great having these sessions monthly because we learn about the variety of conditions that can be first diagnosed during a routine dental examination! It also stresses on us the importance of early biopsies and doing thorough Oral Cancer Screenings (OCS) at every dental visit (not just during comprehensive/periodic exams). OCS takes less than a minute, after all.
Last, but not the least, a GPR provides you with the experience of working with the most vulnerable populations in your community, a majority of whom are on state insurance. While we did see patients on Medi-caid insurance while in dental school, I did not have an intimate knowledge of billing and insurance at the time. Understanding how to manage your time well, work efficiently and provide quality dental care to our patients can be a very good lesson in patient management. It can help us for the rest of our career.
It’s a no brainer to me now, the importance of doing a GPR after dental school. Especially, if you are going through dental school during the pandemic, with added restrictions of being able to see patients. A residency program not only provides you with an opportunity to test your comprehensive general dentistry skills. It also bridges the gap between medicine and dentistry and makes you more comfortable in managing patients with special health care needs or complex medical histories.
If you have not considered doing a one-year residency program after dental school, let this post be your call to action. Look into programs that will help you test your abilities. While it’s easy to assume you can take continuing education courses later on, the expense that most courses come with will make you think twice before signing up, as a new graduate. A residency provides you with an opportunity to expand your skill set, all within the comfort and freedom of having attendings to support you in case of any complications. To me, that is ‘freedom of learning’, the best kind of learning there is!
Hope this inspired you too! All the best!