Pre-Dental Talk Episode #4: UW dentistry success story with Dr. Mack

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This article accompanies Episode #4 of CrackDAT.com’s Pre-Dental Talk, hosted by Iman. Check out the podcasts here on Spotify — topics range from information about the dental school application process, to advice for the DAT, to interviews with dental school faculty and students!

In Episode #4, Iman speaks with Lindsay Mack, DDS, a general dentist and graduate of the University of Washington School of Dentistry. Dr. Mack discusses the factors that motivated her to pursue a career in dentistry, shares what it’s like to switch from working in private practice to working at a community health clinic, and more!

Listen to Episode #4 here or watch the YouTube video linked below, and read on for a summary of Dr. Mack’s journey and her advice for pre-dental students!

From pre-med to pre-dental

Although dentistry always had a strong presence in her life (her dad is a dentist), Dr. Mack said that growing up, she did not want to follow in her dad’s footsteps and become a dentist. In fact, until the end of her senior year of college, Dr. Mack was planning to apply to medical school. After exploring other options and spending more time observing her dad and other dentists, however, she began to seriously consider dentistry as a career path. Dr. Mack saw that dentistry is an “interesting marriage” of science and art, is a very hands-on field, and allows for a balanced lifestyle.

Lindsay Mack, DDS

Journey through UW dental school

Knowing that she wanted to pursue her dental career in the state where she had grown up, Dr. Mack applied to the University of Washington (UW) School of Dentistry. During her interview day, she toured the school and was interviewed by three different interviewers over the course of the day.

As a UW dental student, Dr. Mack had numerous opportunities to connect with the other students in her class — for example, when she started at UW, she went on a retreat with her first-year class. Dr. Mack said she was surprised by the social aspect of dental school, which she hadn’t anticipated.

She also remembers learning to manage a high volume of content as a dental student. “You have to learn to prioritize the information you’re getting — there’s so much thrown at you at once,” she said.

From dental student to dentist

After finishing dental school, Dr. Mack was eager to get started with her career and start paying off loans. She did not do an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) or General Practice Residency (GPR) program, but if she could go back in time, she said she would have done so to build her confidence and increase her pace.

Once she had received her license after her dental board exams, Dr. Mack found her first job in a Craigslist ad seeking an associate dentist. She was hired on the spot and began working in a private-practice setting in Washington.

Changing practices

Eventually, because of differences in philosophy between herself and the owner of the practice where she had been working, Dr. Mack decided to look for a new position. She got a job at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, the community health clinic where she continues to practice today. She said she enjoys her job a lot. According to Dr. Mack, as a dentist at a community health clinic rather than in private practice, she feels no pressure to do more expensive procedures to stay afloat, as reimbursement by the state is based on the number of patients she encounters, not on the specific procedures she performs. The vast majority of her patients are children. “Most of the time I would say it’s awesome. I love working with the kids,” said Dr. Mack.

Changing times

The COVID-19 era has changed some aspects of dental practice, and Dr. Mack has felt this impact. She said that, in her state, dental offices were required to shut down until May 18. Then began a gradual transition to expand care — first, dentists only saw patients with dental emergencies, and later, most practices re-opened more fully to begin performing exams and routine care, rotating which dentists were practicing each week.

Dr. Mack discussed several changes in dentistry that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the use of more personal protective equipment (face shields and N95 masks), reductions in capacity (now, only one guardian is allowed in with each patient), and restrictions against using Cavitrons (ultrasonic scalers which can create aerosols).

Advice for aspiring dentists

Having gone through the journey herself, Dr. Mack offered advice for anyone hoping to pursue a career in dentistry:

  • Gain dental experience. “Get as much shadowing in as you can,” Dr. Mack said.
  • Know that dentistry can take an emotional toll. Dr. Mack said she wishes she had anticipated the impact of assuming responsibility for the health and well-being of your patients. “I have become quite a worrier… about procedures and patients, worrying about them if there was a difficult procedure — I’m hoping they’re getting through the night okay,” she said.
  • Be authentic during the dental school application process. “Be yourself. Let your passion for dentistry shine through. They want to see who you are and see that you can develop rapport and see that you’re passionate about why you want to come to dental school and become a dentist. Don’t try to be something you’re not,” she said.
  • Enjoy the ride! “Enjoy the moment. Enjoy where you’re at, because it goes by in a flash.”

To hear all of Dr. Mack’s advice and hear more about her dental journey, be sure to check out the podcast on YouTube here or on Spotify here. Email hi@crackdat.com with questions or with topic suggestions for future episodes, and stay tuned for more Pre-Dental Talks!

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