In dental school, it often feels like there’s only one important thing on your mind all of the time, and that’s surviving dental school. Exams, practicals, lectures -it can get overwhelming. There are so many tests the first two years, by the time you hit third year and start seeing patients, you might forget what it’s like to interact with another human being that isn’t a dental student! The “big picture” can get lost and forgotten in a hurry.
That’s where a mentor comes in. A dentist mentor is like a coach: he/she can motivate and inspire you to keep going when times are tough. He/she can help you see that “big picture” that everyone is always talking about.
More and more, the type of people that choose to go to dental school are exceptionally smart, self-reliant, and high achieving. Some of you (I’m talking to you, dental students!) have hardly ever, possibly never, had to ask anyone besides your parents for help on something. Asking another adult that isn’t your parent for help or guidance can be intimidating. You may perceive asking for help or guidance as a sign of weakness or inability to think for yourself. Fear is definitely an obstacle when it comes to seeking a mentor.
Perceived value is another huge obstacle. “I’m too busy worrying about passing dental school, I’ll seek out a mentor when I’m done with this and I’ve graduated,” said one student. “I’m really busy with my first job, I’ve just gotta pay back these student loans first, then I’ll try to get more social in the dental community,” said the recent grad. “I’ve been doing this for a while, I know what I’m doing, I’ve got other things I’d rather do than talk dentistry on my off time,” said the dentist who’s been out of school for a few years that isn’t feeling too inspired anymore. All of these dentists need a mentor to get them on track.
Make time for a mentor. Get all of the fears out of your head. The career of dentistry is built on a foundation of mentorship. Every dentist that is aiming for excellence in their career and their life understands this. The dentists that I look up to talk to me about the dentists that they look up to! Our profession is about caring for people, and that extends to our fellow colleagues.
I have several mentors, and they all came from my involvement in organized dentistry. I seek advice from dentists I look up to in the community and in the profession. I emulate what they’re doing, and I put my own twist on it. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and be friends with some truly great dentists. I’m always so surprised by their humility and eagerness to help me. At some point, I suppose I should stop being surprised!
Seek guidance and wisdom from dentists that have gone before you. Seek mentors that practice dentistry and conduct themselves professionally in a way that mirrors what you want to achieve. It’s worth your time and it will make you a better dentist.