Day in the Life at UCSF as a D1

The summer before coming starting dental school, I scoured the web for any information on what my life might look like for the next four years. I watched dental school vlogs, read blogs, scrolled through forums–and found that there really no “typical day” for a dental student. Schedules and routines vary between dental schools, between each year (D1, D2, D3, D4), and from student to student. None of those answers felt satisfactory and I was looking for some way to prepare or ready myself for what lay ahead. Looking back, I don’t think that knowing my future class schedule would adequately prepare me, but I still think it’s fun to get a glimpse into what’s in store! So I’ll be sharing what a day may look like at UCSF as a D1 student. But before I do, here are some things I’ve learned that I would tell my past self on how to prepare for dental school:

  1. Build good study habits. Know how you learn best! If you learn best by sitting in the front row during lecture to stay engaged, do so. If you learn best by watching lecture capture (if your school offers it), do so! Draw diagrams, make charts, read outlines. You know yourself best.
  2. Invest in hobbies outside of school. Dental school is tough and D1 can be especially busy, but don’t forget to take time to invest in activities, interests, and hobbies outside of school. Watch movies, train for a Spartan race, take dance classes, go hiking, pick up a new skill, or learn how to cook. School is important but it isn’t everything!
  3. Take it one day at a time. I sometimes find myself clicking through my calendar looking at deadlines, requirements, and assignments. It can feel overwhelming at times. Be mindful of what’s coming but don’t forget to enjoy what’s in front of you. Every day can be a new challenge but bit by bit, step by step, we all get through it!

Anyways, enough with the unsolicited advice. Here’s a look at a day in the life:


Wake up and get ready for the day! I like to have breakfast and some tea in the morning before heading to class. While it requires me to wake up a little earlier, it helps me wake up fully so I can hit the ground running.


Classes at UCSF start 10 minutes after the hour but when we’re in simlab in the mornings I like to get there a little early to set up and get all my stuff out of my locker. Today is operative so it doesn’t require quite as many materials as crown and bridge. I have a little trolley that helps me transport my stuff from the locker rooms into the simlab — it’s a lifesaver!



In operative today we’re doing a prep and amalgam restoration of #14 MODL+. This is the biggest prep and restoration to date! Though we’ll likely be working with composites for the majority of our careers, we learn doing amalgam restorations at UCSF to practice and develop our hand skills and learn the basics.  


Time for lunch! Lucky for us today there’s a lunch and learn — what’s better than learning about something new while eating some free food? Often different school organizations and groups will put on lunch and learns covering various topics and subjects. A great way to hear more about what’s happening on campus, find out how to get involved, or learn more about the profession of dentistry. Today we learned about community dentistry from Dr. Lin who shared encouraging words about his journey!


Refill on coffee to gear up for the afternoon.


We have lectures scheduled for the afternoon. Thankfully we get little breaks every hour between lectures! We’re currently in the cardiovascular unit — we’re learning about hematosis and other pathologies of the blood and circulatory system.


Classes are done, time to head home after a long, long day. I’ll usually take some time to unwind, it’s hard to dive straight into studying after so much lecture. Maybe watch some Netflix or YouTube and cook dinner before I study. Typically I’ll review the lectures from the day or look over past lectures. It’s important to stay on top of the material since there isn’t much time between exams.


I try to sleep as early as possible — got to get as much rest to wake up and do it all again tomorrow. Goodnight!

What a Time to Be Alive

Students are extremely unique. Of course you’re thinking in your head right now, “obviously, Johanna.” Just think about something as simple as where they come from. Some are from another country, underserved, wealthy, a family of educators, a family of entrepreneurs, a family of dreamers, a family of doers, but the common trait that we all have with one another is that students have an opportunity. We have an opportunity to learn more, do more, and be more, especially being in the health profession. To me, this is what makes UCSF so unique. Our diversity allows us to come together day in day out as a team to help generate ideas on how to best reach our local communities. 

During Fall quarter all of our registered campus organizations work tirelessly to layout event blueprints for the students, faculty, and local communities for the winter and spring quarters. This blog will specifically talk about our 12th Annual Student National Dental Association Impressions Conference. Twelve years. For twelve years, our UCSF SNDA Chapter has worked to give back to the underserved/ minority communities in the greater bay area by hosting a day in the life of dental students, providing mentorship and valuable resources on their journeys to their dreams. 

This past weekend, a total of 140 pre-dental students willingly spent their Saturday participating at this event. In addition to the 140 students that attended, there were also more than 70 dental students that donated their free weekend to volunteer, leaving the pre-dental to dental student ratio at approximately 2:1.  This ratio set up opportunities for pre-dental students to learn about the unique and personalized stories of each of the volunteers. It was our hope to give them an impression of their future. SNDA, Hispanic Student Dental Association, and American Education Dental Association, joined forces to provide interview practice, a personal statement workshop, simulation lab experience, and multiple different guest speakers that discussed the many aspects of dentistry in dental school. On top of that, scholarships were also given out to select participants to help contribute to their educational journey.  

Thankless jobs really, but absolutely worth it. At the end of the day pre-dents left excited and inspired to pursue their dreams in the dental field!  

We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different dreams, but the coolest thing is that we all have one similar goal: to make a change. Again this is a collective effort from multiple different organizations and none of this would have been possible if those before us had not paved the way. Dental school is just the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. It is a time for us to learn all that we can learn; it is a time to be alive, be positive, be active, remember our journey, and pay it forward. 

Like our opening speaker, alumni of UCSF, Dr. Muhaimin touched on, never give up or let anyone deter you from what you want because anything is possible if you dream big and work hard at it. 

Thank you! 

How Assisting a Third-Year Dental Student Changed My View on Dental Education at UCSF

It’s been about five months since I’ve started dental school. After going through two quarters of studying, and now assisting a third-year dental student, I’ve finally come to see why the classes I’ve been taking at UCSF are necessary for me to become a knowledgeable and competent dentist.

The classes I have taken these past two quarters have been anatomy, histopathology, microbiology, pharmacology, research methods, dental procedures, tooth development and morphology, and patient care. Before dental school, I used to think that being skilled at dental procedures was enough to be a good dentist. This is because I mostly focused on how dentists performed clinical procedures rather than how they approached patients’ health conditions in a comprehensive manner. Honestly, even until the end of last quarter, I was not able to see the true benefit of learning didactic material in dental school. I felt like it was extra work. However, I realized how all the knowledge I have learned from didactic classes fit into clinical skills when I came to assist a third-year-dental student this quarter. During the assisting session, the student dentist assessed the medical records of a new patient. The medications, overall health conditions, previous surgeries, infections, diets, allergies, oral health conditions, and social history were assessed. There were many factors to be considered to come up with a treatment plan. The student dentist had to have some knowledge about medications in the patient’s medical record and the patient’s current health condition to decide if it was safe to provide the required dental procedure. In addition, the student dentist used knowledge from didactic courses to explain to the patient what was going on with their oral health status and why the proposed procedures were necessary.

This experience gave me an explanation for why I need to master material from a variety of courses at the UCSF School of Dentistry. To deliver the safest and the best possible care, a dentist should know not only how to perform dental procedures, but also how to consider such procedures in the context of the patient’s overall health condition.

Advice to Pre-Dentals!

One of the biggest steps toward your dental education is the process of preparing for and applying to dental school. As a current D1 coming out of this process pretty recently, I remember how overwhelming but incredibly exciting of a time this was! As this application cycle slowly gets closer, here’s just a few of the many things that I would keep in mind as a pre-dental getting ready to apply to dental school! 

  • Be involved in a wide variety of things that you are passionate about!
    • It might seem like dental schools care the most about dental-related experiences, like lots of shadowing, and while this is definitely important to make sure that you know what the career is like, it’s also equally important to show dental schools what makes you a unique applicant through the things that you are truly passionate about. Be involved in a variety of things, from dental experiences to completely unrelated experiences, and schools will see your passion through the things that you do.
  • Start preparing early so you can apply early!
    • I know everyone says to apply early, but they do because it’s actually important! Don’t wait till the last minute to start your personal statement, collect letters of recommendation, or take your DAT. Applying early increases your chances of landing an interview at your top schools, so try to make sure that one part of your application isn’t holding back the whole thing! You can collect letters of recommendation in advance and hold them securely on websites like Interfolio, and continually work on editing your personal statement so you can have something you are truly proud of to submit.
  • Talk to dental students from schools you are considering to know what the school is like!
    • I knew I wanted to go to UCSF for dental school since my first year of undergrad, and even so, I still talked to current students before fully committing to the school. Where you receive your dental education will completely shape your experience, and every student wants something different out of dental school. Whether you are focused on a specific specialty, passionate about Public Health, interested in research, or whatever the case may be, you want to know that the school you decide upon is one that will fit your needs and interests.
  • Finally, enjoy the process!
    • Applying to dental school might seem overwhelming, but looking back on it, it is really one of the most exciting times as a student. Try not to get too stressed out or compare yourself to other applicants. Every applicant will have a different experience going through this process, but everyone ends up where they’re supposed to be.

Mistakes I made in dental school

My time in dental school is passing with a blur. It seems like yesterday I was waxing a tooth in simlab, and now I’m halfway through my 3rd year. Looking back, there was many triumphs and also many many failures. Here’s the most major mistakes I have made:

not going to class. There are days where I feel so tired that it’s easier to lie on my bed than going to class. Looking back, I wish I have gone to class more. Most of what’s been taught in lecture is useful in someway. And we all paid large $$ every year to be in dental school. Not going to class is like cheating yourself. 

not asking for help when I needed. Sometimes pride gets in the way and I didn’t want to look stupid by asking for help. But now is the time to ask questions, make mistakes, and get help because we have a safety net called dental school. Once we leave dental school, there’s no one there to protect you from lawsuit.

not putting my health first. When you’re young, you don’t realize your body has a limit. But realize in order to practice dentistry, you got to be well enough to endure through the long work days. No matter how many test cases, exams, and patients you have coming up, don’t forget to sleep, eat well, and exercise. 

not enjoying my time in dental school. Dental school is short. Even though the days seem long now, your time in dental school will be over in a blink of an eye. For some people, it’s the last time they will be in school. Your time now in dental school is precious. Treasure it and make the most of everyday so you will have no regrets looking back.

Thank you for reading. Hope you can learn from my mistakes and good luck to your dental school journey.

Why I am Interested in Dental Academia

To be honest, my decision to pursue a career in dental academia came as quite a shock. I thought I had my whole career mapped out. Prior to high school I set my heart on being a dentist, and it was my dream to have my own little private practice in the Central Valley. Little did I know that there would be several unexpected opportunities that would change my career trajectory.

I first realized that I have a passion for teaching during undergrad. I chose to attend University of the Pacific and participated in their pre-dental program. During my second year, I was invited to teach as a Supplemental Instructor for the Biological Sciences Department. Basically, this meant that I got to hold my own biweekly review sessions, present condensed lectures covering core concepts, and design study materials including group activities, worksheets and mock practicals to facilitate student learning. When Dr. Luthy first offered me the position, it felt really daunting. Being naturally shy and an introvert, I never imagined myself standing in front of a classroom full of students. However, I was up for the challenge and accepted the position. I am so glad that I did because I LOVED it! I remember staying up late and neglecting my own studies just because I wanted to continue developing new study guides. (Don’t worry. I did fine on my exams. I just got significantly less sleep that year). There was one particular evening where I entered my classroom completely exhausted, wondering how I was going to make it through the review session. Turns out, that was probably the best review session I ever had. The students were really engaged. And furthermore, you could tell that they were gaining a thorough understanding of the material. There is a certain look students get when they really start to grasp a concept. Their faces light up and it’s almost as if you can see a lightbulb turning on over their heads. It’s seriously one of my favorite things. Anyhow, I ended up leaving that review session feeling overwhelmingly satisfied with how the evening had turned out and more energized than before it started. I felt like I had found my calling. And ever since then, I have known that my career needs to include teaching.

Dr. Venderova on left

Research has been part of my career for quite some time now. Oddly enough, I used to see it as a really fun hobby that I would eventually have to give up. I was so invested in my childhood dream of becoming a dentist, that it never occurred to me that I could pursue research as part of my career. It took one really amazing mentor to open my eyes to this possibility. During undergrad I worked in the lab of Dr. Katerina Venderova. One of the things I love about Pacific is that students really get to know their faculty. In the context of research, this often means that students learn directly from their PI’s and that they work side-by-side. The Venderova Lab studied Parkinson’s disease using Drosophila models, so nearly every day we would sit down and sort flies together. I still remember the day Dr. Venderova told me that I ought to pursue a PhD. I remember feeling totally stunned because it was completely off my radar. However, that conversation planted a seed, and with Dr. Venderova’s continued encouragement I eventually looked into applying for dual degree programs.

Histology Bench

Now I’m here at UCSF in my 5th year of training as part of the DDS/PhD program. I am still working out the details of what I want for my future career. However, I know that at least part of it will consist of academic dentistry. Academia provides tremendous flexibility and a wide variety of opportunities for intellectual and clinical pursuits. For me, it combines three things that I love: research, clinical care, and teaching. I know that I will never be bored. I am excited at the prospect of not only contributing to the future of our field and to the design of novel therapies but also in providing moral support for students. Dental school is rigorous. There is no denying that. It gives me great joy to think that I will get to be a Dr. Venderova for students in years to come, to encourage them when the road gets tough, to help them find their perfect niche, and to foster their growth as individuals as well as students. For me, academia is a place where discoveries are made, great minds meld, and communities are formed. It is the place where the sterile intellectual world of research meets the empathy and emotional awareness displayed in clinic. Personally, to have one without the other would be an imbalance.

AADR – SF Chapter

A career in dental academia might not be the right fit for everyone. However, it certainly is an excellent option to consider. No matter the career path you choose, I encourage you to discover what you are passionate about and to pursue it whole-heartedly. If I have learned anything through my career journey, it has been to keep an open mind and to hold my dreams loosely, allowing them to change over time. Because you never know what opportunities and experiences will come your way. The best ones are often those that you never dreamed existed.