Titans of GP 3: Dr. Maria Oei

By Dr. Maria Oei (2020)

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What GP are you in? What is unique about your GP that you feel makes it better than the others? *

GP3/AGD-DS. I see GP3 as a place to do whatever you want. If you want to fly, you can fly. If you want to chill, you can chill. The GP directors are very good about understanding your goals and meeting you at your level to help you achieve them.

If you were a D2 what advice would you have given yourself to better prepare you for clinic? *

Understand axiom. Practice clicking around and filling in the forms: med hx, visit notes, referrals, EPR, lab orders, etc. Know the order of perio charting and how to input treatment plans for restorations, extractions, bridges, dentures since there are so many different kinds and materials and therefore, codes. Know how to read the chairs and schedule patients with the right faculty. This will make you more efficient with patients, treatment plans, and faculty.

What is a trait that you believe is crucial for success in clinic? Why? *

Be organized and manage your schedule so that it’s full with meaningful appointments/experiences. Having a full schedule of only prophies or denture adjustments for other people’s patients doesn’t expand your skills or patient pool. This doesn’t mean you need to recruit patients from the street, but until you have enough patients to book you 3 weeks in advance including enough patients to fill in cancellations, you should not be rejecting anybody. You can recruit from emergencies, specialty clinics, upperclassmen, etc.

What was your first procedure? What went right? What went wrong? What would you have done differently? What did you learn from it? *

#29 MO amalgam. I only found out about the procedure 15 minutes before the appointment started on the first day/session of clinic. I had a pretty good idea of axiom (struggled with consent and swipes for treatment approval/completion), when to get faculty checks (start, prep check, toffelmire check, final), and the procedure itself (least of my concerns even though I was nervous). Placing the rubber dam was difficult, even with an assistant (real contacts are a lot tighter than the typodont).

What has been the biggest lesson you learned reflecting back on your time in clinic at UMSOD? *

If you ask 10 dentists for a treatment plan, you’d get back 20; everybody does everything differently. This doesn’t mean there’s a right or wrong answer, but present all treatment options and once the patient chooses, stand by it. You cannot please everybody. Sometimes, accidents happen and things fail so you need to have tough skin and know how to handle difficult situations and deliver bad news.

What would you have done differently from the time you started clinic to the time you finished clinic? Why? *

I wish I worked more with different populations (Spanish speaking, peds, special care) and shadowed more in post grad to better understand complicated diagnosis or advanced procedures. I did as much as I could in D3 but when I moved to AGD for DS, I didn’t get as much of a variety in patients or freedom to shadow.

What has been the biggest hurdle you have had to overcome in clinic? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it? *

Find people in person to ask your question or get a swipe, etc. Unless someone specifies, sending emails or axiom messages is usually slower. Yes, it takes more time and energy to walk around the clinic and wait but you can listen and learn from other conversations or procedures happening around you.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received while in clinic? *

Be in clinic, physically and mentally. So many people sign in and leave, or they use clinic time to call patients or do lab work. If you can do something outside of clinic, do it later. Use clinic time for patient interaction. That’s what you’re paying tuition for. So many good things happen to people being in the right place at the right time. If you show up and you put in effort, that doesn’t go unnoticed. Your reputation among classmates and faculty is being built.

How did you best manage the stresses of classes and clinic at the same time? How difficult was this transition for you? *

Dedicate your first summer in clinic to getting used to the flow and building your patient pool if possible. Use this time to come up with systems that work for you. For example, I spent way too long writing visit notes at first. I spent a few nights in the summer writing templates then I never spent longer than 5 minutes on a detailed and personalized visit note. As another example, I found it helpful to dedicate my Fridays to contacting all my patients for the following week. I lost that one hour of free time on Friday afternoons, but gained all the Monday to Thursday evening hours to study for exams. The transition was easy. Classes were pretty easy. Lots of repeat, which was a good review during clinic since you now have an immediate application, and lots of study guides.

Do you have any insight on how to best have access to chairs and make appointments? If you do, what advice would you give people who are seeking the most efficient way to obtain chairs? *

No idea how this changes with corona.

What aspect of clinic did you find to be the most time consuming and how would you recommend a student go about being more efficient? *

Again, no idea how this changes with corona. In my time, prosth faculty was really limited so when chairs were released, I scheduled all my prosth patients first. Then any TXP or PEF chairs. Then C3’s because of less faculty coverage and fewer chairs. I always scheduled GD chairs last because that could be done in either GP or dean’s faculty could be added last minute; these were never as competitive.

What resources did you use to prepare you for Boards Part II? *

Dental decks (I’m very old fashioned and still like paper) and study guides (el maestro is best because it’s organized by subject). The earliest you can take it is late August/early September so I wouldn’t even bother studying until the beginning of August, assuming you want to be super proactive.

What tips worked for you in getting patients to say “yes” to your proposed treatment? *

Understand your patient’s CC, goal (healthy vs replace missing teeth vs Hollywood smile), time constraints (as long as it takes vs leaving for vacation in 2 weeks), and financial constraints (conservative vs unlimited, insurance vs none).

What skills/techniques for certain procedures did you find particularly helpful when beginning clinic?

I highly recommend almost everybody do an AEGD/GPR. Both are good/different for different people. AEGD is like a fifth year of dental school, get more practice at general dentistry. GPR is a year to see/do crazy procedures in a hospital and come out never afraid of anything ever again. The minimum clinical experiences in dental school are what you can accomplish in 2 weeks of private practice. In other words, after you graduate, you really don’t have that much experience or had that many opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them (because they will happen, even to the best of the best); yes, you can do more but even the number of procedures in the “A grade” threshold is pretty minimal. Residency gives you another year of working under somebody else’s license. It’s like a gap year before being a real dentist, playing it safe, having to look at long term goals of buying a practice, navigating vendors, learning what kind of dentist you want to become, etc. As DS, I was interested in GPR’s since I already had AEGD experience. Not all programs are created equal so think about quantity and types of procedures/skills you want to gain and do your research. Websites are vague so valuable info came from UMSOD alumni or ASDA connections. I thought narrowing down a program list was easy by either being location driven (“I only want to work in Philly”) or being program driven (“I don’t care if it’s AEGD or GPR as long as I get a lot of implant placing experience”).

Do you believe UMSOD prepared you well enough? How so?

I’m doing an associateship with Aspen Dental. Initially, I applied for GPR’s but I was location driven and very selective with programs since I had already done so much in DS and didn’t want to waste my time in a program that didn’t challenge me. In the end, I did not find a program that offered the diversity or quantity of procedures at a pace that I wanted to achieve. After deciding to work, I looked into DSO’s, which I know have questionable reputations, and private practices. Some DSO’s are rumored to have procedure quotas, hostile work environments, etc., but I realize it only takes one dentist to ruin the reputation of an entire organization. There will always be good dentists and bad dentists, it doesn’t matter if it’s a DSO or a private practice. For me, Aspen Dental offered me a wonderful mentor and resources that I could utilize and tailor to achieve my personal goals. I think I’m very lucky and UMSOD prepared me well, also because I chased after a lot of knowledge.

Did you attend a clerkship? If so, which one and what has been the biggest benefit you had from being a part of it?

Even though I was DS, I was very impressed with the OS and perio clerkships. With the oncology clinic in OS, it isn’t limited to difficult extractions and includes fixed and remo procedures.

Were you a Diamond Scholar? If so, how did you best organize yourself for success in attaining all requirements to achieve Diamond scholar status?

DS is a two-way relationship. If you’re interested in general dentistry and you’re looking for a challenge and willing to work hard, then this is the program for you! There are so many luxurious perks about it for the cost of what a lot of people can’t compromise on. For example, not having a chill D4 year even if you’ve finished all your requirements, waking up for 8am clinic, attending classes with residents, being isolated from your classmates, and having no vacation days (you make up sick days and have a 2 day spring break instead of 5 days). The DS application requires a personal statement, clinical portfolio, and recommendation letters. Through these, you’d want to showcase that you have the heart (I personally think this is so important) and the mind to handle it. Stats can vary, but overall, if you’re basically done the minimum clinical experiences in D3 year, you should be competent enough to handle more challenging cases. If you ask around, I’m sure you can find the cookie cutter checklist of what to do to be a good candidate, but if you reflect and get creative on your own to still come up with an amazing application, then you truly know you’re a good fit. Treat the DS application like a residency or job application—how can you make yourself stand out? And if you don’t get accepted, I think the application process is very valuable on its own and prepares you for your next steps regardless.

How was your externship process? Which externships did you choose and why? What was the biggest takeaway from your externship experience?

There are 2 externships you have to do: 1 local and 1 “random.” For the local one, you have a choice of 3: Frederick, Access Carroll, and Shady Grove (whenever that opens). This is 3 weeks long. For the random one, you have many choices, including specialties and “create your own” (although for these two, you’d probably only shadow and not do treatment). This is 2 weeks long. I went to Washington state to work for the Indian Health Service because I wouldn’t have another opportunity to work with that population. What a neat experience! Plus, it was a sneaky vacation for being in DS. Some choices are walking distance in the city so you don’t have to spend extra money on travel and housing. When planning your senior year, consider the timing for externships, NBDE2, CDCA (this might not be as stressful if it’s on the typodont and you’re not recruiting patients), and finishing requirements. I liked externship because it was a taste of private practice in the sense of seeing 5-6 patients/day with an assistant and no scheduling responsibility.

Would you mind providing your e-mail/social media accounts for future students to follow/contact you if they may have any questions? Please provide that info below.

You can email me (moei@umaryland.edu) or add me on Instagram (@doctor.oei).

If you have any additional advice/tips you'd like to disclose please feel free to do so below and thank you so much for your participation.

This is YOUR education, so take charge of it. Be a good person, do the right thing, but you will never have another chance to roam around and learn whatever you want, however you want. After you graduate, time is money so if you already paid the heavy tuition for dental school, get it for all it’s worth. Don’t settle for being competent, and give it 110%!

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