During this time of ups and downs, my love for dentistry grew immensely. When our clinic reopened, I was excited to see my patients again but was also devastated to see the damage the pandemic had caused to their oral health. This past year proved how essential we are as health care professionals and this has pushed me to become a better professional overall.
“To serve those who are underserved.”
That is the most rewarding sense of working for Viviana Han, a student at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry, class of 2021.
“For some of our patients, we are the first dental professionals they have ever encountered,” she says. “I enjoy being in an environment where we can have so much fun getting to know our patients and where we can learn about dentistry.”
Established in 1897, the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California (USC) is host to Viviana and other international graduate students.
Viviana is the April Student Spotlight of the California Dental Association.
Viviana feels safe at school even amid the pandemic. Patients are called two days before the appointment for a series of prescreening questions.
Once on site, patients are asked the same questions again. Body temperatures are taken. Before an aerosol-producing procedure, patients are tested for COVID symptoms.
Two days later patients are asked if they are doing well and not having COVID-19 symptoms.
Students, faculty and staff have a separate entrance to the school where they are prescreened for COVID symptoms.
They are provided with N95 masks, face shields and all the PPE required. They are tested for COVID-19 every week.
The pandemic has not changed Viviana’s career plans. “I am determined more than ever to become an impactful health care professional during the good times and the difficult times.”
Viviana’s most memorable dental school moment occurred right after school reopened.
“I was about to start treatment on the sweetest 9-year-old with the most generous heart. When I asked him if he was OK, he replied, ‘I’m good! Are you doing OK?’ As simple as that question was, this moment warmed my heart. He reminded me that we should check up on each other more, especially right now when the world is suffering so much.”
Viviana later texted her family in Argentina if they were all right.
While attending dental school in her home country, she developed an interest in endodontics, the branch of dentistry concerning dental pulp and tissues surrounding the roots of a tooth. Among their specialties is performing what is commonly known as root canal procedures.
“I was fascinated to see successful outcomes despite a tooth’s hopeless prognosis and the human body’s limit to repair it,” Viviana says. “I feel a great sense of accomplishment when my patients are pain-free and I can tell them that their tooth can be given a second chance.”
Then she got accepted at USC’s Advanced Standing Program For International Dentists.
She learned there was more to learn. “This is the specialty that always keeps me on my toes and inspires me to constantly improve,” she says.
It has been a “rollercoaster of joy and sorrow” for Viviana this year. “I married my best friend and got accepted to USC’s endodontic program, but I also lost my grandmother and have not been able to visit my family in Argentina.
“During this time of ups and downs, my love for dentistry grew immensely. When our clinic reopened, I was excited to see my patients again but was also devastated to see the damage the pandemic had caused to their oral health. This past year proved how essential we are as health care professionals and this has pushed me to become a better professional overall.”
Viviana feels “honored and humbled” to be accepted to the USC endodontic program. She starts her specialist education this summer.
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the former Associate Dean of the UE College of Dentistry, former Dean of the College of Dentistry, National University, past president and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy, and honorary fellow of the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. Honorary Life Member of Thai Association of Dental Implantology. For questions on dental health, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or text 0917-8591515./WDJ