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EDITOR'S NOTE A Welcome to Lilac from the District 4 Newsletter Editor Sarah Brusko, VCU 2019


A MESSAGE FROM OUR TRUSTEE A call to engage in leadership while in school


Alexandra Howell, DCG 2019


BALLIN A lesson in stress management from an all-star team

Scott Lowry, DCG 2020


SURVIVING D1 YEAR Advice for making it through that tough first year


Alexandra Bilunas, Meharry 2020


ILLUSTRATIONS A series of dental comics C. Derrick Coleman, DCG 2020

FROM PLAY-DOH TO DENTURES Using life's little moments to help in dental school C. Derrick Coleman, DCG 2020

Austin Moon, VCU 2019


IT TAKES A VILLAGE Balancing school and family with the support of amazing classmates

THE BEGINNINGS OF D3 LIFE Adapting to student clinic Jack Kang, UTHSC 2019


MISSION OF MERCY: WISE, VIRGINIA Caring for the underserved population at Virginia's largest dental service project Connor Johnson, VCU 2019

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Editor's Note Hello, District 4! I am so pleased to welcome you to our first issue of Lilac, your District 4 ASDA Newsletter! District 4 is comprised of the seven schools from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Lilac is your platform to share your journey with others throughout our district, students just like yourself, who can relate. I hope you enjoy the articles contributed for our debut issue. Please, feel free to reach out to me at bruskosa@vcu.edu to get a story about you or your school in the next issue.


                                                                                                                                                                                              LILAC  |  3

A Message From Our Trustee      With all of the stress of dental school, the sleepless nights, and the busy days, we often wonder if it is all worth it. We question ourselves daily and ask whether or not we made the right decision. We tell ourselves to “just get through it,” and we will get our reward at the end when we accept our diplomas. But what if we could make these four years of school worth more than a degree?        Maybe you are involved in every club at your school. Or maybe you still just haven’t found where you belong yet. Either way, take a step back and look at your life in school. These four years are irreplaceable – ones that don’t need to be rushed through just because they are stressful. In four years of dental school, you will grow into someone you may not even recognize. On your graduation day, you will look back on yourself four years ago and stand in awe of you who have become. But that outcome rests on the effort you put in now to invest in your personal development along with your studies.        Instead of solely seeking out higher grades and better hand skills, what if we also spent these years exercising our leadership and integrity and communication skills just as much as we practice those #30 crown preps? Being a dentist requires so much more than good hand skills. With the leadership responsibilities that come with being a dentist, you don’t want to graduate realizing that you never really learned how to be a leader. While we often associate leadership with specific positions and organizations, leadership is more of a way of life. Leadership is about the way you interact with people, care for people, and proactively think about the ways you can contribute to the world around you.        One of my favorite speakers and authors, Simon Sinek, says that there is a difference between being a leader and being someone who leads. While the former often stirs up images of power and authority, the latter, he says, relies on the ability to inspire. In his book, Start with Why, he tell us that we “are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe. Their ability to make us feel like we belong, to make us feel special, safe and not alone is part of what gives them the ability to inspire us.” He encourages us to analyze our true motivations (or our “WHYs”) behind our hard work and find a sense of passion that will naturally overflow into the lives of everyone around us. When we are motivated by passion instead of obligation, the work we do no longer becomes a chore, but a privilege instead.        Looking at this edition of the District 4 newsletter, I am astounded by the inspiring leaders we have surrounding us in our dental schools. Not only are they intelligent, but they are bringing backgrounds and outside perspectives that remind us that dental school has so much more to offer than just grades and graduation. I hope you feel that same inspiration in each of these articles, and I can’t wait to see how the leadership in our district continues to grow in the upcoming years!


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A Thank You To Our Sponsors!

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One big part of being in Dental school is stress management. I have also made it a priority to bond with classmates and to find a family here at VCU. One thing that I have done since the beginning of school D1 year was get a group of friends to go play basketball together at the gym. When I realized that we have a bunch of classmates who are serious competitors, I knew that we had to start representing our school at the VCU Intramural Sports games. So I put together a Co-ed and Men’s basketball team during the

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winter of our D1 year, and we could not have had any more fun with it. We bonded as a team, had fans come and cheer from our class, and even had a blast winning the championship in the co-ed division. We came home with the coveted champion T-shirt. Ever since then, we have been thirsty for more wins and more T-shirts. We have since played softball, kickball, volleyball, handball, and dodgeball in addition to our basketball team. Since our class has a number of great competitors, we have been to the championship and

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WE BONDED AS A TEAM, HAD FANS COME AND CHEER FROM OUR CLASS, AND EVEN HAD A BLAST WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP competed in it for every sport so far for the exception of Men’s basketball and co-ed flag football. We currently hold championship titles in volleyball, handball, dodgeball, and co-ed basketball and are hungry for more. Though, what is more fun than winning is the bond between all of our classmates that comes from competing together. At VCU, we treat our class like family, so when we play, we have many of our classmates come and support us. There have been so many great memories and bonds created because of the sports that we play. We even bought jerseys for everyone in the class who wanted one! Whenever we show up at any event and everyone has one of these on, we know (or at least we look like), we are for real. It is all about the intimidation factor to get these undergrads scared to face the big bad Dental students. But in reality, it’s all in good fun and we are just out there living the dreams we wish we could’ve achieved athletically. Instead we take our old man bodies out there and try to keep up with the 19 year olds who are in much better shape than we are. But what is better than beating the undergrads here at VCU is the lifelong relationships that are made strong via any extracurricular activity, especially competing alongside brothers and sisters who will one day be colleagues that will shape the future of Dentistry.

                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  9

Surviving D1 Year WRITTEN BY


How do I survive 1st year? Okay, I asked myself this question probably every Sunday night, Monday morning, every lunch, dinner, and Netflix/HBO/Game Day splurge. Now, there isn’t an end-all, be-all answer, but here is a little advice I can give.  First of all, make sure you take time to enjoy the experience! By saying this, I mean take time to go out and explore the city, make friends with classmates, see who has a good happy hour, or watch that long awaited college football rival game.  Dental school does not mean an end to fun!  Secondly, remember time is always passing.  Matter of fact, the time it took you to read up to this point is time you’ll never get back. You hear me? The biggest mistake y’all will do this year is cram for tests or quizzes.  Even if you just are waiting in a McDonalds drive thru line, do some board questions on an app! Keep a textbook in the bathroom! This may all sound silly, but trust me, I learned a lot in non-traditional study areas! Lastly, find the positive in any experience. Remember stressing out about your first cavity prep? Well, I guarantee you witnessed a prep that looked like something Fred Flintsone would Yabba Dabba Doo right on out of.  Remember you are in dental SCHOOL, you don’t know everything yet.  Have fun and enjoy the process!

B I L U N A S ,


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Now there is only one board exam!?! I can only say a few words on this subject. Listen on up. I thoroughly enjoyed my education and my study session for Part I of the boards, and respect the ADA’s decision to change the exam…but *Oh, mercy!* I am happy that I was able to take the board exam on anatomy and biochemistry right after I learned those subjects. All this being said, I guess I have to worry about Part II, whereas y’all only have one stressful summer or winter break. Anyhow, good luck to those taking the last couple tests of Part I and Part II 

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and good luck to the first test takers of the integrative exam! Lastly, good luck to all the mothers, fathers, and guardians that have to listen to us complain about how we, “aren’t ready”. Can I get involved while in dental school? Just like in undergrad, there are so many things you can do to enhance your dental school experience and get the most from your dental school education.  I don’t know about y’all, but I am paying way too much to just sit back and let four years go by.  Talk to your professors about research opportunities, volunteer in the community, even run for office! Now my Mama always said, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” so be squeaky! Get out there! If you want to do something, let any and everyone know! Also, all your teachers want you to get the most of your time in school and will be more than happy to help.   Why do all my preps/wax ups/etc. look awful compared to my classmates? First of all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that definitely applies to more than just contestants on the Bachelorette.  Of course, you think your work looks awful, but that is because everyone is their own worst critic.  Secondly, how many times can you count on your hand that you built a tooth up before dental school? I don’t know about y’all, but I didn’t even know the maxillary sinus was a thing before dental school and that a root can shoot up in there like it was on Apollo Mission 32.  Remember your teachers have been doing this for 5, 10, 15+ years. With that experience, they’re all dental Michelangelos, sculpting the smooth curves and figures of the maxillary first premolar and symmetrical broad shoulders of the mandibular central.  As for your classmates, all y’all come from different backgrounds! Practice makes habit - start learning some good habits and techniques! Even take photo progressions of your practice! I confidentially believe in you! I know for a fact that your work looks good or else you would have been let go a long time ago!

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LILAC |  14

It Takes A Village WRITTEN BY


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“I’ve been due for twins for a while now”

   After five days in the hospital and without

were the exact words the OB/GYN used to tell

having been home since Wednesday, I returned

my wife, Merinda, and I that we were

to school on Monday morning. I was met with

expecting not one, but two babies. I was in

a huge outpouring of love and support from

my final undergraduate semester at the

my classmates and even faculty members. My

University of Georgia and had just been

classmates even started a fundraiser for Millie

accepted to dental school a month prior.

and Avett and raised over $700 to help lighten

Time stopped in that moment as I realized

the burden of two brand new babies! My

how much my life was about to change in the

friends brought gifts to school for the babies,

next 9 months; I never could have imagined

and gave me their notes from the lectures I

then what the future held in store. I started

missed. Going to school while my babies were

my first semester of dental school when

both still in the hospital was one of the

Merinda was 6 months pregnant knowing that

hardest things I have had to do, but it

we would have two kids before Thanksgiving

motivated me to work hard while I was at

break. I broke the news to my classmates

school so I could return to the hospital and

during orientation, quickly becoming known as

visit them. At this point we were at the

the guy who was going to have twins. My

hospital every evening with the babies. Our

entire class shared my excitement for the

classmates would bring and eat dinner with us

babies’ arrival date as November approached.

in the hospital, and then we would bring them

Every time Merinda called me during school

to the NICU to look at the twins. It wasn’t until

hours, someone would catch my eye and ask if

over a week later that they were able to be

it was time.

held. After three weeks in the hospital we had both babies home, and my friends would drive

   On October 5th, I left our Ethics class early

half an hour to deliver dinner and visit the

to accompany Merinda to a check-up. The

twins. Once the babies were old enough, we

doctor examined the babies and quickly

had friends from school willing to babysit the

became worried about our little girl because

twins so Merinda and I could enjoy just a few

she was not breathing as much and staying

hours without having the twins constantly

very still. He looked at us and said, “You are

needing our attention. The twins quickly

going to have these babies this week,” and

became the mascots of the class, and I really

had us admitted to the hospital immediately

felt as though my classmates rallied behind my

following the appointment. Friday, October

family to support us.

7th at 10 AM we welcomed a beautiful girl,

Milledge, and a beautiful boy, Avett, to the

   Having a family in dental school is an

world. The twins were 6 weeks premature and

incredibly difficult situation, but I think it has

had to be rushed immediately to the NICU, but

made me realize how important it is to

I will always remember the babies’ first

surround myself with amazing people. I have

screams as I held Merinda’s hand and the

managed to balance my school and family

sense of relief that the twins had survived the

work through the support and love I receive

delivery. That evening as things were calming

from my classmates. I am so thankful that my

down, I received a text from one of my

class is a part of my family, and not just

classmates telling me that she wanted to

limited to my school life. I truly believe this

make a dinner calendar for my family. My

experience has not only made me stronger

wonderful classmates were willing to take time

individually, but it brought my class closer

from endless studying and lab work to cook

together as a family.

and deliver dinner to my family during the most hectic and emotional time of my life. Merinda and I had dinner made for us every other day for over a month after the twins were born.

                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  16

LILAC |  17


Using Life’s Little Moments To Help In Dental School WRITTEN BY

C .


C O L E M A N ,


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Almost every student has those excellent or

work to fill a void in a cast or impression,

amazing experiences and skills that lined them

depending on who you ask and how good you

up perfectly for dental school. For me, my

are at blending it together. Play-Doh is BEST

outstanding ability to mold Play-Doh, my knack

used as a stress reliever by simply rolling it

for drawing colorful figures and diagrams, and

around in your hands or trying to build the

my incessant need for reassurance from my

same creatures that were once attempted

superiors set me in just the right spot to be a

many years ago at the kitchen table

successful dental student. You would be

[definitely not in your bedroom with all that

correct in thinking that this is not going to be

carpet everywhere].

one of those typical articles. Instead of the normal routine, let’s look at some of the ways

2. Colors make dull lectures brighter.

overlooked childhood activities and lessons

Do not mistake this as a suggestion to kill time

may have prepared us for dental school in

during lecture by filling in coloring books

ways we did not originally consider.

because that is not endorsed by this author. However, adding color to your notes is an

1. Adults can enjoy Play-Doh, too.

excellent suggestion during study time. Even

The unmistakable scent and unforgiving battle

though technology has its advantages for

to remain in the small bucket take me back to

things as basic as taking notes, I find it more

lectures about no Play-Doh anywhere but the

enjoyable to hand-write notes and draw

table because if mom finds it in the carpet ….

pictures or diagrams to help solidify the

During the start of our D2 year we learned to

information presented in lectures. I am not

use Play-Doh during a boxing and pouring

living in the dark ages and writing on scrolls,

technique for complete removable dentures.

so I like to use my iPad to add to the lecture

Other techniques involved boxing with specific

notes. Many apps out there let you change

boxing wax or simply using a cup to guide in

color, line style, and add other customizations

pouring microstone for a master cast, but

while hand-writing notes. Will drawing help

where is the fun in that? Stabilize that custom

everyone retain information? Again, go ahead

tray with a nice roll of Play-Doh plus add some

and double that tuition bet because the

more Play-Doh for land area and you re ready

answer is no. Obviously, everyone should use

to pour. Am I saying that if you can handle

the method best suited for getting the most

Play-Doh you can pour a perfect master cast?

out of note-taking, but it is nice to be able to

You bet your tuition I am not … but I am saying

study while drawing a picture of how the

using Play-Doh in dentures lab makes the

nerves and vessels travel through the head

process a little more fun. In addition to cast

and neck as a means of recollecting

pouring, Play-Doh is sometimes good at

important items while letting the brain relax

getting those small wax fragments out of

with some doodles. We’re all adults here, no

grooves of project teeth and can sometimes  

one will laugh if you color outside of the lines.

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3. Share.

you do is amazing, regardless of the true

I know this may be a novel concept to some

nature of the product. Although these people

people, but try to hang with me for a minute.

do not realize that telling us our work is the

Most people learn to share as toddlers, have it

best they have ever seen is equivalent to

reinforced through primary and elementary

telling a three-year-old that the orange and

school, and should be professional sharers by

green squiggles on a semi-wet piece of paper

adulthood. Some are excellent at over-sharing

looks exactly like mommy, it is important to

[thank you, social media], but dental school is

allow these people to express their opinion

the perfect place to recall all the importance

[even if they have no idea what they are

of sharing with classmates and friends. I refer

talking about]. This point could also be called

to sharing in the literal sense as to loan

“accept the compliment and stop being such a

something you possess to someone in need,

Type A control freak.” I know it isn’t easy to

especially when things continue to come up

look at the jagged and dangerous edges of a

missing [here’s looking at you, Class of 2020

crown prep or the poor [and I mean poor]

at the Dental College of GA], but also in the

placement of denture teeth and understand

sense of passing along information and new

that we are all special and talented, but we

tricks and skills learned. I have heard from

must stop and realize that we all earned a

various colleagues that something that helps

spot in our respective classes for a reason. No

the learning process in lab and the didactic

one is typically great at everything they do

classroom more than anything is sharing of

and especially not everything involved in

tricks and hints between classes and

dental school, so we should learn to say “thank

classmates. There is nothing better than

you” for those compliments that may not be

learning how to do something that routinely

what we are looking for at that time.

took three hours to do in about fifteen

Sometimes giving a compliment is someone’s

minutes. Remember: sharing IS caring.

most important means of payment [besides, we will have plenty of opportunity to hear the

4. There is no such thing as a stupid question … usually. Every year we hear

not-so-nice things people will have to say from

about us…].

faculty and upperclassmen to ask for help when it is needed and often we find ourselves

The moment I put Play-Doh on my shopping list

with unanswered questions because we simply

for school I realized that this is no ordinary life

do not ask. In most cases I will not help you tie

I am living. Anyone who knows me knows that I

your shoe [almost definitely will not set your

am a big kid and although the number of years

denture teeth for you], but if there is

continues to increase, I like to find time to

something I know how to do in lab or

enjoy the small, fun things in life. So the next

something I know I understand in a didactic

time you find yourself switching colors to take

class I am more than happy to pass on the

notes, dancing to a song while you wax up a

knowledge. You can keep your tuition because

tooth in lab, or bonding with a pediatric

this one will most definitely help you succeed

patient, remember that we are all people built

in the long run, as long as you pay attention to

with the option to enjoy life to the fullest,

the answers you are given and actually put

regardless of how tough the days may get.

them to use.

They say hindsight is 20/20, so put those childhood lessons to good use and show

5. Let someone tell you you’re special.

dental school who is boss … or else I’m going

I can almost guarantee that everyone has a

to tell mom.

relative or knows someone that is not involved in dentistry or medicine that thinks everything

                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  19

The Beginnings of D3 Life WRITTEN BY


Right before we started clinic in July, I was approached by friends, family, and faculty who asked the most important question: “Ready to see some patients?” Although I’ve answered yes to everyone, I know there is still a piece of me tangled in nervousness. Learning the ropes can be a bit challenging in the beginning. We had to recognize clinic protocol quickly, and more specifically, understand departmental requirements. Since we have to complete different requirements for graduation, we need to know how many teeth to extract, how many pedo points to earn, how to win an endo patient (which is apparently a little hard at our school), and the list goes

K A N G , U T H S C

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on. I quickly learned to befriend your classmates and faculty - they will be of great help! Despite acclimating to clinic, I must say that I am enjoying it so far. Getting to interact with patients and bring them to a smile is very awarding. At our school, we have to call and schedule our own patients for each appointment. We often talk through the chief complaints and then most will want to know what they should do about their problem. I picked up that patient needs and concerns are completely different in many aspects, which made me critically think about an individualized treatment plan that

                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  20

BECAUSE SHE CARED SO MUCH FOR HER TEETH, I WASN’T FULLY CONFIDENT IF MY WORK WOULD MEET HER EXPECTATIONS, SINCE I HAD JUST STARTED TO SEE PATIENTS considers one’s social and financial concerns. Hence, this not only provides a great opportunity to build rapport, but also allows me to gain an understanding of patient-centered dentistry. Lastly, I want to share a motivating experience that affirms why dentistry is so rewarding. One of my patients is an 80-year-old lady who takes immense pride in her oral health. She constantly tells me how important her teeth are and she will do whatever it takes to keep them in shape. Recently, I had the opportunity to retreat one of her composite fillings that had fallen out. She said that she couldn’t chew well on that side and it had been bothering her. Because she cared so much for her teeth, I wasn’t fully confident if my work would meet her expectations, since I had just started to see patients. After I restored the tooth, she looked up to me and said, “My teeth feels normal again, and now I can go back to eating without any problems. You did an amazing job!” She then gave me numerous hugs and personally went up to my group leader to compliment my work. Little did I know that a small restoration could lead to such an enormous effect in someone’s life!

                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  21

Mission of Mercy: Wise, Virginia WRITTEN BY


   In 2014, the Federal Reserve found that a quarter of Americans went without dental care they needed because they couldn’t afford it. Even as we look closer to home, the picture doesn’t look much better. According to the Virginia Health Care Foundation, an estimated 3.8 million Virginians do not have dental insurance. Without access to affordable dental care, many Americans are left to suffer through their pain and embarrassment while making do with their situation. The Mission of Mercy (MOM) is one way to address the overwhelming need for dental care to those in underserved areas. Started in 2000 by Dr. Terry Dickinson, MOM projects are the Virginia Dental Association Foundation’s mobile dental clinic program. These projects are strategically set up in underserved communities and offer prophylactic, restorative, and surgical services to thousands of patients every year. Over the past 26 years, the MOM program has contributed almost $40,000,000 in free dental services.      The Wise, Virginia MOM project is the largest project each year and is one of two projects that partners with Remote Area Medical (RAM). This year, about 1,100 dental patients were treated at the project, with thousands of others receiving various medical care from RAM. Dental students from the Virginia Commonwealth School of Dentistry, dentists, hygienists, and other volunteers arrive and set up the entire mobile dental clinic in one day. What begins the morning as a vacant lot under a sprawling tent becomes a bustling, well-oiled machine of a dental clinic by dusk. The next morning, volunteers will return to begin their work of providing free dental care to those in need. Over two and a 

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half days, around 450 dental volunteers provide a variety of services, including root canals, cleanings, fillings, and most commonly extractions. The scope of dental care provided at MOM projects is not limited to these services alone. MOM projects also afford patients with much needed dental education. Due to limiting factors, which frequently include time, money, and fear, patients at MOM projects may be unsure of proper brushing and dietary habits. MOM projects are an excellent source of dental selfimprovement knowhow and can help patients better take care of themselves in the future.    The patients that come to MOM projects know that, because of the high demand for services, they will most likely spend hours waiting in lines to be screened and see a provider. This seemingly daunting task sure doesn’t damper their spirits though. MOM project patients are a grateful and determined group. This year, one unemployed patient saved for six months in order to afford the gas it would take her to drive from Glen Burnie, Maryland and to have a motel for the night. Despite months of saving and hours of waiting, 63 year old Patricia McConnell was still all smiles after she had four of her teeth removed. She even shared a hug with Governor Terry McAuliffe.      MOM projects are a wonderful way for those of us involved in the dental field to give back to underserved populations in our state. If you would like to get involved in the next project, please apply on the VDAF website, or for those of you who are VCU dental students, please watch your email for the next application.

                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  22

LILAC |  23



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2 0 - 2 1 ,

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                                                                                                                                                                                             LILAC  |  24

Profile for ASDA District 4

LILAC: ASDA District 4 Newsletter  

January 2018, Issue 1

LILAC: ASDA District 4 Newsletter  

January 2018, Issue 1


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