May 2019 Volume LIV Number 3


Back Where it all Began

One Pediatric Dentist Reminisces on Working at the Same Hospital Where She was Born

March 2014 Volume L Number 2

Dr. Holly Do has been coming to Temple University's Episcopal Hospital her whole life. She was born there in February 1983, and in June 2015, she will graduate from their pediatric dentistry residency program.


In between, much of her life has been spent in or around Episcopal. She even grew up nearby. "We lived close enough that my mother actually walked home with me in her arms after she was released from the hospital," Do said.


She was the middle child of seven living in a two-story row house with two other Vietnamese immigrant families. It was cramped, but even when her family eventually moved it was to another home in the same neighborhood. And because they were also neighbors with Episcopal Hospital, it was where her family went for all their dental appointments. And Do had a lot of appointments. "I remember having several amalgam fillings, stainless steel crowns, and band-and-loop space maintainers. I kept the dentist busy!" Do said. "I remember having the space maintainers because they would always loosen and fall out, most likely due to all the candy I was eating!"


From sticky, sour candies to Wild Cherry Pepsi and Mountain Dew, Do's sweet tooth started when she was a child and has haunted her dental life. "It's definitely ironic that I chose dentistry," Do said. "All of my friends and family know how much I love candy, and they can't wrap their heads around the idea that I am a dentist."


Though she gave her dentist plenty of work, the experience of going to the dentist became very comfortable for her. Unlike many other children, the dentist's office was exciting
to her. "What stands out most for me is how everyone at the office was so nice and how much I enjoyed going there," she said. Here was a playroom with molar-shaped chairs, colorful blocks, and an abacus toy. And unlike her home, there weren't six other children constantly trying to take her toys when she was playing with them. There were even prizes after treatments!


The constant cavities also gave her an early source of inspiration: "As a teenager, I was really tired of getting cavities. I was eating the same amount of candy as my siblings but I was always the one that would end up having the most cavities. I was frustrated and wanted to learn more about the caries process and what I could do to prevent myself from getting more cavities."


This drive to learn about her own dental problems led Do to college and later dental school. At, of course, Temple University.


"I knew very early on in my dental school education that I really enjoyed working with children. I was also very interested in cosmetic dentistry. I knew, as a general dentist, I would still be able to treat children along with doing cosmetic dentistry," Do said. "After a year of private practice though, I found that my best days were those days when I treated mostly children, and that solidified my decision to apply to a pediatric dental residency."


And so Do returned once again to Temple University: "When I made the decision to pursue a pediatric dental residency, Episcopal
was at the top of my list. I did a one week externship prior to interviewing, and the feelings
I had while walking back into the clinic were surreal. I felt chills, as I pictured myself as a young patient walking through the very same halls. I knew I had to do my best to get into the program."


Episcopal Hospital has hardly changed since her childhood. The dental clinic has relocated to another building, but the other buildings remain, as does the black metal gate she remembers. "The clinic has been updated since my childhood but the overwhelming sense of nostalgia I have about Episcopal remains unchanged," Do said.


This nostalgia and her cavity-plagued childhood have helped Do to connect with her young patients. "Being a child at heart, I feel most comfortable when interacting with children. I have many nieces and nephews so I've had my fair share of practice," Do said. "I can absolutely empathize with my patients when it comes to treatment. I know what it feels like to be numb and how it feels to have fillings and other restorations placed. I think it gives me more patience when dealing with very apprehensive patients. The dental office can be a scary place for children, and my job is to try to make it a quick, painless and enjoyable experience."


Do is looking to work as an associate in a group practice in the area when she completes her program. Philadelphia is home, her family is all still there, and she's come a long way while rooted. She's grown to become the sort of practitioner that once put her at ease in the same place.


Even if she still sneaks the occasional Sour Patch Kid.