November 2020 Volume LV Number 6

 
 
 
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Resident's Corner

November 2020 Volume LV Number 6

Military Service and Dentistry
By Dr. Michelle P. Zin, D.D.S.
 
As a pediatric dentistry resident in Augusta, Ga., I often get asked where I am from when I meet new people. When I tell them that I’m from Southern California, I often get a surprised look of astonishment of how a girl from the West Coast found herself across the country living the South. My journey to pedi- atric dentistry has been somewhat nontraditional but incred- ibly rewarding.
 
I was born in Myanmar and immigrated to Southern California with my family when I was 9-years old. Since my father is a general dentist, I always had an interest in dentistry and was drawn to the personable and service aspects of the profession. After college, I was fortunate to be accepted into dental school at University of Southern California. After the initial excitement and thrill of realizing my dreams of becoming a dentist would be coming true, the cost and financial burden of dental educa- tion also weighed heavily on me.
 
After assessing my options, I applied to the Army Health Profes- sions Scholarship Program (HPSP) and was awarded the schol- arship. During my second year in dental school, I soon realized my passion for pediatrics after volunteering at our monthly mobile clinics and participating in dental mission trips abroad to Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala. Because of my commit- ment to the HPSP program, I was unable to pursue a pediatric residency right after graduation. However, I was accepted into the Army 12 Month AEGD program at Fort Benning, Georgia.
 
While I was apprehensive and anxious to be moving away from home and living on the other side of the country, I was also excited about new opportunities and the new environment.
 
Living in Georgia for the first few months was a culture shock but it allowed me to appreciate the small-town lifestyle and the community aspect of the military. My AEGD education was unparalleled due to the guidance and instruction of my men- tors. I had the opportunity to learn from top specialists in their fields, utilize state of the art technology and was continually challenged to provide the best clinical care. My AEGD residency also taught me resiliency, discipline, commitment and learning to cope with new challenges physically and mentally.
 
After residency, I was stationed in Arlington, Va., to serve and treat our nation’s military men and women serving in the Pen- tagon and the National Capitol region. Because of my interest in pediatrics, my commander provided me with the opportu- nity to work with and shadow two pediatric dentists at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. My involvement further solidified my passion for pediatrics after experiencing and car- ing for special needs patients and children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I also appreciated the interdisciplin- ary aspect of pediatric dentistry and how we must work closely with other health care professionals in order to provide the best comprehensive care for our patients.
 
As my commitment with the military was coming to an end, I never lost sight of my drive and desire to work with the pedi- atric population. My progression in the military as a general dentist enabled me to become a better clinician and hone my clinical skills. It also allowed me to work with a diverse popula- tion and learn more about my patients’ unique experiences of serving and defending our country. As I start my final year in pediatric residency and reflect back on my journey, I real- ize how thankful I am to have had this experience and train- ing in the military which has taught me to provide superior care to our pediatric patients. The military has challenged me both personally and professionally. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone and forced me to persevere through un- familiar situations and environments. These life lessons not only made me a better clinician, but also a more well-rounded provider because of my experiences in working and caring for our diverse military population. Behavior management and effective communication with parents are a huge aspect of pediatric dentistry and my military background has allowed me to understand, empathize and connect better with my patients and their families in residency. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve our nation and provide dental care to our men and women in uniform. I have gained lifelong lessons and friendships and this journey has allowed me to embrace chal- lenges and welcome new opportunities.
 
Dr. Michelle P. Zin, D.D.S., is currently a second-year pediatric resident at The Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University. She grew up in southern California and completed her undergraduate education at University of California, Irvine in 2010. After receiving her D.D.S. degree from University of Southern California in 2015, she served in the United States Army as a Commissioned Dental Officer from 2015-2019. During her active duty service, she completed a 1-yr residency in Advance Education in General Dentistry at Fort Benning, Ga., in 2016, and was stationed in Fort Myer, Va., from 2016-2019. She enjoys hiking, traveling and learning to cook new recipes.

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