Global Health Nexus, Summer 2002

Time Well Spent: A Harvard Student at NYU Dentistry

By Susan Han
Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2003

In 1999, I took a year off from my dental studies at Harvard to try to find out what the future of dentistry holds. I can say without hesitation that if there is one school that epitomizes the future of dentistry, it is the NYU College of Dentistry.

The first thing that struck me about NYU Dentistry was a feeling of boundless energy. From the moment I entered the Schwartz Lobby, I felt myself caught up in an exhilarating whirl of activity that mirrored the rhythms of the College’s New York City location. Just like New York City, things move quickly at NYU Dentistry. But despite the excitement and edginess of the environment, a clear sense of purpose quickly emerged: To deliver the most progressive dental education program possible, serve the needs of New York’s diverse, dynamic patient populations in the most effective and efficient way possible, and foster research to meet the needs of an ever-changing world.

Each day I found myself inspired by the array of new initiatives, from Dean Alfano’s campaign to focus public awareness on the importance of oral cancer screenings to Dr. Stuart Super performing dramatic facial reconstructive surgery on patients with congenital abnormalities to the launching of the Smiling Faces, Going Places mobile dental care program to Dr. Racquel LeGeros’s investigations into the impact of ethnicity on oral health status—the list goes on and on.

There was not one moment during the year that I felt unchallenged. Everything at NYU Dentistry is always changing, growing, evolving into something better, something stronger. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the people I met were always willing to persevere, try a new approach, and put in additional time to advance the College’s objectives. It is that impression of innovation, dedication, and determination that I took back with me to Harvard. To say that my experience at NYU Dentistry has been a constant source of inspiration to me since my return to Harvard would be a gross understatement.

One of my last duties at NYU Dentistry was to act as an usher at the Graduation Ceremony featuring a keynote address by U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. I remember listening to his eloquent remarks and feeling such an immense sense of pride—not only in being a part of the dental community, but, for a brief period, being a part of the NYU Dentistry community. There are days when dental school can feel overwhelming. But my experiences at NYU Dentistry have kept me motivated to finish dental school and to make my own contributions to dentistry, even perhaps someday as a faculty member at NYU Dentistry.