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Specialty pathway Q&A: Oral pathology

Dr. Emily Lanzel likes solving puzzles. It’s a simple enough hobby and a simple enough reason why she pursued oral pathology.

Dr. Lanzel

Dr. Lanzel

“Each case is a new puzzle,” said Dr. Lanzel, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.

Dr. Lanzel holds a master’s degree and a certificiate in oral and maxillofacial pathology from the University of Iowa, where she also received her dental degree. In addition, she has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The ADA New Dentist News asked Dr. Lanzel about the details that went into her decision to pursue a specialty.

Here is a summary of the conversation:

Q. How and when did you choose to pursue oral pathology?

A. Dentistry is a wonderful profession, but from day one, I was not cut out for general dentistry. I loved the basic science courses, had a passion for studying and a dislike of using my hands. I would much rather take a test than cut a crown prep. I fell in love with oral pathology my second year of dental school during our oral pathology course.

Luckily, the course was taught by one of the greatest educators and nicest people I have ever met, Dr. Mike Finkelstein, and he fostered my interest. There was no going back from there.

When it came time to apply for residency, I weighed the positive and negatives — professionally and personally — and decided to follow my passion for pathology and academics.

Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I have made, and I have no regrets.

Q. How would you describe some of the benefits or challenges of pursuing a
specialty?

A. By far, the benefit of pursing something I was truly passionate about far outweighed the challenges. But, the job market for oral pathology is a definite challenge. The jobs are not plentiful and, unlike general dentistry, you can’t go just anywhere to practice.

Q. What factors did you consider and what resources did you use to help you make this decision?

A. The best resource was talking to current residents and practicing pathologists to get information about residency cost, job outlook, day-today life during residency, etc. I probably should have done more investigating of the pros/cons than I did, but nothing was going to keep me away from studying oral pathology at that point. I also spent three weeks between my third and fourth year of dental school in the oral pathology department experiencing what the residency was like.

Q. What else should dentists know when considering pursuing a specialty?

A. If there is a specialty you are interested in, see if you can do an externship or job shadow within the department to get a better feel of what you would be getting into. Also, choose a specialty/ job that you can see yourself doing every day and still love it.

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