During the year of 2014, I experienced some of the most challenging events in my life. My dental school “plan” was not going the way I expected and my personal life was also suffering. When the clock hit midnight on Dec. 31, 2014, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder as I knew 2015 would be the most memorable year to date.
To start the year, I surrounded myself outside of school with some of the most amazing people that have encouraged me along the last few months of my journey to become a dentist. I attended my last ASDA District 9 meeting in Colorado. ASDA fever and respect for organized dentistry had grown exponentially and this meeting was the prime example of that growth. The first month of 2015 ended with completing my third half marathon with my best time yet.
I had also made the decision not to pursue any of the GPR programs I interviewed for as none of them piqued my interest as much as private practice. In the next few months, I worked tirelessly to finish requirements in order to graduate on time, as well as pin down a job after graduation. In February, I met Barbara Ames, the practice administrator of my current practice. She was stunning and somewhat intimidating. Dr. Duke Ho, my mentor, explained to me that Barbara’s opinion of me was more important than any of the owner docs combined. Passing the Barbara test may have been harder than taking National Boards parts I and II. Luckily, my wit and charisma somehow won her over as I received a final contract within the next few months.
In April, I attended a wedding of a friend and a new dentist (3 years ahead of me) where she put “Dr. Katie Sowa” on my place card. She explained to me it was her way of encouraging me to make it through the final few weeks of dental school torture, including my licensure exam.
I scrambled to find patients for the Western Regional Examining Board. My off-site rotation schedule was so hectic that I did not meet my WREB perio patient until the day of WREB. Of course, I met the patient’s X-rays and medical history prior to this, but I put all my faith in a classmate who was willing to share her patient (thanks Brianna, I still owe you).
Alas, graduation day and finding out I passed WREB arrived mid-May. Of course, we partied as I celebrated new beginnings. Shortly after graduation, my mentor was inducted as Greater Houston Dental Society president. This rekindled my desire to do well within organized dentistry and to protect our profession.
When I started work at Welch Dental Group in Katy, Texas, the first three weeks consisted mainly of shadowing all four of the dentists to see how the practice flows. On July 16, I received my license and started completing hygiene exams. The nerves were forced to subside quickly as I was expected to be confident in my diagnosis. Every day has been a learning process. I’ve become faster, learned how to diagnosis non-descript pain, and of course tested my limits as a provider.
We have had plenty of social events within the office to help build relationships among all of the staff. In November, our office was given the distinct pleasure to host Greater Houston Dental Society’s first Veterans Smile Day. This event, co-chaired by Dr. Michelle Aguilos and Dr. Wendall Dela Cruz, brought over 100 veterans to our office on a Saturday in order to perform dental services free of charge. A large number of our staff volunteered to participate with other dentists, oral surgeons, dental and predental students to make this day a success. Serving those who serve our country to protect our freedom should be done more frequently and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to volunteer with this event.
As the year comes to a close, I can reflect on what has truly been the best year of my life. I’ve finally achieved my goal in becoming a dentist and look forward to setting new goals to excel within the profession. Though I’m still learning to balance work and my personal life, I’ve found the right person to help make this easy for me. And of course I far exceeded my goals in the CrossFit world by maxing out at over 200lbs on my deadlift.
Happy New Year and may 2016 be your best year ever!
Dr. Katie Sowa is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. She grew up in Houston and recently graduated from The University of Texas School of Dentistry in 2015. Katie is a general dentist in a large group practice in Katy, Texas (a quick 25 minute commute from Houston). When she’s not working or staying involved with the Greater Houston Dental Society and the Texas Dental Association, she’s usually posting pictures of her miniature Australian shepherd puppy or her CrossFit workouts.