Life as a New Dentist — Veterans Administration
The ADA is made up of individuals — here’s one of them.
Who are you? I’m Dr. Rebecca Berry. I’m a proud member of the Class of 2011 of Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and I work for the Veterans Administration health care system in a community-based outpatient clinic in Bangor, Maine.
If you could have any job OTHER THAN dentistry, what would it be? Well it would definitely involve living in London. I spent a month there during undergrad, and I fell in love with the city. Moving there was my fallback plan if I didn’t get into dental school. Who knows what adventures would happen if I moved abroad?
Why did you choose working for the VA? I completed an AEGD at the main dental clinic in Augusta, Maine and I had a lot of encouragement to apply for this position. Some of that time there was a second dentist, but often it’s just been me. I meet up with my dentist colleagues once a week to discuss cases, and I always have someone I can call if I have a question. Being in the clinic on my own really helped me to grow as a dentist.
Biggest surprise so far about this position? I’m the first dentist in my family, so I didn’t have a lot of pre-conceived ideas. Definitely the best surprise has been all the gifts of food from my patients. Homemade pumpkin chocolate chip whoopee pies, 50 pounds of potatoes, moose meat — I really do have the best patients.
What’s your schedule like? I have a four-day week, and each day lasts ten hours. I really like this kind of schedule! I start and end my day with something straightforward, like a denture step or an exam. Then the rest of the day is a mix of surgery, operative, prosthetics and endo. We get a lot of emergency patients as well. It’s never dull!
What are you doing for fun? I enjoy cooking and I’m happy to make an effort to put together a good meal. Fitness is important but I get bored easily. I just did the Tough Mudder obstacle course and I also go to aquafit where I am easily the youngest person by 25 years. And it turns out that I miss academia, so I’ve been taking free, online courses just for fun.
Any advice for someone considering this career path? Do a residency with the VA to see if you like it. It’s very different from private practice. For me it’s a good fit.
What are your plans for the future? I’m very happy at VA. I love working with the veterans; they are very appreciative of the care we provide. I have a great team and my direct supervisor is very supportive so I feel lucky in that regard. My plan is to stay for at least 20 years. If I decide to explore other interests then I’ll still have plenty of time to go down a new path before I hit my 50th birthday!
Interested in sharing your experience as a new dentist? If you are fewer than ten years out of dental school we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.