2 Jul 2019 My Life as an IMU Dental Student: A Journey to Self-Discovery
During my secondary school and college years, I didn’t have everything thought out and planned, unlike some of my other friends. I knew I had some interest in the field of health sciences, but even then, there were an array of options, each promising good future prospect. Having been brought up in a family of mostly pharmacists, the natural choice was that I became one too. So, when the time came closer for me to choose, I was pretty much set on studying pharmacy.
Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to do a short stint of internship as a dental assistant during the weekends. It was for charity anyway and it was something very foreign to me at that time. Surprise, surprise, I was captivated by the dentists skilfully manoeuvring the oral cavity and interacting with the patient while helping them resolve their pain and discomfort. It was challenging work which requires expertise in communication, art and science. At that moment, I wanted to challenge myself to study dentistry.
So, with my forecast A levels results, I had to look at all my options and apply to a few universities. I wasn’t sure if my results were good enough for dentistry as I have heard that entering dental school is extremely competitive. I tried my luck applying to IMU as well as a few other universities as I would like to keep my options open. I did my research and asked around for opinions and found that IMU had one of the best reputation in health sciences and their graduates are very sought after upon graduation. So, I took a leap of faith and chose to study dentistry at IMU, and the rest is history.
I would describe my time in IMU as a really long and crazy roller coaster ride. There were ups and downs, and times where things got a little overwhelming that you just can’t resist the urge of getting off the ride. The lecturers always set very high expectations on us and it was difficult juggling between patients, lab work and studies.
I fondly remember the frustration I had while training on the dummy during my preclinical years. We had to spend countless of hours carving miniscule cavities on plastic tooth using indirect vision on the tiniest mouth mirror. I would often try to rush through to submit my work for evaluation only to be rejected because of some minor imperfections. There was once where I was drilling the plastic tooth and accidentally nicked an area. I got lazy and tried to complete the work hoping that the lecturer would miss it.
Surprisingly, the lecturer could spot the mistake from a mile away with just a quick glance! She told me quite frankly that this is not the quality of work I usually produce and she was willing to sign it off as a pass if I wanted to give up. Her frankness stroked a chord in me and I didn’t want to give up until I could do it properly. I knew then that I had to improve to the standard set upon us and there were no shortcuts to take in dentistry. On hindsight, the rigorous training was necessary as we would go on to clinical years treating actual patients at the clinic.
IMU had definitely supported me immensely throughout my studies. Since day one, students were assigned a mentor who we could refer to for advice and help. I was extremely fortunate to have a dedicated mentor who I could go to for help on personal and work-related queries.
|During my semester break, IMU had help to arrange for students to carry out elective posting in foreign countries. It was refreshing for me to see and experience a different culture and dental setting in more advanced countries. It gave me a chance to broaden my knowledge beyond the confines of Malaysia and provided an insight into the current and future direction of dentistry. The strong relationship IMU had with the foreign universities and organisations meant that everything ran smoothly, and we were well received throughout our posting. After our posting, we often extended our trip to travel around the country.|
I actively participated in extra-curricular activities during my studies as I believe it helps built a more well-rounded individual. Since my passion is in helping the community through dentistry, I had committed my time off in doing charity work. It is fulfilling to see what dentists can achieve by giving back to the society through their service. I particularly enjoyed helping the special needs community in a vocational training school. It was an eye-opening experience seeing how a small act of kindness can go a long way. Besides, I was active in the Malaysian Dental Student Association (MDSA) during my third year and we managed to pull off a successful nationwide event held at IMU for dental students.
By sheer luck, I was assigned to two extremely dedicated supervisors for my undergraduate research thesis which is compulsory for every dental student in their fourth year. They helped spark my interest in dental research and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. I presented my work in the national and regional stage. Presenting in front of a hall full of really smart people is a nerve-wracking experience and I still have chills thinking back about it. I was ecstatic when I won the second place in a regional competition for oral presentation on my work in endodontics.
|Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr Sulaiman Daud Merit Award|
|Distinguished Performance in Phase II Award sponsored by Q&M Dental Group|
|Distinguished Performance in Community Oral Health Promotion sponsored by Listerine, Johnson & Johnson|
|Distinguished Performance in Community Care Award sponsored by Dr Ng Jet Wei|
(Note: V Ren was also in the Dean’s List of Graduands with High Academic Achievement)
When I first got the call that I was awarded with the prestigious award of being top of the class, it was with a sense of disbelief! I had not expected or dreamt of winning this award as my batchmates were all extraordinary and exceptional in their work. I would always admire some of my colleagues who would share their knowledge and clinical work through our discussion, hoping that I could achieve their level of artistry one day.
Since the beginning, I had never set my goal to win any awards as I had always doubted my capabilities. Winning this award has left me feeling humbled knowing that my consistent hard work and perseverance had paid off. I am extremely honored to receive the recognition from the School of Dentistry and hope to live up to the school’s expectation to be an exemplary dentist.
My motivation to achieve excellence was and always will be my patients. I strive to improve myself everyday so that my patients can get the best treatment. Their trust they put in me to serve as their clinician is what drives me and I am forever grateful to them. Besides learning from my patients, IMU’s style of self-directed learning has taught me to not rely on spoon-feeding and to be an independent learner. As the saying goes: ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Graduating with a Bachelors of Dental Surgery degree from IMU has truly been a period of self-discovery and has taught me to see things from a different perspective.
My advice to those interested in studying dentistry is to really make sure you like dentistry before diving into the course. Let me give you fair warning that It is a grueling course that will drain you both physically and mentally. However, it can also turn out to be the most rewarding career. Be prepared by gathering information online or assist a dentist for a day or two to see whether you are suitable for such a line of work. Being detail-oriented and having good manual dexterity is a plus point.
I believe that, currently, dentistry is fast becoming a saturated market in Malaysia and there is stiff competition to practice especially in the cities. Still, don’t be disheartened. Be proactive in learning, strive to improve your skills and be the best version of yourself. There will always be a need for compassionate and skilled dentist in the community.
For now, I am taking a short break while waiting for my government posting. During the weekdays, I spend most of my time working in a corporate company, improving my soft-skills and earning some pocket money. During the weekends, I actively participate in dental conferences as well as doing charity work through dental assisting. I’m still unsure of my future plans. What I am sure of is that I will serve my compulsory service in the government sector after my convocation and will see how things goes from there. The common pathways after that would be to continue serving in the government sector, enter a private practice, or to undertake postgraduate studies. I am keeping my options open as the field of dentistry is as broad as the horizon; contrary to what most people think.
Coming to the end of my 5 year-long roller coaster ride, I can’t help but to feel fortunate to have joined IMU. I deeply cherish all the memories made with my batchmates, dental technicians, dental nurses and most importantly my lecturers who I miss very dearly. I am immensely grateful for all their help and guidance along the way. Truthfully, without their support, I would not have graduated, let alone win this award. I am really proud of being an alumus of IMU.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and may IMU School of Dentistry continue to break new grounds and boundaries!
Written by Lim V Ren