Resident Reflections on COVID-19

Dr. Amanda Albin, DMD
Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2020

I and several of my co-residents recently graduated from our orthodontic residency amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While the circumstances of our graduation were hardly ideal, I have been constantly impressed by everyone’s resilience and dedication during this difficult time. I am extremely grateful to my program director, my attendings, and my co-residents who made it possible to continue our training and education under challenging conditions. More importantly, the Stony Brook team has been a support system during this ordeal. Each morning, we started off our virtual seminar by checking in with each other and addressing any concerns that we may have. During quarantine, it could be easy to feel isolated from our coworkers, but we have demonstrated that we are truly a family who takes care of each other.

I am sad to be unable to say farewell to the patients and parents with whom I have built a relationship for the past few years. Our hard work in clinic as third years has unfortunately come to an abrupt end, but I am grateful to be joining a profession that promotes lifelong learning. Though there is uncertainty of the effects that the pandemic will have on our profession, I am certain that, thanks to my educators, I will be prepared for whatever the future holds.

The typical graduation festivities may be on hold due to the pandemic, but when the profession fully “reopens,” I cannot wait to join my attendings and fellow graduates as colleagues.

Dr. Safeer Jiwa, DMD
Boston University School of Dental Medicine, Class of 2020

It is the morning of your thesis defense. You wake up early to iron your suit jacket and shirt, but what about your pants? Prior to this year, every other orthodontist likely ironed their entire outfit. However, for this year’s class, it was optional by being held online. I ironed it anyways, but it did cross my mind to possibly swap them for a pair of joggers. This was just one instance where the culmination of my orthodontic degree would vastly differ from my predecessors’.

Seminars migrated online, but clinical education seized. One could say the inability to see patients was unfair and a slight robbery of my final educational experience before being tossed into the real world. However, the concept of fairness is irrelevant when dealing with an uncontrollable change. Instead, a lesson of preparedness, active leadership, and ethical decision making became the forefront of the final months of my formal education. This could be the greatest lesson of them all, all while not having skin in the game.

A graduate before the Tweed era could pout at never formally learning extraction mechanics, or similarly graduating before the advent of clear aligners. However, those that thrived did so by learning to adapt. The pandemic will likely be an accelerant of change for the future of healthcare. The vicissitude of this time has reminded me of my responsibility, as part of the new generation of orthodontists, to consume worldly knowledge to improve to better serve our patients. Nassim Taleb, an essayist and former options trader, mentions that the resilient can maintain during disruption while the anti-fragile can elevate. Therefore, this wrench in my education is rather another learning experience on the quest for anti-fragility.