Dentistry: A Blend of Art and Science Q&A with Gary Bedrosian ’11
Hamiltonians often speak of two similar themes:
1. Hamiltonians are involved in diverse studies and interests.
2. A liberal arts education focusing on effective communication, really does matter.
These two themes drew me in and rang true from the outset. Everyone is passionate about something, involved in sports, clubs, a cappella groups, etc. You will hear repeatedly from alumni the importance of this to their education. I love Hamilton’s community and involvement.
I entered Hamilton knowing I wanted to be a dentist, but also wanting the flexibility of Hamilton’s open curriculum and the opportunity to get involved in many activities. At Hamilton, I played soccer, majored in biology with a Spanish minor, took art classes, and studied abroad in Ecuador. Many of my dental school classmates did not have these diverse learning opportunities, had never taken a written or oral exam, and had never given a presentation. My classmates from larger universities excelled at multiple choice tests, but were often challenged by presenting complex material in an accessible way to patients. My experiences at Hamilton gave me a critical foundation for effectively communicating with patients as well as applying didactic material in clinical settings.
I was attracted to dentistry in high school after my mom, who is an emergency room physician, suggested I consider it. I was naturally drawn to the medical field and enjoyed biology and chemistry, but my mom encouraged me to consider dentistry over medicine because it had benefits that were not available to her: more control of your schedule, less invasive procedures, less serious patient complications, a more streamlined educational and residency path, more accessible options for owning your own business, and a great work life balance. Dentistry is unique because it requires blending art, medicine, and science to find the best solution for the person sitting in front of you. You get to work with your hands to restore a broken tooth, relieve pain, or simply examine everything closely during an examination. Again, I think dentistry provides a great blend of working with your hands, mental stimulation while solving problems, and interacting directly with people.
After dental school, I completed a general dental residency at a hospital, but ultimately chose to specialize in orthodontics. Orthodontics attracted me because it is unique in the medical field in that you get to take healthy teeth and make them even better. So many other clinical medical fields focus on a disease process, but orthodontics allows problem-solving in a way that patients can easily see and appreciate with their improved bite and smile.
Work-life balance that pays your student loans
Dentistry and orthodontics are consistently ranked as some of the top professions in the U.S. This is because of a combination of a high salary, low stress levels, low unemployment rate, and good outlook on the profession. The typical dentist schedule involves seeing patients 4 days a week with regular hours, with the other administrative time being flexible. Compensation allows confidence that you will be able to pay your student loans, be able to support a family, and pursue diverse hobbies. These factors are all true, and I am incredibly grateful I found such a great career.
Now practicing as an orthodontist, I can literally create smiles for a living and help patients find their confidence with beautiful and healthy teeth. At the same time, it provides me with a regular schedule and days off where I can explore Vermont’s Green Mountains while backcountry skiing, hiking, and trying local food.
How do you find out what’s right?
First, just put yourself out there and explore your interests. Contacting alumni and other connections is a must. As soon as I started reaching out to local and Hamiltonian dentists, a web of connections made it easy to get a range of opinions, specialties, and styles of practicing. It was very encouraging to shadow dentists who were enthusiastic about their profession after practicing for decades, and they gladly opened their doors so that I could learn as much as I could. It is important to see what a job actually looks like in the day-to-day, rather than how you might envision it on paper. All the dentists I spent time with were happy and genuinely enjoyed their profession, which gave me the confidence that I would, too.
Don’t get discouraged
College is busy and can be loaded with pressure to figure out the rest of your life before you graduate. Keep exploring what you want to do and listen to your advisors. But also get guidance from a diverse range of sectors and people. I chose to spend a year in between Hamilton and dental school to work as an orthodontic assistant while going through the dental school application process. It was wonderful to have a break from formal education and allowed me to enter dental school with more energy, enthusiasm, and confidence in the choice I was making. I recommend taking this time before graduate school to not only take a break from academics, but also to ensure that graduate school is truly the next best step for you.
It’s easier said than done, but try not to be intimidated by the academic rigors of Hamilton or a graduate school path. I remember being told in high school by my college counselor that Hamilton would be a far reach to get into. Sometimes I felt mediocre at Hamilton because it was so academically demanding. After Hamilton, I was worried I may not be accepted into any dental school, but I ended up with interviews at 11 out of the 13 schools I applied to. Later, I was told during dental school orientation that I could no longer expect to get good grades because everyone in our class had been at the top of their college class to get there. But ultimately I got considerably better grades in dental school than at Hamilton. Finally, I was worried that I would never be accepted into an orthodontic residency because it is so competitive. But in the end, it all worked out. The point is that so many of us have these stories and these doubts, but ultimately we find ways to reach our goals. Once you find your passion, pursue it with determination, and you will not regret it.