Congratulations to UCLA School of Dentistry (SOD) graduate Troy Monson who matched with the Lackland Air Force Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery program. Read on for his Match Day 2021 story, and how Troy used Picmonic for the CBSE.
Hello everyone! My name is Troy. My story might be slightly different from normal. I am a dental student at the UCLA School of Dentistry (SOD). Within the several specialties the dental field offers, Oral and Maxillofacial surgery requires applicants to take a test similar to Step 1 called the Comprehensive Basic Science Exam (CBSE). While UCLA SOD does offer a strong education, most of the classes don’t have the time to dive deep into medicine. That’s where study aids like Picmonic came into play.
Balancing all our dental classes and lab work while studying the more in-depth medical curriculum is quite challenging, but using Picmonic for the CBSE was definitely a lifesaver!
I was fortunate to match into the Lackland Air Force Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery program. I was sitting in the hallway at UCLA when my Match Day email came. And…technical difficulties arose. The contents of arguably the most important email of my life to date wouldn’t open.
After an hour of nervous waiting, it finally came. And, I matched! It was such a huge relief. Like many students, this was years of hard work. Lots of sacrifice and effort had been poured into this one accomplishment. It was like taking a deep breath of relief. I quickly called my wife and family to relay the great news.
Steps for Success in Dental School
- Earn a competitive score on CBSE (or Step 1). Hint: I used Picmonic for the CBSE.
- Be involved in leadership, service, education, and research.
- Build professional relationships with those whom you would want to request letters of recommendation. Particularly, those who are already employed in the specialty you want to pursue.
- If possible, visit the program and get to know the program director. Also, ask the residents a lot about the workings of the program.
I’m sure there are a lot of similarities for both medical and dental students as they study for Step 1 and or CBSE. For my success, it boiled down to time. Putting in the work each and every day and being consistent. It’s safe to say there are more study materials out there than most people can handle, so it’s important to find what works for you to not overwhelm yourself.
Using Picmonic for the CBSE was a lifesaver when it came to taking in a ton of information and retaining it for longer than before.
Each day I would slowly increase the number of Picmonics I would remember until I was averaging around 100 facts. My steps to success for the CBSE were a combination of using First Aid, Picmonics, Boards and Beyond, and UWorld. Each day I would try to average around six hours of dedicated study outside of my dental school and other life responsibilities.
Being involved sometimes can be overwhelming. From my experience, and also talking to friends and colleagues from several different programs, they care more about quality rather than quantity. It’s better to be truly involved in a few extracurriculars than being involved in a lot and have accomplished very little in each. All my interviews brought up at least one of my extracurriculars and they wanted to know a lot about my role and accomplishments in that organization. Pick what interests you most because you’ll enjoy it more and produce better quality work.
Finding mentors early is critical. Sure, they’ll write you a better letter, but more importantly, they can offer very important advice and guidance throughout school and beyond. I was surprised about how the members of a specialty all seemed to know each other. I would be in an interview in another state and they would ask how their colleague at UCLA was doing. If you develop a good reputation, it could go a long way when members of a specialty talk. Ultimately, make sure to be genuine and find a mentor with whom you work well.
I decided to use my short breaks to visit the programs I was most interested in. This paid off big time because not only did the programs know who I was when applying, but when the pandemic started, visiting the programs was no longer an option. After my externships, sending them a thank you card or email helped show my gratitude and kept the lines of communication open.
Tips and Tricks for Success in Dental School
- Start early. Using your time wisely and staying organized is important. These applications can’t be rushed. I served on the UCLA SOD admissions committee for two years and the applicants who had a strong history of involvement were more favorable.
- Find a study partner. Having someone to motivate you during long and tiring days will help you to stay focused. Together, you can navigate the application and prepare for interviews. Having someone who’s going through a similar experience will most likely help you to succeed and keep you on track.
- Properly assess your study improvement. It can be difficult when you feel like you are not improving. Taking a baseline exam at the beginning of your studying and throughout, can help you to see how much you are improving and where you still need help. I preferred to use UWorld’s questions on random rather than by section to prevent me from predicting the answer.
- Schedule. Being organized and having goals will never hurt. I would schedule my study efforts, practice tests, when I wanted to visit a program, when I would apply, when I would ask for letters of recommendation, and much more. Even if you don’t make all your goals, having a big picture of what is required will help decrease your stress and increase your productivity. I envisioned all the steps I would need to take to reach my goal of matching, and then I planned them.
- Don’t give up. Most people going through this process have doubts. This path is not easy and will take a lot of effort, but you can do it! Stay consistent, take breaks as needed, and work hard. It will be well worth it!
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