Thasnima Begum
Dentistry - GRADUATED
My name is Thasnima, I'm a 3rd year dental student and I'm currently living at home. I'm a student ambassador and events support organiser for Queen Mary and also a mentor in a secondary school :)

Starting as I mean to go on…

Week one of fourth year is over! I already feel like I’m drowning in work. It’s only been 5 days and I’ve already written and handed in one case report, booked two patient appointments, done 3 days of placement, sat through six lectures andddd started revising for my third year finals exams (our finals exams are in November for some weird reason).

I’m trying to put everything I’ve learnt over the last 3 years into use. So here are a few of the mistakes and what I’ve changed because of them:

In first year I did fairly well in a mock exam and then I became quite complacent and thought I could revise 80 lectures in 10 days for the real exam. This was not a wise idea. This year I’ve made my notes well in advance and started revising early so I have time to go over things. Also since we don’t have study leave I’ll be doing most of my revision in the evenings which cuts down my time pretty drastically.

Usually when it comes to summer exams everything else in life pretty much shuts down. Most university societies go into hibernation. However, November exams mean the rest of the world is still awake and there’s no point waiting to get involved in stuff in the summer because it all dies down! This year I’m part of the qmessenger editing team so I’ll have to do my bit for that. I’m also helping out at the Queen Mary open day and hopefully I’ll be part of the Saving faces society committee. Time management is key; there’s 24 hours in a day – use them wisely.

There’s that slight sense of panic when you forget to book in your patients until 2 days before and then it’s too short notice. This year I’m going to make sure I book as many of my sessions well in advance so I don’t have to worry about it all the time!

Requirements. Requirements. Requirements. That all too familiar word for dental students. However much you want to care about the patient. And believe me when I say I really do. Requirements are what life comes down to in the end. This year I’m going to try and finish them as early as possible! That might be easier said than done but we’ll see how it goes.

Basically the aim of this year is to be more organised so for me that means incessant list making. I’ve already made mine for this weekend. Let’s hope it’s a productive one.

Working on Campus

These days it’s pretty difficult to get a part-time job. And while it’s difficult for the average Joe, it’s near enough impossible for a pessimist like me. For a while I was stuck in a cycle of: I don’t have any money-> I should get a job-> It’s so hard to get a job-> I’d have to fill in hundreds of applications-> I probably still won’t get a job-> What’s the point?-> Still unemployed-> Back to the start. It doesn’t help that the dentistry timetable is so erratic. Some weeks you get days off and other weeks you don’t. A lot of people get Saturday jobs but I figured I don’t want to commit to a job and give up all my Saturdays.

So I want a flexible job that allows me to do shifts during the week and isn’t too far from the campus and isn’t mind-numbingly boring. Doesn’t sound like I’ll be making any money soon, right? Wrong! Every year Queen Mary UoL has a work experience fair in the Octagon in the Queen’s building. Here they advertise a variety of on campus jobs and volunteering opportunities. These include administrative jobs, mentoring and university ambassador work. Many of the opportunities are for paid work and the timetables are flexible making them perfect to mould around your lectures and seminars. Even if you miss the fair, the Queen Mary website has a brilliant careers section where you can find all the details about the jobs and how to apply.

I’ve been working as a student ambassador, which is a paid position, at Queen Mary since my first year. It’s given me the opportunity to work at open days, UCAS conventions and do campus tours. On top of that I’ve been contacted for other random jobs like admin in an office, working at graduation and writing this blog! This year I also signed up to be a mentor. This involved travelling out to a school where the number of students going on to higher education is low and mentoring some of them. And for next year I’ve signed up to be part of the university magazine and newspaper.

My point is that there are hundreds of opportunities for work experience on campus that it’s near impossible not to find something that interests you. You just have to look out for it.

The First Patient

Dentistry is a unique degree in that as students we carry out treatment independently on patients as part of the course. All the treatment we do is overseen by qualified members of staff but in the end the drill’s in our hands which can be scary!

We first started going into clinics in our first year but we worked in groups of three; the dentist, the patient and the nurse. This helped us get used to the chair and the tools and mostly just looking into people’s mouths. The tutors walk around and literally pick on everything – how to position the light or position your own chair or even hold the instruments!

The next step is to go to a series of communication skills seminars which sound really pointless but are actually quite useful. We did loads of role plays pretending to be dentists and difficult patients. Going to these made me realise how easy it is to get carried away talking in dental jargon, which we’re so used to using, that the patients won’t understand.

So near the end of second year was the first time we saw our own ‘real’ patients for a check up appointment. No matter how much the tutors tried to convince us we were ready it still felt like I had no idea what to do. It wasn’t so much that I felt like I was going to hurt the patient but more that my mind would go blank and I wouldn’t know what to say next or that I would somehow offend the patient accidentally.

Turns out it was just as the tutor said it would be; my patient was absolutely lovely, the tutor was so helpful and whole experience was pretty fun! Bring on the next three years!

British Dental Conference 2013

Every year the British Dental Association puts together a huge 3 day conference with an exhibition and talks led by experts in fields all over dentistry. The event is open to all qualified dentists, dental therapists and dental students. And luckily for us students it’s free entry!

This year it was held at London ExCel and it was my first time going to one. I wasn’t really sure what to expect and especially whether it would be mainly aimed at qualified dentists. My busy timetable meant I could only be there for Saturday so I registered for the event online on Friday evening and collected my pass when I got there.

The exhibition was perfect for us dental students to trial and learn about the variety of new and existing oral hygiene products on the market that we can advise our patients to use. There were also plenty of stalls from organisations open for students to join like Dental Protection – a professional indemnity service, and Dentaid – an oral health charity that works to promote oral health in third world countries. The talks were all based on topics relevant to all emerging and qualified dentists and included: dental caries, practice management and career development.

Last but not least – Freebies. Lots and lots of freebies. If nothing else, the lure of free toothpaste, chewing gum and pens has me marking my calendar with next years conference in Manchester. However, the star of the show this year was definitely the free Phillips Sonicare Airfloss worth £75, which will be getting its debut this evening! Oh the perks of dental school!


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