By Rhonda Giltner
I am really beginning to understand now. I always knew in my early years of dental school that different states or regions have different licensing exams and that a single exam would likely not transfer to another state.
Well, now I realize just what a mess that really is. In May, I graduated from Louisiana State University School of Dentistry. My fiancé just took a position at the University of Texas, so after we get married in June, we will be living in Austin. That means taking the Western Regional exam, WREB.
I’ve filled out my forms, sent in my photos, and reserved my spot in San Antonio. It’s cost me $1400 so far. That’s without getting myself there, as well as my patients. Yes, patients. This exam is too important to take any risks. This means that I have to fly two or three patients to San Antonio and provide them with lodging and food, plus probably some financial incentive for their time and trouble.
Another pitfall of a different state’s exam is the loss of homecourt advantage. Not that examiners would feel any partiality towards me if I were from Texas (everything is evaluated anonymously), but I’m going to be in a completely different school. I won’t know its layout or even where to find a 2x2. Yes, they give you an orientation beforehand, but it’s not the same.
Now, here’s the thing. Louisiana has its own exam and only recognizes the Louisiana Boards. Since my fiancé and I are both from Louisiana, I feel it is important that I go ahead and take the Louisiana State Board Exam while I am here. So that’s at least $800. There are no transportation and lodging expenses for patients for this exam, but there’s an even greater need for compensation to ensure they show up on one of the most important days of my career.
I’m trying to not stress out over it. I tell myself that although it is flawed, this is simply the way things are and I have no choice but to acquire some extra loan money, find out where the 2x2s are in San Antonio, and roll with the punches. I just hope it’s not too difficult to line up patients for LSU’s mock boards, WREB, and the Louisiana boards. I dread asking them, “Do you mind missing work and flying to Texas?”
I know some would say that PGY-1 is the answer to this dilemma. I feel, however, that LSU produces a very clinically competent dentist, and I am ready to graduate and take my place in the profession.
I am thankful that, in the near future, graduating seniors may not have to deal with this undue stress. Although ADEA, the ADA, and others are planning to challenge the exam being created by the AADE, I hope that whichever exam is selected is well received by all schools. I hope it is thorough but fair, and that its examiners are well calibrated. It is important to know that, however I may perform in Louisiana, it would garner a similar score in Texas.
The threat of a different board exam has not encouraged me to stay within my home state—my fiancé is in Austin, so that’s where I plan to be. But it has caused excess expense, undue stress, and an inconvenience to my patients.
Perhaps I’m among the last to deal with this scenario—I certainly hope so. Just think about what my spring was like when I was borrowing more money, searching through every chart in the school for twice the board patients, praying the ones for Texas make their flight . . . oh, and passing both boards. I almost forgot that part.
Rhonda Giltner recently graduated from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry.