Tips From Current D.D.S. and Dental Hygiene Students

University of Minnesota School of Dentistry Student-led Program Introduces Prospective Learners to the Reality of Dental School

Posted by Justin Ho on May 30, 2024

Members of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry’s (U of M SOD) American Student Dental Association (ASDA) have created a new program to encourage interest in and preparation for dental school.May 2024 Article 1 image1

Justin Ho, a current dental student who expects to graduate in 2026, loves U of M SOD, and wants other prospective students to know how great it is.

“When I was mentoring predental students, I found many of them never considered Minnesota, just because they didn’t know much about it,” he explained. With his own experience of the dental school’s programming and preparation as an undergraduate in mind, Mr. Ho worked with his fellow ASDA members to bridge that gap.

His solution was Mini Dental School, an eight-week, hybrid program meant to introduce predental and undergraduate learners to dentistry and the University of Minnesota. In its inaugural year, Ho and his classmates journeyed with 85 students, “letting them dip their toes into the water and see what May 2024 Article 1 image3dental school is like.”

Each week, Mr. Ho and other ASDA members introduced students to a key topic in dental school—from oral anatomy to operative dentistry to various specialty options. The program culminated with a full-day, in-person session at the U of M SOD. Attendees heard case-based lectures from faculty, learned about the application process from the Office of Admissions and participated on hands-on, preclinical activities—such as cavity preparation,—taking impressions and touring the school.

"I think this in-person experience made our program particularly special," Mr. Ho reflected. "Many of the participants said they haven't had an experience like this at other dental schools, and it encouraged their interest in the University of Minnesota."

Mr. Ho hopes the experience has provided insight and clarity to students interested in dental school, to those who may not have ever experienced what school is truly like.

“A lot of predental students focus on their applications, but don't know what’s beyond the paper and pen of dental school,” he explained. “I wanted to provide them with an introduction to what it means to go to dental school.”

Knowing that their main experience with dental school thus far has likely been through admissions and interviewing, Mr. Ho strove to build connections between predental clubs and the school, including current students, ASDA members, faculty and staff. He’s proud to have included students from across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa in the first cohort.May 2024 Article 1 image2

“It’s been a very positive experience so far,” he reflected. “This isn’t just another task, or another box for them to complete. It's an opportunity to explore their interests, get involved and get to know other students.”

Though this year has served as a trial for the program, Mr. Ho has been excited to witness the participants’ growth and excitement, and hopes he can continue inspiring them and others.

“Even after the first lecture, the students had so many questions, and their interests grew,” he said. “It’s been very rewarding to see students move from having a spark of interest, to turning into a flame that motivates them. By developing their interests, this program gives them the motivation to do well in academics, to give back to the community or to find their ideal career path. That’s what I want them to accomplish—to find their own mission for what they want in life.” 

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry

Originally Published on Feb. 29, 2024

About Justin Ho:

Justin Ho Justin Ho 
Second-year Dental Student
University of Minnesota School of Dentistry