Longtime Chicago Dental Society volunteer Salvatore Storniolo held court over lunch. At a table filled with dental students, conversation included Game of Thrones, the Oscar nominees for Best Picture and the wisdom he’s gained through 26 years in dentistry.
“I think of myself in your shoes 27 years ago, and I can say it was scary. There were a lot of mixed emotions,” he told the students with whom he shared a lunch table. “But what you’ve got to realize is that it’s all there for the taking. You just need to figure out what kind of dentist you want to be. And you must get involved; networking is the key.”
Dr. Storniolo was one of many CDS volunteers who made time Thursday, Feb. 20, to attend the Mentor Luncheon. Held annually at the Midwinter Meeting , the event paired practicing dentists with dental students for camaraderie.
They agreed that their time together was a valuable part of their Midwinter Meeting experience.
“As dental students we spend so much time in class and lab, but there is no instruction on how to be a dentist in the real world,” said second year dental student Jeri McCombs, who lunched with dentist Victoria Ursitti. “That’s where organized dentistry comes in for students. It’s really neat to meet people at events like this and talk about tangible career goals.”
Dr. Ursitti agreed that networking events like the Mentorship Luncheon would have enhanced her experience as young dentist; she volunteers today so that others benefit from her experience.
“It would have been nice to have had someone to ask ‘what do you use for scheduling software?’ or ‘what kind of clinical software do you like?’ Running a business is not just clinical,” Dr. Ursitti said. “The personal contacts here are fantastic, but as a young dentist I think you need someone to put their arm out and invite you to do something, and I think I have a lot of offer in that way.”
Second year dental student Shauvik Ponnusamy found that kind of camaraderie in his relationship with CDS member Dean Nicholas. Mr. Ponnusamy shadowed Dr. Nicholas in the office to supplement his clinical instruction; he most enjoyed the way Dr. Nicholas interacts with patients.
“He makes everyone laugh,” Mr. Ponnusamy said. “It was great to see how he made connections with patients, which is not something they teach in dental school. And when we started endo at school, it was nice to hear him say ‘it’s going to be okay, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,’ and hear his reassurance and feel that camaraderie.”
Mr. Ponnusamy encouraged his peers to seek out the mentorship program.
“Take initiative. Small steps make a big difference in learning about how to manage outside of class when it comes to things like finances and debt and continuing education.”
His classmate Punita Shukla agreed.
“You can’t do one without the other: go to school and talk to a mentor. This is the base for your future,” she said.
Find more photos from this and other 2014 Midwinter Meeting events on Flickr.