Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Two days ago, Monday, was residency match day, which by now it seems that everyone knows I matched! But there is a lot that goes into this story, so recently I’ve felt the need to sit down and write a few of my thoughts and feelings that I have been having these last couple of days. To do that though, let’s go back in time a little to begin this story. I applied to do a pediatric dental residency at 13 different programs. Let me see if I can remember them, starting west to east: Yakima WA, Tucson AZ, Salt Lake City, 3 in Texas, Kansas City, Springfield MO, Ohio State, Cleveland OH, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Richmond VA. Of these 13 programs, I received 2 invitations for interviews: Tucson AZ and Springfield MO. So, based on the Match system, you can only rank the programs that you interview at, so I was able to rank the 2, with Springfield MO being my #1 choice. Once you have your rank list together, you submit it into the system, and then each program submits their rankings of their interviewees. It all goes into the system and a computer “matches” applicant to program using a very sophisticated algorithm that nobody understands.
OK, I’m going to take us all WAY back for a little trip down memory lane because a lot of people continually ask me, “Why pediatrics? Kids are horrible to deal with!” I’m not going to lie, there are definitely times where nothing is more truthful, and I have the same question in my own head. Then I remember what I wanted to be when I grew up, and it wasn’t a pediatric dentist, but, since about the age of 8 I wanted to be a pediatrician. Even from a very young age I knew that all I wanted to do was work with, and help, kids. So, why didn’t I continue on this track to become a pediatrician? The answer can simply be answered like this: high school. I never lost track of what I wanted to be, nor did I forget what it took to get into med school, I was just more concerned with sports, hanging out with friends, and dating then I ever was concerned about getting into med school, let alone getting the kind of grades I needed to get into med school. I didn’t do bad in high school, just not what I needed to be getting.
I graduated high school, and if it wasn’t for that last minute (like, hours-before-graduation-last-minute) paper I submitted in my creative writing class I probably wouldn’t have graduated! I then took a year off of school to focus on making a little money for my mission, where I built a cabin in Bear Lake with my buddy Ken Anhder, and my cousin Codee. In September of 1998, I received my mission call to serve in Mexico City, and I was to enter the MTC January 6, 1999. My mission is another story, so I will stick to the relevant parts of my mission. It was while in Mexico, walking down a street pondering about life, realizing that I wouldn’t be able to get into a med school and needed other options. While walking down this street passing a house that was being built, I remember very distinctly, to this day even, the feeling that I wanted to do construction. I grew up around homes being built, I loved working with my hands, and I loved seeing something go from nothing to something, just creating something! I had my new course of action! Then I got home from my mission.
I enrolled at Utah State immediately when I got home from my mission and started classes a month later. Looking back, I don’t know why I enrolled at Utah State—they didn’t have any kind of a construction program, which is what I knew I needed to do since that feeling on my mission. Oh well, I decided to stay at USU and enroll in their Business Finance major. Makes sense, right? So, as I was trucking along that year in my major, I remember talking to Uncle Mark, he asked what I wanted to do, I responded something like, “well, I want to do construction.” He asked why I didn’t enroll at BYU and enter their Construction Management program? Now, I had grown up in USU Aggie country, no way you’re going to talk me into going to BYU! Even though what he said made a lot of sense, and after thinking about that for a couple of months (during my third semester at USU), I decided that was my new path, not at BYU of course, but I learned that Utah Valley State College had a Construction Management program, and it was a lot more hands on than BYU. So, I applied there and got in (basically, if you are breathing, you would be accepted to UVSC). The rest of that semester at USU was not good, I was enrolled in calculus which I kinda forgot about because I knew I didn’t need it for my UVSC major, so why try? Well, I failed it and with that fail I knew all hopes of med school were out of the question.
So, a really long story in a nutshell: I went to UVSC, got my Associate Degree in Construction Management and then continued on and got my Bachelor’s in Technology Management emphasis Construction Management. While at UVSC, I met Emily, we dated and eventually got married. The summer between my Junior and Senior year at UVSC we moved to Asheville, NC to do a summer internship with America’s Home Place. I finished school and got a job in Atlanta with Venture Homes. We got pregnant through in-vitro at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, my dad got me to come back to Utah to build homes there, which never really took off, so after a year in Utah, we moved to Florida to work with family friends. We never really enjoyed living in Florida, I never loved my job, so while Emily and Cooper were in AZ finishing the adoption process with Luke, I packed up our house, quit my job, and drove our belongings to Atlanta where we stayed with Emily’s parents.
It was now 2008, 3 years after I graduated from UVSC. I was jobless, the economy wasn’t doing great, not many construction companies were hiring, so I decided that it was time for a change. My brother-in-law, Jason, had just started to go back to school to pursue dentistry and he asked me, “Jake, why don’t you do it too? You like working with your hands, it would be perfect for you!” I immediately said, “Um, I don’t think so.” But I kept thinking about it, and then thinking more about it. Finally, I decided to do it, why not? I could at least take some classes and see where it went, right?
I was finally able to get a job with a commercial construction company, where I did gun range targetry installations, odd-jobs for the church, I built a couple of houses for them, and I built a Post Office in Grayson, GA. While I was with this company, I was taking classes after work at Southern Polytechnic State University. I would leave the house at 6 and get home at 10. I was travelling all the time too, all over the Southeastern part of the country from Florida to North Carolina and as far west as Oklahoma and everywhere in between. There was one state in particular that caught my eye and I called Emily and said, “One day we will live in Missouri. I don’t know how or when, but I love this state, it is SO beautiful!” Because of all the travelling I did, there were times I had to drop my classes for the semester so that I could make a living for my family. I don’t know how Emily did it with the two little ones, and one on the way. Luckily, we were still living in her parents’ home, where we lived for a total of 3 years!
It wasn’t until September of 2010 that my schedule changed a little bit, that is when I was laid off from my construction job. I knew that if I wanted to get into the dental field, now was the best time. I applied to several dental offices, but they all said the same thing, “You don’t have any experience!” Well, I couldn’t argue that logic. So, I went and shadowed my Jason’s dad, and I did what I could as far as help. I guess they got sick of seeing me there without any kind of pay, so Jason set up for me to be paid by the church (Deseret Industries) as I learned this new career path. In November of 2010, we went on a big family cruise where I was offered a job to go and be an Office Manager/Dental Assistant on a mobile dental office. The only catch was that I needed to pass the DANB radiography test, this test has been failed by a lot of people, and I was supposed to take it without any classes. I bought the book to study from, took the test, and I passed the test by 1 point (maybe it was 5, but 1 sounds better). So, at the end of mandatory 3-months with Deseret Industries at Allred Family Dentistry, I moved to Albuquerque, NM to start my new job. This also meant that I had to get into a new school to finish my pre-requisite science classes; believe it or not, a degree in Construction Management doesn’t require you to take a lot of science classes, in total, I had to take: 2 biology classes with lab, 2 chemistry classes with lab, 2 organic chemistry classes with lab, 2 physics classes with lab, 1 physiology class with lab, and 1 biochemistry class. I’m pretty sure that’s all there were.
Anyway, so I was in NM by myself until March, renting a room from my realtor while looking for a home. We were blessed to find a foreclosure home and were able to fix it up a little. This became our home for almost 3 years. One of our most favorite places to live so far has been in Albuquerque, and we will have fond memories and friends for life from that area (many of which are dentists). One of the biggest blessings was my buddy Creed, he had barely graduated dental school and was in Albuquerque for his first job. As you can probably imagine, after 3 or 4 or 5 years of taking classes at night and working full time, I went through phases where I didn’t want to go to dental school. I thought I would just keep my job, or eventually find something at a dental supply company or something. Now, I love my wife, and she did her best to keep me focused on getting into dental school, but there was only so much that Emily could say and do to help push me in a direction, especially after having done it for 3 or 4 or 5 years. My buddy Creed was there to continuously provide help, or encouragement, or simply listen to me complain about how I will never finish these classes or how I would never be able to pass the DAT (Dental Admission Test, similar to the MCAT for medical school). Being that he had just finished school, he was very gun-ho about helping me, giving me tips for the DAT, helping me with my personal statement and other application issues.
My job in Albuquerque was the best! I loved it! I was an operations manager/dental assistant for a mobile dental clinic. We worked out of a 53 foot semi-trailer that had been retro-fitted to be a 5 chair dental office for school-aged children. We would park the trailer at a school for about a week at a time and see roughly 100 kids for exams, and then we would do as much restorative work as we could. Working here, at Smiles for New Mexico Kids, re-ignited my passion for pediatrics, it reminded me about my dream of being a pediatrician, but now, my dream wasn’t to be a pediatrician, it was to be a pediatric dentist. But, first things first, I needed to focus on getting in to dental school.
While I was taking night classes and working, I somehow found time to study for the DAT. With the DAT, Creed kept telling me that if I was able to get a 20 then I would be “golden” for getting interviews. Well, I didn’t quite get a 20, but I knew that the score I got was good enough to get at least a couple of interviews. As time marched on, I filled out all of my application stuff, got it submitted. I applied to like 20 schools, and got 1 interview. Yes, 1. That one school (University of Buffalo) was the same one that Creed had just graduated from, I am pretty sure that he is the reason I got the interview. Another long story really short, I did not get in to Buffalo, but I made their Wait List. While hoping I was bumped up from Wait List to accepted list, there was still one more school that I was waiting to hear from, it was a brand new school in Missouri. After calling Buffalo a minimum of 3 times a week for about 2 months getting nowhere, I got an interview invite to the new school in Missouri!
I remember that when I went to my interview there in Missouri, I flew into Kansas City, rented a car and followed the GPS directions to Kirksville, MO. The GPS took me on a small little highway that had curves and turns, dips, about 5 one-way bridges; it was so bad that I got car sick as the driver. When I finally got into the small town of Kirksville, I was baffled. In this town of 15,000 people, there was a university (Truman State University), a medical school, and now a brand new dental school, and apart from these schools there was a Wal-Mart.
During the interview, I met one of the craziest, most interesting people I had ever met, Kyle Maples (he has since become one of my most favorite classmates). We were interview buddies, we worked well together during our group interview, and then we parted ways (until dental school anyway). I was interviewed by Dr. Liz Kaz and Dr. Dennis Thousand, I think it went pretty well, I remember that I cried, and I noticed that they were crying, I don’t remember why we were all crying but we were. I remember being told by friends before my interview not to mention how many kids I had (we had just had the triplets a few months before, so we were at 6 now), well, as I was leaving the interview Dr. Kaz asked how many kids I had, and I hesitatingly told her 6. She seemed very impressed, and I didn’t feel guilty about telling her, I felt really good about how it went. After the interview, I drove around the area that day looking at housing and apartments, I don’t why, it was probably because there was not much else to do in the town and I guess I felt really good about the interview.
Time passed. My interview was in April, I wasn’t moving anywhere on the Wait List at Buffalo, I hadn’t heard anything from Missouri, it was a miserable couple of months. Then…there are some days that you will never forget in life, like your wedding day, September 11, your kids births, the day you get a phone call telling you that you’ve been accepted to dental school. I got in! In Missouri no less, the place I was going to live, and wanted to live. I remember exactly where I was, in my car driving east on Paseo Del Norte in Albuquerque when I finally got a hold of Dr. Kaz (we had played a little bit of phone tag that day). She told me that, pending accreditation, I was selected to be one of the 42 students of the inaugural class at the Missouri School of Dentistry and Oral Health (MOSDOH). I still find it hard to believe that they let me in to dental school, I mean I failed calculus, I barely had a good enough score on my DAT to get an interview…to this day, I am still baffled I got in! But, I did! I was going to be a dentist! When I hung up with Dr. Kaz, I was smiling from ear to ear and immediately called Emily, when she answered the phone, I lost it. I cried like a little baby, I was SO happy!
We now had a plan. We knew we were moving to Kirksville, MO. The problem with this is that I got the acceptance call sometime in June/July and our start date was Oct 1. In Kirksville, there is also a university and a medical school, and all of those people need to live somewhere too. Finding housing in Kirksville was a miserable task! We immediately started looking and calling places, just like everyone else in my new class was doing, and we were all calling on the same 10 available properties. There was one in particular that we really liked (at least the photos) and the guy said that there was a girl in my class that had already called on it and was coming to look at it in a few days and he would call me back if something didn’t pan out with her. We were getting desperate to find a house, it would have been very hard to live in an apartment with 6 kids ranging in age from 9 months old to almost 7. A few days later the gentleman called me back and said that the girl backed out, and I blurted out, we’ll take it! He was shocked that I would do that over the phone, but I told him that we wanted it anyway. Even though the house only had one bathroom, we had a place to live!
In an effort to make this into a short story and not a novel, I will say this: we sold our house, moved from Albuquerque to Kirksville, MO, lived in K-Ville for my first and second years of dental school, and then moved to St. Louis where I would do my third and fourth years of dental school at the clinic. How’s that for condensing 3 years of our lives? Having worked at a pediatric clinic in Albuquerque, I always knew that I may want to specialize and do a pediatric residency, but that was still a long ways away, I first just wanted to pass my classes and hope to not be ranked #42 of 42, but even if I was #42, I would still graduate and be called a dentist. As time marched on, I realized that I just might have a shot at applying for a residency. I decided to do it, why not? I didn’t have anything to lose, and just like dental school, all of my scores and grades were just border-line for possibly getting an interview.
I did a one week externship in Springfield, MO and fell in love with the program, the area, pretty much everything about it I liked, I mean what’s not to like, Kyle Maples, my buddy, is from there and would be returning there to work. The program itself is relatively new, one of the dentists that I worked with in NM, Dr. Heather Jenkins, was a member of their first graduating class in 2015. The residents there were amazing. If I had any questions about wanting to pursue a career in pediatrics, they were all squashed as I was at that program. This is what I wanted to do; I wanted to be a pediatric dentist. I did a couple more externships, one in Salt Lake City and the other at the Ohio State program. I loved both of those programs as well. There wasn’t one time that I was swayed to not do pediatrics, I wanted to do this!
Applications were finally sent out. As I mentioned previously, I applied to 13 different programs, and got 2 interviews, Tucson AZ and Springfield MO. At my interview in Tucson they pulled out the game of Operation and asked me to get the wishbone and the funny bone…what kind of interview tactic is this? I actually really liked it (because I know you’re thinking it, yes, I did get both the bones without touching the sides). I really liked Tucson, it was described to me (and I agree with the description) as a fancy Albuquerque, with a lot more cactus. Cactus for days! Tucson is really close to the Mexico border, and there is a freeway down where you can cross the border. What I found really odd is that freeway had all of the distances in kilometers, not miles. It was really weird, but I found out later that there is a lot of pride in that being the only freeway that displays distances in kilometers.
My interview in Springfield went well, nothing spectacular, but I do remember the question: “If you worked with a company and your boss told you that you were going to move to Florida to sell hot chocolate in the middle of summer, how would you sell it?” Huh?!? That was a weird question, one of those off the wall questions that supposedly shows how you think through problems I guess. Anyway, otherwise, the interview was great and I really came away from there wanting to go there.
One of the worst things about the whole application process is the waiting. Oh, it is miserable! Applications were sent out the first of June, you start to hear back from programs in late August/early September, interviews usually start late September and go until November; mine were in October and November. Once the interview are all over, then you have to come up with a rank list of the programs that you would like to attend, the date that you can submit those rankings is in the middle of December. The programs also rank all of their interviewees and submit them at the same time in December. Then there is nothing you can do except wait until Match Day. The day you find out if you got into a program, which program you got in to, or you find out if you didn’t get in. That day is put off until the end of January, January 30 to be exact. A full month and a half of absolutely nothing but waiting, hoping, praying, and anything else you can do to try and convince that computer program telepathically that you really need to see a good outcome on January 30.
Waiting is the worst! There are a lot of things in dentistry that you have to wait for, cement to dry, impression material to set up, the anesthetic to take effect, etc, etc, etc. All of them are horrible to wait for, I mean, have you ever had to stand in one place holding an impression tray filled with goop in someone’s mouth while they are gagging for 5 minutes? I don’t recommend it. This whole application process was the equivalent to holding an impression tray in someone’s mouth for about 6 months—not fun! We can probably equate it to whoever is reading this, all of this blabber just to hear the story finally come to a close, right? I won’t do that, so, suffice it to say that it was a very long waiting period.
Match Day finally came. We weren’t expecting the email until around 11 in the morning. But, as excited as I was, I couldn’t wait that long. Right before I left for school that morning, at about 6:30, I checked my email. Nothing. I guess they really were going to send it out later. I got in my car and almost instantly got a text from Kolby letting me know they sent the email. As I was driving down my street, I opened my email on my phone (I know that I shouldn’t be doing that while driving, and I’m sorry if you have an issue with it), and there was an email from the Match program. I opened it and scrolled down to see in bold green letters: “Congratulations!” It was followed by, “you have been matched to: NYU Lutheran—Springfield, MO”. Can you even imagine what I was thinking? I was grinning from ear to ear, my eyes were starting to water, I did a U-turn in the middle of the road to go tell Emily, because it is always better in person, right?
By the time I got home, my grin was still on my face, and tears of complete joy were coming down my face, I couldn’t talk. I went in to where Emily was sleeping, and said something like, “Mlah”, translated from blubbering to English that means “look”, and I showed her the email, at least the part with the congratulations and where we were going. Of course it took her a long time to actually be able to wake up and focus on the bright screen, and the whole time I’m just grinning and crying like a complete fool, but I didn’t care. My dream came true! There were so many hours of prayer, fasting, and hope, not just from me, but I know from several other people, and in an effort to get all of those prayers, fasts, and hopes to stop, Heavenly Father answered our prayer by basically saying, “Fine, you can do it! Good luck! You’re crazy for wanting to work with kids!”
That morning was full of texting, phone calls, emails, etc. I will never forget calling my dad, because I knew he would be awake and would answer his phone, the emotions of everything were still very fresh when he answered the phone, when he answered the waterworks all came back to the surface and I started to blubber again. Sorry, Dad. It was amazing to see the outpouring of congratulations, well wishes, and the wonderful things people were saying. One of the coolest things is that I got in to the same program with my buddy, Kolby. He matched there too! I couldn’t have been more ecstatic! Getting to school that morning we kept getting the news of all of those waiting to hear about their matches. I couldn’t believe it when I found out that all 5 of us that applied to pediatrics matched! The other residencies that were matching that day were oral surgery and AEGD, in my class we had 1 match to OS, which shocked me, because there were 3 that applied for it and I thought for sure they would get in too. And we had 1 match at AEGD. Overall, a great day for MOSDOH; and overall a great showing for MOSDOH in other residencies: 5 pediatrics, 1 endodontics, 1 oral surgery, 1 prosthodontics, and several AEGD and GPR, with a few doing internships, my class is the BEST!
I still cannot believe that I was accepted. It seemed like such a long shot for me to be able to get into this career. I cannot thank Emily enough for pushing me, for supporting me, and basically doing everything for our family since 2008 when we decided to go to dental school. She is the best, and I dare you to find a better woman! It is so nice to know that we have a place to go, we are still clueless as to where to actually practice, but that is still 2 and a half years away. January 30, 2017 will always be ranked in the top 10 days of my life!
Well, I warned you it was long. Thanks for reading!