Shadowing & Volunteering
A good rule of thumb to remember is that you shadow in a dental clinic and volunteer in a community.
Volunteering, shadowing, and community involvement are a large portion of the application; it is possible to be overlooked by dental committees because one is lacking in these areas. Dental schools are looking for students that show depth of commitment and substantial involvement. The AADSAS application provides a section where students can list up to 10 dental shadowing experiences and 10 volunteer related experiences.
There are no bachelor’s degree requirements at the University of Georgia that include shadowing in patient care settings with a dentist. Therefore, the University of Georgia does not accept the liability of establishing shadowing relationships. The Pre-Health Advising Office does NOT provide a list of possible shadowing opportunities or professional contacts.Students must take the initiative to research opportunities and develop professional relationships that will lead them to shadowing experiences. Members of the Pre-dental Society may be able to suggest local dentists who are amicable to shadowing. Before seeking a shadowing position, please consider HIPAA/patient confidentiality issues. Prospective dental students are expected to spend time shadowing a general dentist (Your own general dentist is always a good start). Specifically, this means hands-off observation only. It is important that you do not engage in any activity that could be construed as the practice of dentistry. Even if you plan to specialize, you need to have a bulk of your shadowing hours with a general dentist. The idea behind shadowing is to learn the nuances of patient-care. Outside of interacting with and treating patients, dentists have many responsibilities that may include running a business, teaching, or doing research.
Some dental schools require a specific number of shadowing or observation hours, you will want to check the individual websites of the schools in which you wish to apply. However, a good benchmark would be around 150-200 hours. Students should also aim for getting a variety of shadowing experiences with at least 2-3 general dentists. Ideally, students should build a good relationship with at least one DMD or DDS, as it will be important to request a letter of recommendation once you begin the application process. It is good practice to keep an Excel spreadsheet of your hours and journal as you observe patient interaction and procedures. This will be beneficial when you fill out the “shadowing experiences” section on your AADSAS application.
Some students opt to acquire some of their experience in a dental mission abroad. Please note that students participating in abroad programs must never administer care to a patient. Students must keep in mind that they should never allow themselves to be put into a position where their actions could be deemed unethical or irresponsible. These actions could ruin the chances for dental school admission. Please read the ADEA Guidelines for PreDental Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad before deciding to participate in a dental mission abroad. The Pre-Health Advising Office strongly recommends that students planning foreign medical and dental shadowing/volunteering have travel health insurance and Medical/Security evacuation insurance. Contact the University Health Center before you travel. The clinic offers travel health information and appropriate vaccinations to students.
Quality Trumps Quantity
Volunteering is a large portion of the dental school application which should not be neglected. Dental schools are looking for students who not only demonstrate that they can manage rigorous courses while staying busy, but also those who are compassionate, enjoy working with people and show direct evidence of their dedication to serving their community. Volunteering can be done in a clinical setting such as a hospital or hospice, but it can also be done with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, or any other organization (on-campus or off-campus) that the student is passionate about. Students should find a few volunteer organizations that mean something to them and be able to discuss their volunteer experiences during an interview. Dental schools are looking for students that show depth of commitment and substantial involvement and leadership in the community.
If attempting to volunteer at a local hospital or clinic (e.g., Piedmont Athens Regional or St. Mary's Hospital), it is important to be mindful of deadlines and requirements. Most hospitals and clinics have a specific time-window each year that they accept and train potential volunteers. Further, most require volunteers to pass background checks and have up-to-date immunizations and tuberculosis testing. It is your responsibility to research deadlines and requirements when seeking out volunteer opportunities.
Dental Volunteer Opportunities
Dental specific volunteer opportunities in Georgia:
- Georgia Dental Association list of low cost clinics in Georgia
- Georgia Dental Association Foundation for Oral Health
Student Volunteer Opportunities
Many student organizations champion humanitarian and community volunteer activities: