Advanced education programs share orientation and community-building experiences

Advanced education learners and program coordinators pose at Can Can Wonderland

Advanced education programs at the School of Dentistry are combining efforts to create a sense of belonging, community, camaraderie and cohesiveness across specialties.

It started with a time- and effort-saving idea. Previously, each program had spent quite a bit of time coordinating an orientation experience for their residents—often duplicating efforts and leading to staff members giving repeat presentations.

“I thought I could contribute to more community-building amongst the residents and decrease the silos we hear about,” explained Shelby LaFreniere, advanced education college coordinator for the School of Dentistry. “Plus, we could save time on behalf of the presenters.”

This year, advanced education moved from eight separate orientation programs to two, with each program joining one orientation based on their start date. “It was a success in reducing the amount of effort the administrative coordinators had to work on, and we could get on the same page,” LaFreniere reflected.

Based on the success of the shared orientation, advanced education decided to keep up the team-building spirit and continue to build shared experiences. On August 19, advanced education invited all residents to a social afternoon at Can Can Wonderland. Fifteen residents across specialties gathered for an afternoon of icebreakers, games, competitions and community building.

Learners enjoyed the community-building event and found it to be a great success.

Aryan Shekarabi in a lab
Aryan Shekarabi

Aryan Shekarabi, a first-year DDS/PhD learner, greatly values collaboration. In fact, it’s why he chose the DDS/PhD program at the School of Dentistry. “In my experience, you can only do so much on your own,” he said. “Collaboration efforts lead to innovative work being done to improve patient care from bench to bedside, and I see that happening at the School of Dentistry.”

The community-building experiences reinforced that decision for him. “It was great to see so many people with different backgrounds and life experiences,” he reflected. “I learned a great deal about what goes on at the dental school, and resources for clinical research and patient care. Getting guidance and a few tips at the start of my career will have lasting effects.”

Headshot of Suzanne Anderson
Suzanne Anderson, DMD

Suzanne Anderson, DMD, a first-year orthodontics resident, agreed. “Not only was it nice to get out of the clinic setting, but it was great to learn about the people who will be pursuing advanced education alongside me,” she said. “There was a large degree of diversity within the group, and everyone seemed to have such a unique journey to get to where we all are now. “

Anderson knows that the connections she made in these early experiences will impact her studies and help her be the best provider she can be. “Many of the patients we see in the orthodontic clinic require interdisciplinary care, so getting to know some of the other residents allows us to facilitate that necessary communication,” she said. “I’ve already had an opportunity to coordinate care for a patient with someone from another program, and even just recognizing a name or face makes a difference in facilitating that conversation.”

LaFreniere hopes to make these events an annual occurrence, continuing to grow their scope and attendance. At the end of the day, she hopes the events will foster a sense of belonging and collaboration that brings people together in and outside the clinics.

“I consider this event a huge success,” she said. “I hope it helped people put names to faces, and I hope to continue getting people from across programs in the same room. I’m excited to keep working on these initiatives.”