Summer program helps prospective students discover and experience dentistry

Students practice soap carving at Discover Dental School

The decision to pursue a dental degree is not taken lightly. Choosing to invest in a future as an oral health professional, deciding where to attend school and preparing a thorough application are complex tasks, often loaded with stress and uncertainty. A summer program at the School of Dentistry seeks to alleviate that stress and prepare prospective dental students to be great students and dentists.

Discover Dental School is a free program held annually at the School of Dentistry, where prospective dental students take part in hands-on activities, receive DAT exam preparation support and network with dental students, staff, faculty and alumni. Each year, participants talk with students about their experience to get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a dental student at the University of Minnesota. They hear from alumni about the varied career paths a dental graduate can pursue. They practice hand skills through activities like soap carving and tooth waxing, and they learn to prepare an excellent dental school application.

The program has a real, lasting impact on participants, who leave with a better understanding of dentistry as a profession and an educational path.

Headshot of Isaac  Tade
Isaac Tadé, DDS '25

Isaac Tadé, DDS ’25, attended Discover Dental School in 2019 on the recommendation of his pre-health mentor at Augsburg University. “As a first-generation dental student trying to navigate my journey to dental school, I appreciated that the program provided holistic information to help me in a variety of ways,” he said.

Tadé appreciated the chance to learn more about creating an excellent application, get to know dental and pre-dental students and see students of color represented.

Attending Discover Dental School in 2020 also encouraged May Kamsheh, DDS ’26, to choose the School of Dentistry. “The University of Minnesota really expressed how much they want their students to succeed, and how they will guide you every step of the way toward becoming a well-rounded dentist,” she recalled.

Headshot of May Kamsheh
May Kamsheh, DDS '26

Kamsheh credits Discover Dental School with helping her prepare an excellent application to the University of Minnesota. “The holistic approach to becoming a competitive applicant was very important, and stood out to me when we learned about the different aspects of applying to school,” she said. “The DAT preparation, interviewing tips and trainings provided me with plenty of aid.”

After her excellent experience at Discover Dental School, including the soap carving experience that helped her “advance my intricate manual skills and recognize the great level of detail and creativity in dentistry,” Kamsheh is looking forward to enhancing those skills and continuing her studies at the School of Dentistry. “I am looking forward to pursuing my passions and enhancing my learning abilities at the School of Dentistry,” she said.

This year, 20 prospective students attended the three-week long program, attending a combination of virtual and in-person activities. They learned stress management, toured School of Dentistry facilities and prepared to become excellent oral health professionals.

Itzell Martinez, a junior chemistry major at Gustavus Adolphus College, thought Discover Dental School would be a good chance to learn more about the School of Dentistry and see if dentistry was the right career for her.

That plan worked: she found the program “reinforced my decision to apply to dental school, and showed me this is the career I want to pursue.” Martinez recalled the ways learning about health disparities opened her eyes to the way dentists have a real impact on their community, inspiring her to give back. “It really got me thinking about the possible ways I could help others one day,” she said.

She looks forward to applying to dental school and starting the process of changing lives as a dentist.

Similarly, Huy Nguyen, a rising senior at the University of Minnesota, hoped to visualize what it’s like to be a dental student. “Overall, these experiences have exponentially increased my interest in dentistry, and I will take away everything I learned here, including how to be a competitive applicant,” he said. “Every question you could possibly have about dental school can and will be answered throughout the program.”

Though the students who go through Discover Dental School take varied paths toward their future, they come out with a better understanding of dentistry—and of themselves. That understanding propels them throughout their education and their careers.

“Attending the program solidified my decision to pursue dentistry for my career, and it gave me the informational resources, personal connections and inspiration to do just that,” recalled Tadé, who is entering his second year at the School of Dentistry this fall. “The educational exposure I received, along with the friendly faculty and students I met at the program, made it easier for me to choose the University of Minnesota for dental school.”