During her first year of dental school, Sheaffer Skadsen, DDS ’21, thought about running for class president. When the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis hit in the middle of her third year, she decided to turn those thoughts into action.
“As dentists, we’re comfortable with face-to-face work and using our hands. And so, the biggest challenge was learning dentistry without using your hands,” Skadsen says.
Skadsen turned to social media to supplement the interaction she missed from her classmates. By joining a Facebook group comprised of dental school leaders from across the country, she learned how others were coping with remote learning. She decided she wanted to be part of the conversation surrounding how CU Dental and the dental profession as a whole are being transformed during COVID-19.
“I think that the student experience and perspective are essential things to consider during all of this (crisis),” says Skadsen, who hopes as the new Class of 2021 president she can be that voice.
“This is going to be the dentistry that we know for the rest of our lives. We are lucky to have the opportunity to get into these new habits so early in our careers. You can’t complain about it; you can’t do anything about it. These changes are for our safety, for our health for our patient’s safety, for our team members’ safety and will be the normal we come to know and practice.”
A career in medicine
Skadsen spent her time on the soccer field at the University of Arizona, where she was the PAC-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Academic All-American. But she knew it was the medical field that she wanted to spend her life. By earning a bachelor’s degree in public health, she received a wide range of knowledge of different disciplines.
Fortunately, she decided to shadow her older sister, who works as a dental hygienist in their hometown of Vancouver, Washington. Through that experience, she fell in love with dentistry.
“I got to see the dentist act like a surgeon and an artist—doing restorations, and a radiologist, and a nutritionist—talking to patients about caries risk. I saw him play a psychologist for nervous patients. I saw him play all these different roles. I was excited about being so specific to one area, the mouth, but considering the whole patient and body at the same time. Getting to play all those different roles is cool to me. After that, I knew dentistry is exactly what I want to do,” she says.
Throughout dental school, Skadsen has done child-centered volunteer work. She has conducted educational activities for the children at Primrose School in Stapleton, including demonstrating brushing techniques and proper nutrition.
Because of her love for children, Skadsen plans on practicing pediatric dentistry after graduation. She is currently applying to residency programs in pediatrics.