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Students Enjoy Hands-On Experience in Another Healthcare Discipline

They fill simulated cavities in dental school as part of Interprofessional Open House

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Written by Blair Ilsley on October 30, 2019

Thirty first-year students from a variety of schools at CU Anschutz attended the third annual CU School of Dental Medicine Interprofessional Open House on a recent evening. Attendees enjoyed an exclusive look into the lives of CU dental students. They toured the expansive dental facility and even drilled fake cavities.

The students received interprofessional credit for attending the event, which is part of a new campus-wide effort to familiarize aspiring healthcare professionals with the many programs offered at CU Anschutz.

Leading the open house was Lindsey Yates, DDS, assistant professor in the Department of Restorative Dentistry and assistant director of the CU Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education (CU CIPE).


“The goal of this event is to give students from other schools and programs on the Anschutz campus a glimpse into the education involved in becoming a dentist, how dental students develop fine motor skills, and how dentists learn to see the world in millimeters,” she said.

Labyrinth of dental chairs

The event kicked off with an all-access tour of the School of Dental Medicine. Snaking through a labyrinth of dental chairs, attendees were guided by a third-year dental student. They asked questions about the lives of dental students between expressions of admiration about the state-of-the-art equipment. 

“Some people are surprised to find out that we practice anesthesia on each other,” said Jillian Stacey, tour guide and third-year dental student. 

Nervous laughter filled the air as the students sized up their peers, pondering if they would let anyone come within five feet of them with a needle. 

Where science meets art

Following the tour, students got a hands-on opportunity to try out drilling and filling a cavity on their own. Each student was given a gown, eye protection and facemask, and a lay person could have easily misidentified them as dental professionals. They each sat down with a dummy head, mouth wide open ready for drilling. 

The typical, anxiety-inducing sounds of a dentist’s office filled the room — the dreaded drilling. But, instead of doom and gloom, spirits were high with the students laughing and smiling as they worked to create the best filling possible. 

‘My favorite part was the hands-on portion. It was fascinating to be taught by current students on how to use equipment in their labs.’ – Hanna Tillman, first-year pharmacy student

“Through this hands-on experience, attendees had the opportunity to see how science and art collide in dental surgery,” said Yates.

“My favorite part of this event was the hands-on portion,” said Hanna Tillman, a first-year pharmacy student in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “It was fascinating to be taught by current students on how to use equipment in their labs.”

Finding common ground

Attendees also networked with other first-year students.

“I loved meeting the first-year dental students,” said Mackenzie Isbell, first-year medical student in the CU School of Medicine. “They were attentive, kind, and eager to help while we were haphazardly drilling away in their simulation labs. They answered all of my questions about dental school, and they even asked me about medical school. It was refreshing to know that all of us are struggling in different ways as we traverse the chaos that is professional school.”

This event is part of a larger initiative to expose students to other health professions on campus, called the Interprofessional Open Campus Program (IOCP). The program targets students during their first semester at CU Anschutz. It is led by the CU CIPE.

“The CU CIPE aims to foster interprofessional collaboration at Anschutz,” said Yates. “It also focuses on preparing practitioners with the skills needed to collaborate as a member of an interprofessional team.”

Students have the option to attend many different events and classes to fulfill IOCP requirements.

“This event was one of the few on the IOCP activity sign-up list that required active involvement from the attendees,” said Isbell. “I knew that I wanted to attend an event that got me excited, and for me, that was the Interprofessional Open House. I have always loved learning about different professions, so I thought: let's learn about the dental school.”

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