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Alexandra Schmidt ’07 (East Brunswick, N.J.) will be the first to tell you to brush your teeth twice a day and always remember to floss.

The biology major recently participated in the Gateway to Dentistry program at the New Jersey Dental School in Newark. The two-week program introduces undergraduate students to the field and provided Schmidt with her first inside look at her future career.

“I have always been interested in the field of dentistry, and I know that it is what I want to do when I graduate,” she says. “But I haven’t ever been able to work with actual professionals in a setting like I was able to do at the Gateway program. It was truly eye-opening.”

Jeanette DeCastro, director of student advisement and support programs, says Gateway is the first opportunity for many undergraduates to explore the profession from a dentist’s perspective. Students work with professionals who demonstrate routine, and sometimes unusual, dental procedures.

“The students coming in here are serious about the industry, but may not have been able to get an up-close look of what the job actually entails,” DeCastro says. “We find that many of those who do come into the program end up loving it.”

The program introduced Schmidt to numerous aspects of dentistry, including medical instruments, proper technique, and scientific explanations behind certain dental problems and issues.

“I think the most important aspect of the program was how up close we were able to be with doctors,” she says. “They were able to answer all of our questions and were able to really give us insight.”

Students attended lectures on topics ranging from oral surgery to radiology and were given hands-on experience with rubber dams, taking impressions, and orthodontics.

“We really try to incorporate as much as possible to allow the student to get the full range of dentistry experience,” says DeCastro.

Schmidt, a varsity field hockey player, says that although she knew she wanted to enter the field, her time at the program was invaluable.

“I don’t know how a student could honestly make a decision on what they would like to do unless they were given a chance to see it. Being able to be in there, with professors and teachers who have worked in the industry for years and along side other students as interested as I am, made a big impression on me and allowed me to understand just how much I want to be a dentist.”

Schmidt is looking at graduate schools and credits Lafayette’s biology department for giving her a solid academic foundation.

“Lafayette gave me more than a springboard to my interest,” she says. “The professors here cultivate your interests.”

Schmidt presented bacterial research conducted with Laurie Caslake, assistant professor of biology, at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science this spring. She was named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s Division I National Academic Squad this year and as a first-year student. She also is a teaching assistant in human physiology and general biology labs and a peer tutor. She is a graduate of East Brunswick High School.

Categorized in: Academic News