Menka (right) with
By Dr. Menka Sinha, Class of 2002
In fall 2001,
at the beginning of my senior year, my classmate Azar Boujaran and
I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, to participate in the NYU College
of Dentistrys first-ever semester-abroad program for predoctoral
students. Over the years NYUCD has hosted many international students,
but this was the first time it had sent its own students abroad
for a formal exchange program. Although I was excited about this
opportunity, there was a fair amount of anxiety about being in a
foreign country during my senior year. However, as the departure
date approached, our doubts were assuaged by Dr. Stuart Hirsch,
associate dean for Development and International Programs, and his
colleagues Dolores Spinelli and Ron Eckhardt. They all worked very
hard to facilitate our introduction to Danish society and, afterward,
our return to New York. The trip turned out to be one of the most
rewarding experiences of my life. It allowed me not only to expand
my knowledge of the world and the dental profession, but also to
grow as an individual.
smallest of the Scandinavian countries, has a population of approximately
five million people. There are only two dental schools in the country,
the larger being Copenhagen University, which houses the Panum Dental
Institute. The institutes five-year dental education program
is divided into semesters, with students generally entering directly
from high school. Azar and I were integrated into the ninth semester,
also known as the international semester, because of
the presence of foreign students and the fact that most classes
are held in English. Other exchange students came from England,
Belgium, Norway, and Greece, so we had the opportunity to become
acquainted not only with Danish dental techniques and culture but
also with a broader European perspective.
The first few
days were spent learning about our new surroundings. The state-of-the-art
Panum Institute is extraordinary. Every student has his or her own
cubicle in the general clinic, complete with private sink and desk.
Clinical assistants and nurses are usually available to mix alginate
or prepare IRM.
I was placed
in a clinical group with five other students. Our mornings consisted
of a rotation clinic in either oral surgery, pediatric dentistry,
or emergency care. In contrast to NYUCD, students at Copenhagen
University do not generally follow a patient through the entire
course of treatment. Instead, once a patient enters the system,
he or she is placed on a waiting list for a crown, endodontics,
filling, bridge, etc. The students then select from the waiting
list the procedures they would like to do.
were spent in classes, and late afternoons were spent in general
clinic sessions. In addition, thanks to the miracle of video conferencing,
we were able to participate long distance in the NYUCD seminars
that we were not able to attend in person.
interactions are very different from what I had known at NYUCD.
No one is called doctor. All teachers are addressed
by their first names, and the result is a more casual but nevertheless
extremely professional teaching environment. Other differences are
the frequency with which students challenge their instructors and
the attitude toward preservation of tooth structure. Oral surgery
was almost always the option of last resort.
While it was
a great experience, the trip was not without its challenges, chief
among them adapting to a foreign language. Although virtually everyone
speaks English, the principal language is Danish. This could be
especially difficult in pediatrics, where many young patients hadnt
yet learned English in school. But we always managed to communicate.
Tell-show-do became show-do, with parents
or dental assistants acting as interpreters.
has given me a new perspective on what it means to be a dental professional.
Many of the people I met impressed me deeply, whether it was a patient
saying a simple tak (thanks), or the Danish breakfast
I enjoyed on Friday mornings with my group. We often take for granted
the impact that other people have on our lives, especially patients,
fellow students, and professors. Perhaps one of the most valuable
lessons I took away from this experience was a deepened appreciation
not only of a different culture and dental school, but also of my