Watching family members receive hospital care for various maladies throughout her childhood in Singapore, Constance Teoh was inspired by many compassionate healthcare practitioners. She realized then that she wanted to join their ranks. Today at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in New York, she reflects on her experience applying for a periodontal residency from outside the U.S.
Realizing the value of dental fundamentals
After completing multiple summer internships ranging from general practice to orthopedics and even gynecology at one point, Teoh eventually found her calling in dentistry after high school because she loved getting the opportunity to work with her hands as well as the patient interaction.
Unlike dentists in the United States, Teoh needed to decide on her path to dentistry a bit sooner than most. Growing up in Singapore, dental school is a college degree program completed following high school graduation.
“I saved a lot of time and an additional four years of school,” Teoh said. “In retrospect, there is a lot of value in completing a general college degree first. Whilst I don’t have any regrets, I see how that experience has benefitted my colleagues too.”
It wasn’t until her first year of practicing general dentistry that Teoh realized the importance of the fundamentals.
“In school, you can’t wait to get started with clinical practice,” she said. “Some of the basic sciences can feel rather boring and dry. You wonder: Why am I even learning this?”Constance Teoh, Periodontal Resident at Columbia University
As a first-year student, it can at times be difficult to see the bigger picture. But slowing down and revisiting the basics helped Teoh understand how every part of the human body has the potential to tie into dentistry, especially in surgical procedures.
From Singapore to New York City: Applying for a periodontal residency from outside the U.S.
After four years of practicing in Singapore, Teoh found herself in New York City at Columbia University for a residency program.
“In those four years, I was exposed to different aspects of dentistry. When I tried periodontics, I loved how holistic it was,” Teoh said. “I spent a year in that department and realized how fulfilled I was from doing the treatments and bringing patients a fundamental level of care.”
When applying for periodontal residency programs, Teoh looked internationally.
“In addition to the USA, universities in Europe to Hong Kong also have some of the best periodontal programs around. But as a city girl hailing from Singapore, I fell in love with Columbia.”Constance Teoh, Periodontal Resident at Columbia University
The exposure to cutting-edge clinical treatments and great faculty has given Teoh a balance of everything she wanted in a residency program.
International dental students with interested in applying for a residency in the U.S.? Forums and friendships can assist.
Teoh accredits her arrival at the Columbia residency program to the help of others.
“Applying from outside of the United States, it was confusing and I needed a lot of help,” she said. Turning to student forums and friends at various periodontal programs in the U.S., Teoh eventually found her way.
“Never be afraid to ask,” Teoh said. “People want to help you as long as you have interest and a true heart.”
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