Shreya Sood, who recently earned her dental degree at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine started working in the dental field in 2010 in India. Today she offers insight gained from personal experience to guide international students applying to dental school: “Don’t give up, we aren’t born as dentists, we acquire the skills. Keep honing and don’t be afraid to say you made a mistake.”

She explains that sometimes even a simple procedure can become difficult.

“Dentistry has humbled me.”

Shreya Sood stands smiling with her arms folded in a graduation cap and gown.
Shreya Sood, who recently earned her dental degree at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, started working in the dental field in 2010 in India.

The official beginning of Sood’s dental studies took place at Mathrusri Ramabai Ambedkar Dental College & Hospital in Bengaluru, Karnataka, but mentorship from her aunt began much earlier.

“My aunt was in dentistry and she was always a mentor to me. She would bring back her wax carvings and I was able to see the work that she was doing. As I grew up, I realized that dentistry is a beautiful combination of art and science. When it came time to decide on a career, with her mentorship and advice I decided to go into dentistry,” said Sood.

“I went to dental school right after high school when I was 18 or 19 years old. In India, dental school is five years, I was young at the time and there was so much that I didn’t know.”

What does it take to pursue dentistry at a young age?

For Sood, two characteristics made all the difference in gaining confidence: maturity and fearlessness.

“It required maturity and fearlessness of what we were learning and doing. Many of my classmates were just in dental school because their parents told them they had to enroll. A lot of them lacked enthusiasm and at a point, I did too. A professional degree needs four years of prior experience, then you know what to do in your life,” she said.

“I graduated at the top of my class but I was always questioning whether I was good enough. You’re not born a dentist. It takes practice, practice, practice. I only gained my confidence after these 2.5 additional years. I don’t know if I had that when I first finished school.”

Shreya Sood, recently earned her dental degree at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

The path to Columbia University College of Dental Medicine for an international student

During her studies in India, while working at a non-profit Sood met her husband, an American citizen, and moved to the U.S. in 2015.

“In 2014, I looked up how to become a U.S. dentist and six years later I’m graduating from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. Each dental school only takes a handful of international students each year. Over three years I built up a good profile. I feel lucky to be here.”

Pediatric dentistry is her next goal; she plans on completing a pediatric residency at Columbia. But she did not reach this point without persistence and experience.

Shreya Sood tells other international dental students the benefits of gaining experience in the field

“I first worked as a dental assistant in an office, then got promoted to office manager. Behind the front desk, I learned a lot that wasn’t taught in dental school. I knew I wanted to be in pediatrics, I spent a lot of time volunteering as a hospital research assistant while taking my boards.”

Sood also participated in mission trips to Honduras, where the dental license she earned in India was recognized.

When dental school graduate Shreya Sood conducts webinars with international students she shares four tips

  1. Be resilient.
    “Understand what you signed up for, it’s a hard journey but if I can do it, you can too.”
  2. There is no substitute for hard work when it comes to building your profile.
  3. All your volunteering doesn’t have to be dental-related.
    “I volunteered at a dog shelter because I love dogs. It adds character to who you are as a person. You are not only dentistry, you are everything else.”
  4. Be teachable.
    “When we come here, it’s time for us to unlearn what we learned and learn it again. It’s important to learn dentistry from every perspective and keep an open mind.”

Free members-only program includes job placement services for dental students

Learn details about a program that grants members instant free access to a Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA) study guide, free job placement services for personal assistance in connecting with the right post-graduation employment or associateship opportunities and a free subscription to Incisal Edge magazine here.