“Dental school is hard no matter where you go to school, but the family atmosphere at Pacific really makes it an enjoyable experience.”
DDS Class of 2012 student Veena Vaidyanathan comes from a family of physicians and a small town in Florida — Arcadia, Florida, to be exact. Growing up around doctors sparked her interest in medicine from an early age. She always knew she wanted to go into the healthcare profession, and when her teenage years rolled around and it was time to start thinking about college, she looked into dentistry.
And she was committed to her choice. Rather than major in something else as an undergraduate and then apply to dental school, Veena focused exclusively on accelerated undergraduate/graduate programs. She was accepted into University of the Pacific's 3+3 Program, in which students complete three years of undergraduate education followed by three years of dental school. In the summer of 2011 Veena will begin her sixth and final year as a 3+3 student.
"I believe in this school. I believe in the undergrad program, and I believe in the dental school," she says. "Students who participate in Pacific's accelerated program are extremely well prepared for dental school. The curriculum has been catered for us to succeed."
Once at the Dugoni School, Veena dove headfirst into student leadership and organized dentistry. She became highly involved with the school's American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Chapter, and has planned two successful American Dental Political Action Committee (ADPAC) weeks on campus, which have brought legislators and senior members of the American Dental Association (ADA) to campus.
"Being active in organized dentistry, in a way, has helped get me through dental school because it's something I really like doing," comments Veena.
Lately Veena has been busy with her new national leadership position - she's taken on the position of chair of ASDA's Legislative Grassroots Network (LGN), in which she oversees all of ASDA's legislative-related activities throughout the country. She is constantly working to increase student involvement in state and national lobbying efforts and to educate ASDA members on legislative issues impacting dentistry and dental education.
She's also planning an annual event, National Dental Student Lobby Day, which will take place in April 2012 in Washington, DC. The event brings dental students from across the country together on Capitol Hill to lobby for various issues impacting the dental community.
In the meantime, she'll be travelling all over the United States to meet with members of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and the ADA, members of her LGN council, and many others.
"Holding a national position can be stressful at times, but I'm truly enjoying it," says Veena. "I've met so many interesting people, new friends and contacts that I know I'll keep in touch with in the future."
As for her life here in San Francisco, Veena is quick to mention how happy her Dugoni classmates are. She's gotten to know dental students from other schools who mention they feel as if they're expected to fail in school, rather than to succeed. It's different here at Pacific, she says.
"We all help each other here. If someone is falling behind, we all do what we can to help them along," she added. "I think it's things like this that set Pacific apart."
When asked what she has in mind after she graduates from the Dugoni School of Dentistry, Veena mentions a long and ambitious list of goals. She's currently applying to pediatric residency programs throughout the country. After she finishes up her residency she plans to go into private practice, and hopes to stay active in organized dentistry through the ADA. Her ultimate and cherished goal? To become a regent for University of the Pacific.
"I know it's lofty of me to say that, and I have to achieve a lot between now and then, but it really is a goal of mine. That's how much I believe in this place."