On a campus with a hefty ultra-competitive pre-med population, it is easy to forget that some Harvard students will grow up to inspect wisdom teeth rather than clogged arteries and upset stomachs. Pre-dental students, unlike their doctor-hopeful peers, have to deal with a campus that doesn’t always know that they exist.
“When people find out that I’m pre-dental, they are surprised,” said Rafael T. Quintanar ’10. According to him, a support group used to exist—the Harvard College Pre-Dental Society, for which he was secretary. Now pre-dental student Rachel M. Black ’11 is looking revive the organization.
“The number of pre-dental students seems to be on the rise nationwide,” she said. “It makes sense to have a support group at Harvard.” Although many dental school requirements are similar to those for medical school, there are certain nuances for which specialized support would be beneficial.
One of these is the job-shadowing requirement. Black said she hopes to incorporate shadowing opportunities into the organization’s activities, as well as tours of local dental schools, including Harvard’s.
A major obstacle for pre-dental students is a lack of the structured advising in the Houses that exists for medicine, law, and business. The group’s faculty advisor, Assistant Professor in Human Evolutionary Biology Tanya Smith, said she is hoping for similar resources to be introduced for pre-dental students.
“If the student initiative is consistent, we could even push for administrative support,” she said.
Pre-dental student Eric C. Chen ’12 attributed the lack of resources to low interest in the field. Nevertheless, he said he believes that dentistry may be more important than its popularity as a career choice would suggest.
“You go to the doctor for one annual physical, but usually you see the dentist for a checkup twice a year,” said Chen.