Gateway Program Gives Preview of Dental School Life

Students practice skills in Gateway program.

Students practice skills in Gateway program. PHOTO CREDIT: Maritza Camacho.

Derek Swanson was almost sure he wanted to be a dentist before graduating from RSDM’s Gateway program last month. But now he’s convinced.

“It solidified my goals,’’ said Swanson, of Stockton College. “The best part was the clinical experience.”

The two-week program allows college students interested in dental school to immerse themselves in life at RSDM.

They practice essential dental skills —like learning how to use “indirect vision” while working with a dental mirror. They also use a handpiece to drill within molar-shaped outlines on resin blocks and practiced making dental impressions.

“It’s like making art work,’’said Maliha Arshad, a senior at Rutgers-Newark.

Gateway students also observed work in the radiology lab, learned about research and watched a faculty member perform a bone graft. “No matter how much you shadow professional dentists, you’re so much more limited than we were here,’’ said Swanson.

RSDM’s Gateway program, started in 2000, was the first of its kind in the U.S. and is now regarded as a template for other schools hoping to expose potential students to the dental profession. Unlike other pre-dental programs, which can cost $1,000 or more, RSDM’s Gateway experience is free except for the $50 registration and $150 administration fee.

In addition to first-hand lessons on every aspect of dentistry, including each specialty, students got a preview of the dental school admissions process during mock interviews with faculty. They also spoke candidly with RSDM students about the hard work of succeeding at dental school.

“They tell you the truth,’’ said Swanson. “But they’re really supportive of you.”