Scholarship Spotlight: Students Embody Professionalism

From left, Benjamin Paulussen and Michael DePaolo

Becoming a professional dentist requires much more than a DMD.

Treating patients and colleagues with integrity, respect and sensitivity are also a big part of the job.

As recipients of this year’s Professionalism Scholarship, established by Alumni and Friends of RSDM, fourth-year students Michael DePaolo and Benjamin Paulussen were selected as early adapters when it comes to forging successful careers.

When asked how they define professionalism, they shared experiences treating patients.

During his first in the clinic, Paulussen, who graduated from Ramapo College, discovered that communication is key. “I had a patient who thanked me for always telling her what was going on. She was happy that I let her know what I was doing every step of the way,’’ said Paulussen, who’s from Washington Township, NJ.

He also learned the importance of avoiding the kind of dental terminology that can mystify patients. “One patient joked that for years, when she went to the dentist and they mentioned ‘calculus’ she thought, ‘why are you bringing up math?” he said with a laugh.

DePaolo described a treatment plan that taught him the value of interdisciplinary care. “I had a complex case where I needed to work with the patient’s physician, an oral surgery resident and a resident in the Department of Periodontics,’’ he said. Treatment was a success, thanks to close collaboration, added DePaolo, a Rutgers New-Brunswick alumnus who grew up in Westfield NJ.

Like many RSDM students, Paulussen and DePaolo have learned that dentistry demands a cross section of skills no other profession can match.

“There’s a saying,’’ explained Paulussen. “A dentist is a doctor, an artist and an engineer.’’