Post-Graduate Study: The Best Time

6th_TSOAbout a week ago there was a big dental meeting in Singapore. A few thousand people came together to attend this biannual event, IDEM which usually happens near the middle of the year. I have never missed any IDEM meeting since I moved to Singapore as I found it is a great platform to meet old and new friends while I get a bit of further education in the latest dental developments.

This time, a few students from nearby countries also participated as volunteers. A few of them were interested in having post-graduate advanced dental education. Since a long time ago, the operation of dentistry has evolved into being bigger, deeper and more fun than the good old days of extractions and fillings. Specialization is beneficial to the public at large and also in terms of professional job satisfaction to oneself.

One BIG question was: When would be a good time to specialize?

I am forever grateful to Dr. Homer Tso, who mentored me when I was a young boy. He has been always very nice to me. When I was in second year dental school, he gave me the idea of a ‘meaningful’ specialization in the USA. As usual, just like many young dental students, I had no idea of when would be the best time to specialize even though I knew that was a great idea. He really got me excited when he said: ‘ It is not unheard of for good American dental school graduates get into specialty programs right after they complete their dental degree…’ The key was to be good enough when compared with the American dental school graduates.

The idea of speeding things up is priceless because no amount of money can buy an inch of time! Once again, I repeat, I am forever grateful to Homer Tso for his advice. With my early specialization, the timeline of my life essentially unfolded and I ran into numerous lucky occasions. It was the beginning of one good thing leading to another in my career. One of the luckiest things was that my USA time brought me closer to my ex-girlfriend, who was going to school in the USA and she eventually was transformed into my wife. Now she rules my life.

On the other hand, there are people and education systems that advise/require clinicians to work for a few years before they can apply for their post-graduate training. A friend long ago pointed out was that after a few years of work, if one is doing well financially, it may become hard to leave a lucrative job and go into post-graduate training. On the other hand, if those few years of career happened to be not so rewarding, it would be hard to move on as well because of one’s dissatisfaction. Either way: tough luck. From a more balanced viewpoint, there are pros and cons to either early or delayed specialization.

To date, I have completed the first half of my life, at 50 years of age, I can factually recount that I have been in the specialty area of prosthodontics for 26 years (depending on whether my training years are counted or not)!!

Dr. Homer Tso went on to become the top in Hong Kong, as he was the President of the Hong Kong Dental Council and his job was to oversee the professional conduct of all the Hong Kong dental clinicians!! He is now in charge of dental services at the University of Hong Kong Hospital in Shenzhen, China. One thing for sure, he always shares interesting stories whenever we meet up. That is priceless.

2 thoughts on “Post-Graduate Study: The Best Time

  1. Good read! Thank you for sharing your stories and experiences with us! As a young dentist reading from a well-accomplished senior dentist feels like talking to one! I also have a goal to get my specialty training in the US. But as a graduate from a university in underdeveloped country (third world as they call it) it seems like it might not happen easy to me. What would you say about the ratio in US residency programs among international students (not international dentist DDS program)? Do they always tend to come from developed countries?

    • thanks for your comment

      People who know me know that it was my teachers who are accomplished, first class human beings. I am just doing my part to copy cat them, not always successful though.

      My impression is that there are more international students in American Dental Association accredited advanced training programs nowadays. It is much easier for potential candidates to look up information instantaneously through the Internet now. During my time, it took me almost 9 months to get the information!!

      Candidates from so called ‘developed’ countries may choose to do their post-graduate program in their home country. It is not uncommon to see candidates from other countries to study in the USA as they simply do not have the equivalent education in their hometown!

      Good luck in your professional life.

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