5th Annual Impressions Day

By Spaine Stephens

The East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine’s chapter of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) held its 5th annual Impressions Day on March 26, welcoming close to 40 potential students from all over North Carolina to Ross Hall.

Impressions Day serves as a tradition during which undergraduate and post-graduate students learn about the dental school application process and interviews— essentially marking their first impression with peers and faculty and staff — and participate in hands-on activities like making dental impressions in the school’s Preclinical Techniques Lab.

Students came from cities and counties across the state, from Salisbury and Statesville to Winston Salem and Wilmington.

“I’m really excited for you,” Kim Werth, the dental school’s interim associate dean for student affairs, told the guests as she welcomed them. “Really be in the moment today. Soak it in; be a sponge. Ask questions.”

Tarrick Cox, the school’s director of admissions, encouraged the group to take advantage of resources available during the event that would help them understand the application process and successfully complete applications. While competition for spaces in dental school is stiff, there are individual strengths that each applicant has.

“Not everyone has your story,” Cox said.

Shakiya Purcell mixes material for a dental impression during a hands-on activity at the dental school’s Impressions Day March 26. (Photo by Spaine Stephens)

Shakiya Purcell mixes material for a dental impression during a hands-on activity at the dental school’s Impressions Day March 26. (Photo by Spaine Stephens)

Vice Dean Dr. Margaret Wilson said those stories help schools understand where applicants are coming from and what is fueling them to pursue dental school.

“Our purpose in the School of Dental Medicine is to provide a lot of support for students,” she said. “Part of our goal at ECU is to educate leaders. We have high standards, but at the same time we make sure you feel supported on your journey.”

Rachel Porter, a leader in the school and national SNDA, explained that the school has a close-knit, familial feel — a signature characteristic of a school that prepares North Carolinians to serve communities in the state.

For more than 40 years, SNDA has worked to promote, aid and support the academic and social environment of minority students. SNDA strives to establish opportunities for its members to develop stronger alliances amongst one another while developing a sense of community, aiding in the advancement of minority students within the field of dentistry. The ECU School of Dental Medicine has a strong history of membership and leadership at a national level.

Events like Impressions Day help open doors to dental school to students from underserved and rural communities.

After introductions, the Impressions Day participants attended breakout sessions led by current students, including a session in the Preclinical Techniques Lab. Participants learned to make dental impressions, close replicas of teeth or oral tissue. The participants learned to mix the material used to make the impressions, add it to a tray and fit it into a model mouth.

After watching the demonstration, Shakiya Purcell set about mixing her material and forming the impression. Purcell, who graduated from ECU last May and is planning to apply to dental school, attended Impressions Day to meet current students and to help prepare for the application process.

“My plan is to go to dental school,” said Purcell, from Moore County. “I’m glad to meet other people and have the opportunity to be here and learn about how to get here.”