Dr. Sabrina Heppe (Class of 2007) practices general and cosmetic dentistry at her clinic in downtown Seattle. She has served as an affiliate faculty member and mentor to dental students. Here she recalls what influenced her to enter a career in dentistry and a few memories of dental school.
Growing up, I had a great dentist who made visits fun, and these personal experiences certainly influenced my decision to enter the profession, as did my sister Natasha, who was in the UW dental program when I was an undergraduate. In fact, we had some of the same professors, including Dr. Dolphine Oda, who was one of my favorites.
Not only is Dr. Oda dedicated to teaching, she respects her students and wants them to really learn the material. Oral pathology may not be the most exciting subject – nobody likes to look at a bunch of slides unless you’re Dr. Oda – but it’s important, and she made it interesting and relevant. Recognizing oral diseases and cancers is important in my daily work as a dentist, and I’ve taken a few of her continuing education classes to stay current.
Dr. Ricardo Schwedhelm was another favorite of mine. Although he could be tough, he rewarded effort and good work with the opportunity to take on more challenging cases, which I appreciated.
Of course we all valued [head D-1 lab technician] Bill Loew’s handiwork with Super Glue in the pre-clinical lab working with the mannequins. He was the go-to-guy when something was broken or stuck, and he taught us so many useful skills including how to cast materials. I remember one of my classmates even brought in materials to cast his own wedding ring. When I asked if he made his wife’s ring, he said, “No, I’m not that stupid!”
We had a fun dental materials class on Fridays. I forget the instructor, but he made us memorize all sorts of seemingly silly things, mostly numbers. We wondered, “Why do we have to memorize tooth length ratios and all these numbers?” Later, when studying for boards, we were thankful after realizing this information would be in the exam.
My class included 54 students, so it was smaller than the current classes. As a group, we were pretty low-key and sort of stayed in a little better graces with the faculty. I remember attending several events at the school that the Alumni Association hosted. We enjoyed Friday socials after clinic and played a lot of foosball and Golden Tee, a golf arcade game donated by an earlier class, while eating taquitos and all kinds of junk food. A few of us gathered to watch Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday nights. I’m still close with a few classmates, who I see regularly.
Looking back, I received an excellent education, and I’m glad I went to the UW. Although setting up and running my own practice has been a lot of work, I enjoy managing my own office and the flexibility of scheduling that allows me to spend time with my family. Dentistry is a great career.