Why I got Nervous teaching a Prosthodontist

In the fall of 2013 we had classes in Santa Monica, a gorgeous city in the greater Los Angeles area. Naturally many interviewees heading to UCLA and USC joined our course.

We were operating at max capacity, and I was having a great deal of fun interacting with students, but there was one applicant in particular that got me nervous.

She was a specialist, not just in any field, but a Prosthodontist, and also had a PhD in Prosthodontics. And she joined our training course.


With regard to teaching, I always have been able to break things down in a easy-to-understand way and get to the core of things rather than focusing on what may look like is happening on the surface. It comes naturally to me. I’ve even taught many dentists who themselves had several years of teaching experience, sometimes in restorative dentistry. I am still a young general dentist, never did I picture myself teaching a PhD in prosthodontics about preparations. I felt a knot in my stomach.

“What would I teach her? She probably knows a great deal more than me, I should be learning from her. What if I make a mistake?”

Tons of questions and worries ran through my mind.

I talked to her on the phone, and she was sure she wanted to take our course, she had just this one interview call from USC and was determined to make it. So I opted for the challenge.

She was really good as I expected, one of the more precise hands I’ve seen and definitely the best of hands of anyone I’ve taught even till today. But I quickly realized that the way of practicing was very different here than what she was used to. It took her some time to soak-in the U.S. way of doing things, and the 5 days we spent in class together was perfect for her.

She got accepted of course, and later sent me this letter she has written for you.

Hi, my name is Esra Salihoglu Yener. I am from Turkey. I am a Prosthodontist who holds a DDS degree (2004) from University of Marmara in Istanbul, a PhD (2009) and a specialist (2011) degree in Prosthodontics from University of Yeditepe in Istanbul.

Becoming a dentist in the US has been my dream for a long time. Getting board exams, TOEFL and having a good CV were very important parts of the application process. But for me, although they required a long time, they were less stressing than the bench exam and the interview session.

When I got the interview invitation from USC I was very stressed because I didn’t know what they were expecting in both the bench exam and the interview. I didn’t have any friends at dental schools in US, who could give me some advice for the exam and the interview. And, I didn’t have too much time to get prepared because I was working as a full-time Prosthodontist in Istanbul, Turkey. It was my first application cycle and it would be my first exam and interview. Although I have a good clinical experience, what we do in the clinics is somewhat different from the books.

I heard that there were some hands-on courses in the US for these exams and interviews. When I searched on the web, I found Dr. Marshall’s website. My exam and interview would be on the weekend right after the 5-days course, which means that I didn’t have any extra days to practice by myself.

I enrolled Dr. Marshall’s hands-on course. I also got the online course, which was consisted of videos. I watched the videos the week before the hands-on course. They helped me a lot because the course was very intensive. And, because I watched them before the course I could spend more time on practicing.

Dr. Marshall was really aware of what they expected from us during the interview and the bench exam. She showed every detail of the preparations. We were also able to practice after course hours late at night, which was very effective for me because I was staying at a hotel. In addition, Dr. Marshall had everything I needed for the exam. USC sent a huge list of equipment for the exam, which I paid for unnecessarily because I didn’t use most of them during the exam. Dr. Marshall was very professional at which instruments or burs, etc., we should use and she avoided unnecessary instruments.

There was an interview simulation on the last day of the course. I can say that the simulation was almost the same with my real interview session. I learned what they expected from me and what the interview would be like. It helped me a lot even though I didn’t have any time to practice.

The interview was the day after the interview simulation. As a dentist who is living outside the US, I could really say that Dr. Marshall’s course helped me a lot. Therefore, it was worth paying and getting both the hands-on and the online course for me. In addition, it was a nice and friendly experience with both Dr. Marshall and Kevin, and also with other competitors. The food was quite good. I enjoyed the course and I would highly recommend the applicants to get both hands-on and online courses.

It was my first application cycle and I got it.

According to what I heard during the test and the interview, most of the applicants have been living in the US and therefore not practicing for a long time. I would recommend these applicants to get these courses as early as possible because they need time to improve their hand skills.


Golden advice at the end.


Several threads come to me about my experience working with Esra.

She was such a strong candidate, but yet she only got called from USC. No other programs invited her for an interview.

She was already a specialist, she could easily get a teaching position in Prosthodontics in the US, yet she’s opting for the Advanced Standing Program.

She was very humble and was ready to learn. Though she had top notch credentials she never once eluded to it nor let her credentials get in her way of learning during the our course. This is a stark contrast from what I often see. I get a lot of emails from candidates who make sure to let me know that they have several years of clinical experience, that their hands are good, that they know how to do preps, etc., etc. Yet here’s Esra with some of the best hands I’d ever come across and because she was willing to submit to a different way of doing things than what she had previously been taught, she had no trouble making it in to her desired school. Interestingly enough, USC’s Bench Test that year, was one of the most unexpectedly difficult bench tests they’ve ever administered.

The lesson? Beware not to let your ego and pride get in the way of your success with regards to the bench test.



  1. Didi Ould Ahmed August 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Awesome , as always Alyssa.

    Inspired me and for sure i will get enrolled in your class .

  2. shweta August 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    A wonderful candidate we should all aspire to become.

  3. shriya sarin August 26, 2014 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    It was really motivating and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it and enhancing my confidence and spirit.

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