Kaitlyn Tom

DPHS 201
Student #: 1235665
Critical Incident Essay
This past quarter, I had the invaluable opportunity of shadowing Dr.
Rubenstein, the director of UW’s Maxillofacial Prosthetic Service. One of
fewer than 10 in his subspecialty in the country, Dr. Rubenstein is an
exceptional human being (to say anything otherwise would be an
understatement) My first experience shadowing an oral maxillofacial
prosthodontist, the magnitude of knowledge that I acquired these past 10
weeks at times felt overwhelming, but for which I am incredibly grateful and
lucky to have gained. In this essay, I recollect my most memorable
experiences shadowing Dr. Rubenstein from this past quarter, moments
which have not only confirmed my interest in dentistry but which I will
continue to learn from in all aspects of my life. I look forward to shadowing
Dr. Rubenstein beyond the spans of this class this summer.
On my very first day of shadowing, the outstanding level of care and
consideration Dr. Rubenstein provided to his patients astounded me. Dr.
Rubenstein’s charisma, attention to detail, patience, and concern for each
patient’s satisfaction, came off as truly genuine and embodied everything I
would hope to find (as a patient) in a healthcare provider. With each and
every patient, Dr. Rubenstein made an effort to make him or her feel at ease
in what would seem to many, an uncomfortable setting. Between the jokes
and humorous analogies, Dr. Rubenstein took it upon himself to not just get
the job done well, but to also make light of often very serious and complex
cases presented to him. As an example, that same day, a 76 year old man
came in with his wife to take an impression for a device called an obturator
that would replace the gap an ameloblastoma tumor had once filled. Dr.
Rubenstein managed to summarize what would’ve been a lengthy
explanation about a tedious process, into a short series of simple and
amusing analogies, one of which included using the floors of the health
sciences building to describe the separation between the sinus and maxilla.
From this particular experience I learned how important it is to establish a
good rapport and communication with one’s patient, especially if that means
making familiar analogies and using layman terms to help them better
understand each step of the procedure, as this gives them a sense of
reassurance and adds a level of comfort to their care.
In this next example, I recall two encounters with patients whom were
unsatisfied with the fit of their prostheses. The first involved a middle-aged
woman who came in after 3 months complaining that her denture just didn’t
“feel right”. For nearly an hour, Dr. Rubenstein continued to make the
adjustments his patient asked for. But each time, she still complained that
“it just didn’t feel right”. While I might have expected a little frustration from
Dr. Rubenstein’s side, he remained calm throughout and later explained to
me that a lot of dentistry is psychological and being able to understand what

your patients are thinking, especially when communication is lacking. I
learned that while you can’t always please your patients, you can always try.
Eventually Dr. Rubenstein was able to compromise with his patient and
explained, “oftentimes when a piece of the puzzle is missing, your brain gets
used to it missing. Then when the missing piece reappears, your brain tells
you that something feels off.” In addition to coming to terms with the
amount of patience and understanding dentists must have, I’ve learned from
this experience that dental care is long term. While the procedure may be
over, dentists will continue to check up on their patients from time to time,
allowing them to build close relationships and continue to care for them. This
is an aspect of dentistry that I look forward to and am eager to experience in
the future.
One of the most valuable and memorable experiences that I’ve had
thus far at the UW, shadowing Dr. Rubenstein has exceeded my
expectations. In addition to increasing my exposure to the dental field, this
experience has taught me that while much of dentistry is about treating
diseases and other oral complications, the majority of it involves being able
to form strong and meaningful connections with your patients. In the end of
the day, every patient that Dr. Rubenstein saw left with laughter, broad
smiles, and most importantly, a new confidence about them. In a similar
fashion, I look forward helping others attain this same aura of confidence
through better oral health, in my journey to becoming a dentist. With this
being said, I end with one of my favorite quotes from Patch Adams, a quote
which I feel comprehensively symbolizes what I’ve learned from my
shadowing experiences this quarter: "You treat a disease, you win, you lose.
You treat a person, I guarantee you, you'll win, no matter what the outcome."