Doctor of Dental Surgery
Periodontology graduate student
Going into dentistry, Katherine Guilfoyle didn’t realize how many different specialties there were in the field. But after graduating from Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine with her Doctor of Dental Surgery, she realized one of them was a good fit for her. Now, she’s in her first year of the graduate periodontology program at the University of North Carolina, working towards a Master of Science and a certificate in periodontics. After completing the three-year program, she hopes to work in private practice as a periodontist in New York, where her husband — whom she met while attending Stony Brook — also practices dentistry.
Why did you decide to go into dentistry?
I always had some interest in pursuing a health profession as a career, and growing up, I had very positive experiences as a dental patient. I felt that some of the dental procedures I had when I was younger had a great impact on my life and I found dentistry to be so fascinating. It always seemed so exciting to me as a career that blends helping others with using skills in science and art!
What are some of your most memorable experiences during your dental education?
My three most memorable experiences during my dental education were: traveling to Madagascar for a three-week dental mission one summer ñ we saw so many patients and the experience was incredible, and one day I hope to return; forming friendships with my dental school classmates over the four years ñ school was tough, but we had each other for support; and meeting my husband!
Anything you didn’t like about studying dentistry?
Dental school requires a lot of hard work and determination. It was especially difficult during the first two years, when you’re taking medical school and dental school classes and at the same time seeing your first patients ñ all while remembering to have some balance in your life!
How have your expectations of dentistry and the field going into it compared to your actual practice and experience?
I honestly have and continue to find more and more to love about it. When I first entered dental school, I didnít realize how many different specialties there were within dentistry and how much variety it offers you as a career. I love how the practice of dentistry is constantly evolving as new technology and research findings enter the picture. Iíve met so many enthusiastic dentists ñ it is great to learn from them and encouraging to see their excitement regarding our field. I also didnít anticipate how much I would learn from my patients ñ itís so wonderful to be able to interact with so many different people!
What skills from your degree do you still use? Any you don’t? And what skills are you currently developing in graduate school?
Since Iíve decided to specialize, I may not directly use some of the skills Iíve learned in the past. However, it is very important that I am knowledgeable about treatments that general dentists and other specialists provide as many patients require treatment that is ìmulti-disciplinary.î My residency is in periodontics, a specialty of dentistry that focuses on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease and oral inflammation. Periodontists also place dental implants and perform surgical procedures to help maintain the health, function, and esthetics of the tissues that surround and support the teeth.
What advice would you give to potential dental students?
Dentistry is a fantastic career and a lot of fun. Going through the training isnít easy, but donít give up and keep balance in your life. Donít get frustrated (and remember to be polite) when people ask you if dental school is only two years (and they will ask). And always keep your patientsí best interests at heart.