Doctorate of Dental Surgery
For Vincent Fuschino, dentistry is the family business. He started working at his father’s practice in upstate New York when he was a teenager before earning his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from SUNY Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine in 2011 — where he also met his wife, Kat, a fellow dentist. Currently, he is in his year-long residency at St. Peter’s Health Care Services in Albany, N.Y., as required by New York state law, after which he can become licensed. At that point, he will go into practice with his father.
Why did you decide to go into dentistry? Was your dad’s practice an influence?
Truth be told, when I was in college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until the very end of my third year when I settled on dentistry, the main reason being that I knew it would afford me the ability to have a family similar to that from which I had come. Dentistry would allow me to make enough money to provide for my family as well as give me the ability to go home to my family and spend time with them.
I also enjoy dentistry because I’m good at it. I worked all facets, from ordering supplies, to assisting my father, to sending out insurance forms at his office since I was 13 years old and it wasn’t until I was 21 that it struck me that dentistry was the right fit. I was always naturally good with my hands, good with business, and good with people. When you do something well, it simply reinforces itself.
To this day, I could easily see myself as a computer programmer, a manager, or an officer in the military, but it just didn’t turn out that way. My father and mother never pushed me to become a dentist, nor did any of my friends or relatives. It just sort of made sense — the ends justified the means, so to speak.
What are some of your most memorable experiences during your dental education?
I’ll be very blunt about this. I try not to think about dental school. I hated that place. They treated us like children, shoved us into a room, and forced us to waste hours of our lives where we were learning nothing. We even had sign-in and sign-out sheets. It was worse than high school. They rode us hard all first and second year, sending us academic updates when we all were behind and when it was in question whether or not we would be held back a year.
By the fourth year, my housemate and I tacked them to the walls in our living room and laughed since it had become so commonplace — it simply was a form of harassment. They beat us over the head, warning us about lawyers and getting sued. If it weren’t for my classmates and a few select faculty, I wouldn’t even have one pleasant memory of those four years. [Meeting my wife] Kat was probably the highlight. Getting my diploma was the next best thing. Going out to lunch was also the highlight of the day during fourth year.
Was there anything you didn’t like about studying dentistry?
I liked studying dentistry. I could go at my own pace and learn in my own way. I thought while going through it that three-quarters of the things we learned were useless. Fortunately for me, with my dental background, I could distinguish most of the BS from the nuggets of gold. I had no problem with studying. The pace sometimes was a little hectic, especially in the second year when we were tested at least twice a week. I just wish that we didn’t have to waste so much time in class. It would have been better spent studying on my own.
How have your expectations of dentistry and the field going into it compared to your actual practice and experience?
They are as they have always been. I knew what it was all about before I even started school. Dentistry is about people. The practice of dentistry is not the materials and methods. It’s the diagnosis and communication that are important. Doing fillings, root canals, extractions, crowns are simple by comparison.
How has your dentistry degree influenced your career?
It has allowed to have my career as a licensed dentist. The hardships that I had to endure to attain my diploma have given me a greater respect for those in my profession and professions like it.
What skills from your degree do you still use? Any you don’t?
Every time I pick up a drill, do a denture, design a framework, do an evaluation or exam, or look at radiographs, I use the skills that I developed in school. Currently, I use almost all of the skills I developed in school. The only ones I rarely use are the laboratory skills for the fabrication of crowns, dentures, night guards, and so forth. All of that now is sent out to local labs.
What advice would you give to dental students?
First off, there is no such thing as an absolute. Anyone that tells you that it must be done “this way” is full of themselves. It may need to be done that way to pass the class or please the teacher, but frankly, it is just a bunch of BS. The sooner you realize this, the better you become at dentistry. Second, don’t procrastinate — stay ahead at all costs because once you are behind, it takes twice as much work to catch up. Third, dentistry is all about people. You could have the most amazing hands and diagnostic skills in the world, but if you can’t communicate, you will fail as a dentist.
Word to the wise, people only sue people that they feel wronged or taken advantage of. If you communicate properly, the only way you will be sued is if you deserved it by screwing up royally. Fourth, you most likely will never find the caliber of people that you are surrounded by during school, so now is the time to look for your significant other. Finally, make friends, stick together, and help each other out. It’s next to impossible to make it through solely by yourself.