During her internship at a private Parisian hospital, senior Téa Huynh Van spends time with her great-uncle, a surgeon specializing in hernia repair. (Photo courtesy of Huynh Van)

CAVS AROUND THE WORLD: Senior increases interest in dentistry through two Parisian medical internships

In the “Cavs around the World” series, students discuss their summer internships, jobs, volunteer work and classes.

Senior Téa Huynh Van, a French citizen, completed two medical internships in Paris. She shadowed surgeons at a hospital for a week, then interned for three weeks at a dental surgery clinic on the outskirts of Paris. 

Q: How did you learn about these internships? 

A: My grandmother’s brother works as a surgeon at the private hospital, and my godfather co-owns the dental surgery clinic. 

Q: Why did you choose those internships? 

A: I’ve wanted to go to dental school since I was 10 years old. I wanted to see what the job was really like, but I also wanted to know if I was more interested in other medical studies. 

Q: What were your responsibilities at the hospital?  

A: I mostly observed different surgeries: hernia repair, cosmetic surgery, wisdom teeth removal and kidney stones removal, for example. 

One day, a patient came into the emergency room after breaking all his ribs. I got to watch his surgery, which was pretty exciting. 

I also helped file paperwork throughout the weeks. 

Q: What were your responsibilities at the dental surgery clinic? 

A: I watched different procedures – such as bone grafting and implant surgery – and (attended) consultations, filed and sorted papers and did some dental hygienist work. 

I also got to visit the clinic’s lab, where dental prostheses are made.

At a surgery clinic, dental hygienists set up the dental table, sterilize instruments, assist the surgeon during the surgery and clean up after the surgery. I helped set up the table and assisted in smaller kinds of procedures, such as using a water syringe and a saliva ejector. 

Q: How did the clinic prepare you for those tasks? 

A: My dental hygienist work started later in my internship; I wasn’t planning on doing it. 

By that time, though, I (had) already learned a bunch of (dental hygiene) procedures, so the surgeons allowed me to do something simple such as retrieving an implant from a drawer. 

Then, they taught me some more hygiene procedures they complete before the surgery, and I started working as a dental hygienist on one or two patients to see what it’s like. 

Q: Were there any memorable surgeries? 

A: The bone grafting and hernia surgeries. 

Bone grafting seems really intense because you’re literally adding bone, but it’s actually a very small surgery that occurs without anesthesia in about 30 minutes. 

Hernia repair is really interesting to watch. People think that surgeons cut off every part of the organ that bulges through the wall containing it, but that’s not true; surgeons actually don’t cut out anything.

Q: Have you completed a dental internship before? 

A: I shadowed my dentist in Sacramento for a week during my junior year. 

Q: Did you notice any major differences between the French and American dental clinics? 

A: First of all, the procedures were very different, as one was a regular dental office and the other a dental surgery clinic. Watching people get their wisdom teeth out under local anesthesia is just very different than watching a dental hygienist clean teeth. 

I think French and American schools also teach different ways to perform procedures. 

Q: How did your time at the hospital and the surgery clinic affect your interest in dentistry? 

A: It further amplified that I want to go to some kind of medical school, but that I prefer dentistry a whole lot more.

There’s something in dentistry that you can’t find anywhere else. The stakes are different: You’re not playing with someone’s life, (and) you don’t get to see people when they’re completely sick. You’re helping people’s health and appearance, which I think is super fascinating. 

Also, it’s nice that when most people come to the dentist, they can be scared, but they’re never sad.

—By Héloïse Schep

Excerpt originally published in the Sept. 17 edition of the Octagon.

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