Why I Chose Midwestern’s Dental Program

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Antelope Canyon, Arizona

When I first ranked my choices of dental schools Midwestern University was not at the top of the list. In fact it was somewhere in the middle. Even after interviewing here it wasn’t in my top three. But now I wouldn’t choose to go to any other school. So what happened? Well, allow me to explain.

First of all, it’s not that I didn’t receive offers from schools. I actually got into my number one choice and my number three. Although Midwestern was number four or five on my list, it grew on me the more I interviewed at other schools and researched each school’s academics.

After interviewing at dental schools across the country you learn a thing or two about their differences and similarities. It is hard to know what you should look for before you apply. You can be sure that schools will do a great job of selling themselves on interview day.

A few of the things that I cared about when applying

  • Cost (living, tuition, fees, scholarships, etc.)
  • NBDE pass rate and timing
  • Student–faculty ratio
  • Specialty programs offered
  • Patient demographics
  • Facilities (less important)
  • Equipment (less important)

You can read my post about the cost of dental school, including Midwestern University. Because that post covers cost at length, I will skip it in this article. I should mention that although Midwestern is one of the more expensive dental schools in the country, I still chose to come here.

The NBDE

Some schools take the NBDE Part I after completion of the first year of basic science. For me, this was a selling point because I want to spend more time learning dentistry.

The idea at Midwestern is that that students don’t feel it necessary to do an AEGD or GPR residency. They want us to be competent enough to go straight into practice after school. Also, I should mention that a number of schools I interviewed at were working towards a one year NBDE Part I model as well. I remember thinking that if these other schools aspire to be like Midwestern and UOP, then that must be the ideal.

Some schools have a 100% pass rate on the NBDE part I. They tend to be smaller programs. Not that I am making excuses, it’s just that 100% of 40 students is easier to achieve than 100% of 140 students. Midwestern dental has a 98% pass rate on the NBDE Part I.

Student-faculty ratio

Midwestern really played up the fact that they have the lowest student–faculty ratio in the nation. I thought I would ask the other schools what their ratios were for comparison.

Midwestern Arizona claims to have a student–faculty ratio of 4.56:1 in the pre-clinic. In the clinic, the student–faculty ratio ranges from 2:1 up to about 8:1. Of the schools that I interviewed at this was certainly the best ratio. In a few cases it was much lower than what other programs have to offer. One program had a student–faculty ratio of 12:1 in the pre-clinic. Students there openly complained that they had to wait in long lines to get supplies.

Midwestern pairs 1st and 2nd year students as well as 3rd and 4th year students. For example, I am partnered with a D2 who is available to answer any questions I may have during my first year. Next year I will do the same for an incoming D1 freshman.

Similarly, in the clinic D3s are paired up with more senior D4 students. They assist each other virtually every day in clinic. They are practicing four-handed quadrant dentistry in a way that mirrors real world clinical practice.

Combined with the low student–faculty ratio in the clinic, Midwestern offers an unparalleled clinical experience. Or so I’m told at least… Midwestern dental has also pioneered many innovations which have made ours the most productive dental clinic in the nation. With CBCTs, more CAD/CAM dentistry than anywhere else on Earth, the largest radiology suite in the state of Arizona, 3D-printing, and students placing Trinia all-on-four implants, Midwestern graduates leave with an impressive array of tools and experience. This was easily the best clinical setup I saw during my interviews.

Specialty programs

Another important factor in my decision was whether or not the school had specialty programs. Contrary to what some students are looking for, I actually wanted to go to a school that does not have many specialists. I don’t want to get an interesting endo or implants case, only to lose it to the specialty students.

Here at Midwestern, the sky is the limit. If the faculty believes you to be competent to do a complex case, they will help you do it. Of course they will be there to assist, and this is where the 2:1 student–faculty ratio in the advanced clinic comes in. Midwestern dental is definitely not the only school in the nation which does not offer specialty programs.

Patient demographics

As far as patient demographics go, we have an excellent pool of medicare and medicaid patients here in Phoenix. Not a lot of people know this, but Phoenix is now the 5th largest metropolitan area in the nation, slightly larger than Philadelphia. In the entire region there is only one small OMFS program between Banner and Midwestern, along with an AEGD and orthodontic residency at ASDOH.

We have lots of medically complex seniors who moved here to retire. The patient demographics in the Phoenix valley are excellent. There are really only a few other schools that can rival what Midwestern has to offer in terms of diversity and complexity of cases. Of course we share our patient population with ASDOH just across town.

If you could go anywhere?

During my interviews I asked students at the school a question: “If not this school, where would you go?” The school which came up most consistently was Midwestern Arizona. Students at other schools who had worked with Midwestern dental students described them as the best prepared students in the nation.

More than once, a program director compared their program to Midwestern. When I was a kid, my dad said that everyone compares themselves to BMW for luxury, or Toyota for dependability because those are the cars to beat. As soon as program directors and students began comparing their programs to Midwestern’s clinic, I thought it may be the school to beat clinically.

In the last few years, 23 dental schools have visited Midwestern dental to see how they can improve their own program. Schools send people here because they have heard from CODA, their own students, and the military, about the success of this program.

Fancy gadgets cost money

I know that a lot of students are interested in the quality and newness of the facilities at a school. What kind of equipment is available? Are the SIM clinic and patient clinics state of the art?

Midwestern dental has one of the most advanced, if not the most advanced facilities in the country. Furthermore, they have a technology endowment which they use to replace all of the hand pieces every five years no matter what. The school boasts many E4D and Cerec CAD/CAMs, an i-CAT 3D Cone Beam scanner, a Gendex 9200 Digital Panoramic x-ray, intraoral cameras, 3D-printers, endodontic microscopes, and much more. I have no idea what it all will mean when I get over to the clinic, but I will revisit the topic when I actually know something about it as a D3 or D4.

To be honest, the technology stuff was less important to me than the rest of the package. It’s nice to know that this school has some of the best technology available, but for me there are more important things. Also, remember that your tuition is paying for all of the fancy stuff you get to play with. That said, there are plenty of expensive schools in this country that don’t offer anywhere near the clinical experience on offer at Midwestern.

We chose Arizona together

Lastly, and this is specific to my situation, I had to consider the needs of my fiancée (then girlfriend) and her career. I am sure that there are a number of students who will also have to consider the needs of their family, so this is for you.

Phoenix is a sprawling metropolitan environment, but I love it here. The summers are hot, but I don’t really mind it all that much. I won’t be climbing any mountains on a summer day but it sure is nice to walk out of Costco at night and still feel the warmth. In fact, many people go to city parks and have barbecues even after dark during the summer. Knowing that the other nine months of the year are superb just makes it that much easier to get through three exceptionally hot summer months.

We currently live in Scottsdale which is about 25 minutes away from school. I couldn’t be happier here. Well, I could if I had a shorter commute… I am only two weeks in and so far I think this may be the best place I have ever lived!

Everything is close here. The highways make it easy to get around and there is no shortage of things to do here. The restaurants in Scottsdale are excellent and there is plenty of stuff to do outside to keep anyone busy hiking, biking, skiing, or boating.

Amazing surroundings

There are mountains all around and there are resorts all over the place. Locals even get to stay at the resorts for a reduced rate during the off-season!

Sedona is only a couple of hours away and offers incredible hiking. When you get bored of that, you can travel further north to the Grand Canyon, or Kaibab National Forest. Flagstaff has skiing and hiking with summits over 12,000′ in elevation. Being from Utah, I hadn’t expected to find such high peaks here in Arizona.

There are multiple lakes within easy driving distance of downtown. There are more biking trails here than anywhere else I have ever lived outside of Utah. Commuting here is a pleasure compared to Chicago, where I previously lived. And although this city lacks the cultural significance of larger cities like New York or Chicago, the southwestern vibe is pretty laid-back.

You get used to the rock gardens, stucco walls, cacti, and the lack of greenery quickly. If you really can’t part with brick homes and green grass though, you can always take out more student loans and live in Arcadia! No, but seriously, don’t do that.

The choice is yours

I hope that this has offered a bit of perspective on why I chose to attend Midwestern University in Arizona. I should add that both Midwestern Arizona and Midwestern Illinois are sister schools under the same umbrella organization. But that is where the similarities end.

They are very different programs, and they have different strengths and weaknesses. I spoke to students from both schools before making my decision. My advice to you is to do your own research and figure out what works for you. I am very happy that I chose to attend Midwestern, Arizona.

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