Compiled by Dr. Moein Sadrkhani
Dr. Rachel Kalman is a third-year University of Connecticut resident. The Paper Point‘s Dr. Moein Sadrkhani recently caught up with her to learn more about her journey to endo.
Dr. Moein Sadrkhani: Dr. Kalman, thank you for accepting our interview request. Tell us about yourself, Rachel.
Dr. Rachel Kalman: Thank you for this opportunity! I am currently a third-year resident at the University of Connecticut. I grew up north of Boston and went to Swarthmore College where I majored in psychology and minored in English literature. Before settling on dentistry, I had many different jobs including working on an urban farm, delivering packages for UPS, and doing clinical cancer research at a hospital in Boston. Through all those jobs I met many different people with such diverse life stories, which led to my wanting to be in a helping profession. As a side benefit, I think those experiences also help me connect with my patients!
Dr. Sadrkhani: I understand you are coming from an artistic family; what brought you to dentistry?
Dr. Kalman: I never thought I would be in the dental/medical field until I was required to take a biology class as part of my college requirements and fell in love with science. Once I learned more about dentistry, and how it allows you to work with your hands and build meaningful relationships with your patients, I knew I had found the right path. It wasn’t until I decided to become a dentist that I learned that my grandmother had wanted my mother (both of whom are artists) to become a dentist. My grandmother understood how dentistry beautifully ties together a helping profession with science and art.
Dr. Sadrkhani: Did you also follow the artistic path of your family — other than doing dentistry, of course?
Dr. Kalman: I’ve always enjoyed drawing and keep a sketchbook, especially when I travel. For a while I also had an Instagram account for my embroidery.
Dr. Sadrkhani: What was appealing for you about endodontics?
Dr. Kalman: My favorite days in dental school were spent in the endodontics clinic at UConn. The faculty were incredibly knowledgeable and welcoming and had a clear passion for teaching. As I started seeing my own endodontic patients, it just clicked. I enjoy how endodontic appointments combine working through sometimes difficult diagnostic puzzles, patient care and procedural precision.
On my first day of clinic during residency, I walked out to the waiting room and found my patient crying because she was in so much pain. After figuring out the diagnosis and giving anesthesia, she fell asleep and slept through the entire procedure. When I woke her up at the end, she gave me a big hug and said that was the first time she had slept in days because of her tooth. I’m sure everyone reading this has had an experience like that, and I’m not sure there is anything more rewarding!
Dr. Sadrkhani: Since dental school and also during your residency, you were always involved in leadership positions; why do you think it is important to be involved in these positions?
Dr. Kalman: I think it’s important to contribute to your community, whether it is your school, your profession, or the area you live in. In dental school I was our legislative liaison for ASDA and got to meet with our senators and representatives in Washington D.C. about alleviating student loan debt and expanding dental access to care programs. In residency, I served on the Education Council while our school was re-evaluating the current curriculum. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of those conversations and bringing both a student and resident perspective to the table.
Dr. Sadrkhani: Tell us about your experience on the REACH Committee.
Dr. Kalman: The REACH committee has been a wonderful experience, and only strengthened my respect for the field of endodontics. We have such a vibrant research and clinical community dedicated to growing knowledge and access to care. I really appreciate how the Foundation truly values resident voices and expands upon their ideas. For example, I believe it was the first REACH committee that suggested investing in endodontic outreach programs. Since then, not only was a partnership created with a clinic in Jamaica, the Foundation for Endodontics now funds a domestic access to care program that is open to applications until June 1! I also met a lot of wonderful residents and practicing endodontists from across the US through my participation on REACH.
Dr. Sadrkhani: Since the UCONN residency program is for three years, you have seen residency before and during COVID, what do you think has change mostly? What do you think was the most negative part? Any positive sides?
Dr. Kalman: Great question! At this point our clinic has returned almost entirely back to normal, other than doing a COVID screening for each patient and wearing additional PPE. The most difficult parts were the changing guidelines in the beginning and fielding more emergencies as patients waited longer to get care. On a positive note, it really brought us together as a residency program as we tried to figure out the best ways to stay safe and care for our patients. I cannot speak highly enough of how lucky I feel to have been a part of the UConn Endodontics Department during this time.
Dr. Sadrkhani: What is next?
Dr. Kalman: I am going to be moving to New York City with my fiancé and I’ll be working at Premier Endodontics of Long Island. I’m very excited to be joining their office! Once I’m more established, I plan to volunteer as part-time faculty in an endodontics program or GPR in the city. At UConn, second- and third-year endodontics residents teach once a week, and working with dental students and AEGD residents every Monday morning has been the best start to my week!
Dr. Sadrkhani: Any last words for our readers?
Dr. Kalman: Be patient with yourselves, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take every opportunity to learn from others! Also, my best life advice is to adopt a dog.