A day in their scrubs

Meet D3 Jean Cala
March 30th, 2021

Hometown: Bulacan, Philippines, an agricultural province. I grew up seeing greenery and nature and animals. I remember driving past rice fields and fruit trees and being so relaxed by the wind blowing on me at the back of a tricycle on my way to school. I also loved visiting my grandfather’s farm, picking mangoes straight from the trees with my cousins, and watching cows, goats, pigs and chickens. Growing up in a Third World country, I am no stranger to the simpler life. I would rather live in a rural community than in a big city.

Undergrad institution: I finished my Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Texas-Permian Basin in Odessa. Prior to that, I earned three associate degrees from Odessa College. Some people would say there is nothing to do in West Texas, but I love being there. I love the sense of community, simplicity and family values. While in undergrad, I also took dance classes in ballroom, country and Latin dances. The summer before I started dental school, I had the opportunity to teach a bachata beginner’s class.

Why Texas A&M College of Dentistry: In undergrad, I heard horror stories about toxic environments and cutthroat competitiveness in professional schools. That’s something I have always been anxious about because I want a place that is conducive to different types of learning. However, during the interview here, I noticed how pleasant the environment is and how friendly most of the people are – from students, to faculty, to staff, to security personnel, and to cafeteria staff.

Dental school success strategy: No matter what, I try to give myself some “me time” to do everything else but study. It could be doing chores, washing dishes, gardening, sewing, etc. I also like to treat myself occasionally. I believe that unnecessarily stressing yourself out is not helping anyone and can even negatively affect the people around you. Like in most aspects of life, discipline is the key. My advice is to try to do your “future self” some favors. For example, if I have a practical the next day, I gather my things one or two days before, so I have fewer things to stress about the day of. I often end up thanking my “past me” for making things in life so much easier.

Favorite energy food: I have two types of energy food. For physical energy, I go for energy biscuits; my favorite flavors are golden oats and blueberry. For emotional energy, I can go for six-piece nuggets with an iced coffee from McDonald’s or a hot fudge sundae from Dairy Queen or Sonic.

How you unwind after a long day in lecture, lab or clinic: I like to unwind by doing some gardening on my small balcony. I am currently starting some seedlings to donate to a community garden. I have started tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, okra, eggplant, basil, thyme, lavender and peppers. It’s very therapeutic to see growth from your own hands. Gardening has taught me more about patience and that everybody has their own pace of growth. I apply this concept to clinic as well. When I feel like I’ve fallen behind my colleagues in terms of experience, I try to make the most of what I have and not become impatient.

Another way I unwind is by playing the Cooking Craze game on my phone. I am able to “travel” to different countries and prepare their local delicacies and dishes.

Best dental school moment so far: My best dental school moments involve all the good things I have been a part of under LIGHT, our multicultural student volunteer organization. I think it is a wholesome way to spend some free time and serve the community. This academic year started with the ongoing pandemic, and LIGHT has given me the opportunity to sew cloth face masks. I was also able to help in various community service events/donation drives, such as a canned food drive, oral hygiene kit assembly, winter clothing drive, food-serving events, food pantry assembly, and serving at a community garden with great help from D3 Odelia Kim and D2 Lori Gossett, who is an amazing president. When I participated in volunteer services in the Philippines, I noticed how much other people have compared to us. We take many things for granted that we should cherish and respect. LIGHT has taught me selflessness and to think about the greater good.

I think that LIGHT is making me become a better leader. As dentists, we have the great role of being a leader in our society, and I think we should exercise that role for the betterment of not only our work environment but also the whole community. What makes LIGHT stand out to me is that it harvests an environment of growth through positivity, unity and being able to work alongside great leaders who work together not because of their social identity but because of their passion and heart for service. The most important thing that LIGHT has taught me, perhaps, is that dentists can do so much more for the community than just dentistry.

Favorite patient care experience: My favorite patient care experience was seating my first crown. When the crown sat all the way and the margins flush against the tooth, I gave a huge sigh of relief. It was very satisfying. Of course, a lot of work went into that before the seating. When I got back the Pindex cast, I made sure to do all the steps right. I would always hear Dr. Janna Burnett at the back of my head, “Set yourself up for future success.” I get flashbacks of those days in the Sim Lab and always stay grateful for how far I have come since then.

Goal after graduation: My goal after graduation is to start my life in Lubbock. I will be moving there to practice dentistry with my boyfriend, Twain Henry II (Class of 2019). We will be starting the next chapter of our life together with plans on starting a nonprofit organization that helps and builds future leaders, as well as possibly starting a dental practice of our own.

What people may not know about you: If anyone ever asks me what my favorite pizza is, I will always say Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple.

I also worked at a public library as a library assistant in my second year of undergrad. The organizer in me was beaming with joy. I spent most of my days reorganizing and restocking shelves, relabeling books, doing paperwork, assisting customers in printing and scanning. It was amazing. The library was transitioning to a digital system, so there was always something to do. I enjoyed coming to work and doing my job, as well as being with my colleagues. I am a hard worker. Once I am given a job or responsibility, I aim to fulfill it and maybe just a little bit more.

— Kathleen Green Pothier