Many people have asked where I went for pediatric training after I graduated dental school. Still to this day, I have a tough time explaining it to people that are not from the area but here is my best attempt at it!
Geisinger is a large hospital in rural Pennsylvania, right off of I-80. It is an hour north of Harrisburg, the state capital, 45 minutes southwest of Scranton (yes, where “The Office” TV series is based out of), 45 minutes east of State College (where Penn State is located), and 30 minutes southeast of Williamsport (where the Little League World Series is). As far as major cities, we were within 3 hours of Philly, NYC, D.C., Baltimore, and Pittsburgh.
So why did a Tennessee boy like me decide to train up yonder in Central PA?
1) Clinical Experience
Being one of the only pediatric dental providers in this region of the state and having hospital schedulers making appointments meant that our schedules were always full with children and families traveling from miles around (literally some travelled over a hundred miles) for their dental care. Parents would wait over a year for a new patient appointment and by-golly they wouldn’t miss that appointment!
2) Hospital Experience
Since we were a department within the hospital, we treated many children with other medical needs. We gained an immense amount of knowledge in treating children with special healthcare needs and cancer patients.
3) Trauma Experience
Because it was just two of us in my residency class, I spent 365 days/nights on call over the two-year span. Being on call this much in a Level One Trauma Center meant that children were getting brought in from miles around on a daily and nightly basis, giving us much Emergency Room and Dental/Oral Trauma experience. You name the dental trauma, and we’ve probably seen it or at least something similar!
4) Sedation/General Anesthesia Experience
I was privileged to become well versed in multiple oral conscious sedation drugs, completing sedation experience requirements in the first fifteen months. The hospital had a pediatric IV sedation suite that we used regularly. We also had many children requiring full mouth rehabilitation in the Operating Room and were fortunate enough to perform well over a hundred cases each.
5) Orthodontic Experience
At Geisinger, we were lucky enough to be trained by four different orthodontic attendings. Since there was no orthodontic residency program at the hospital, we were treated by them as orthodontic residents. We were well trained in interceptive and comprehensive orthodontics, including being a part of the hospital’s cleft team and helping to correct patients with cleft lip and palate.
6) Private Practice Experience
Our residency also had an outpatient clinic that was run much more similarly to the way that a private practice is run. Learning how this clinic operated helped considerably in my transition into practice with my dad. Between the hospital and outpatient clinic, we had eight hygienists that we collaborated with and formulated treatment plans. Balancing many operative appointments with hygiene examinations tremendously helped prepare me to better treat patients in the “real world” in Chattanooga!
When I was applying and interviewing at different residencies, I wanted to find a program that prepared me for private practice both didactically and clinically. I am blessed to have trained at such a program that gave me the skills and efficiency to treat children in private practice. I am forever grateful for the lifelong mentors and friends that I gained in Danville, Pennsylvania!
Colton Popp, DDS