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Dental Research during Gap Year

University of Minnesota alumni Riley Sanocki learned about ACR Homes from his roommate who also works at ACR and recommended it to him.. He applied thinking it would be a good experience for his gap year between undergrad and his future goal to go to dental school. During his job interview with ACR, his interviewer mentioned the possibility of doing a dental internship to go along with his direct care, which immediately caught his interest as well.

“Even though I had dental school interviews soon after starting work with ACR, I was already able to talk about direct care as well as my internship as a positive experience. My interviewers must have liked that because I got into both schools I interviewed at and am now at UMN dental school!” Riley explained.

For about 8 months during his gap year, Riley worked in a behavioral home with 4 young men as a Direct Care Professional, averaging nearly 40 hours per week. Riley found his time at ACR taught him valuable direct care skills related to the field of special care dentistry. He learned strategies on how to achieve improved cooperation during oral hygiene cares for the individuals he assisted. He also attended a routine dental cleaning with one resident as well as a dental surgery that required general anesthesia for another.

Pre-Dental Internship

Along with his direct care experience, Riley also pursued the dental internship that had piqued his interest during his interview. Riley created his own research focus, choosing to collect data from the oral hygiene records of every individual receiving services at ACR Homes. Riley’s internship goal was to determine if people who lived at ACR were part of the reported oral health disparity between individuals with disabilities and the general population, and to underscore the importance of improving resident oral hygiene. While working towards this goal, Riley’s extensive data collection also ended up establishing a set of baseline statistics for future oral health internships.

Regarding his internship experience, Riley advises other students to think about internships related to their own field. He noted, “ACR has a lot of residents and thus a lot of data so there is a lot of potential for meaningful research internships.” He further suggests that students “read current work in their field and see how their project could be meaningful in that field to help guide them to what exactly they want their internship to accomplish.”

Armed with the healthcare training and direct patient care experience he gained at ACR, Riley is now well into his first year of Dental School at the University of Minnesota. He reflects, “Some of the characteristics I developed as a DCP—patience, compassion, and responding to medical issues—will stick with me throughout my life.”

Watch more about Riley’s experience HERE.

Interested in pursuing a research internship or special project focus of your own? Email internships@acrhomes.com to learn more about opportunities specifically catered to your individualized career and educational goals.