March 14, 2012
Loma Linda students reflect on attending a Christian dental schoolReprinted with permission from ASDA News, February 2012.
by Jeremy Haines, LLUSD Class of 2014
I often find myself answering questions about what it's like to attend a private dental school that is run by a church (specifically, the Seventh Day Adventist Church). There are many things that make the experience unique. We have prayers before lectures, religion classes, chapel attendance and an honor code, to name a few. Each student gets something different from the religious lean to our education. The following reflections showcase perspectives of several students at my chapter.
Elijah Wang, Loma Linda '14
When I first arrived at the Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, I did not really know what level of intrusion religion would make into my daily life as an overworked dental student low on time. Without a background in the founding religion of LLUSD I was also wary at having my own religious beliefs attacked or being flooded with religious propaganda. It was soon apparent that my initial concerns were unfounded and the spiritual aspect of the program produced very little burden to my pursuit to become a dentist. I began to find great joy in the religious classes and brief chapel services that we attended, finding the philosophical discourses to be a welcome respite from the heavy science course load. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the goal was never to teach a strict sense of right or wrong, good or bad, but instead to simply encourage an individual’s personal path towards spiritual development. Thus, the range of religious views held by the students in my class ranging from Muslim to Catholic to Jewish were all greatly respected and shared.
It is difficult now to imagine practicing in a career that is tightly bound to ethical treatment and moral decisions, without having first spent time seriously contemplating and solidifying my personal ethical code. I am confident that when the time comes to leave LLUSD, I will be well prepared in knowledge, skill and spirit, to tackle the challenges that await me as a new graduate.
Wael Bekhit, Loma Linda '14
Praying before c1ass, integration of faith and learning, and weekly worship might be considered a violation of the Bill of Rights by some people. At Loma Linda, we believe it's rather a sign of the religious freedom this country was built upon. I'm always reminded of the honor I receive by learning about the complexity of the human body created by God. Knowing God is the only source of healing humbles me. It also drives me to seek the best education so I can be a qualified assistant in the healing process.
LLUSD is a safe environment to discuss faith and I have found many students feel comfortable sharing their religious backgrounds with their peers. Over the past year, I have learned a lot about different beliefs and developed an understanding and mutual respect for my friends. Attending a Christian university comes with an expectation from the community. Many patients come to the LLU dental clinic because they expect to be treated with compassion, dignity and love. This is something I have to live up to.
Eric Chen, Loma Linda '14
The religious atmosphere a! Lorna Linda is an invitation. Specifically, it invites students of all faith traditions and persuasions to experience religious meaning in an otherwise secular professional program. It's an organic outflow of how the faculty and students infuse religious meaning into techniques and knowledge in dentistry. An encouraging excerpt on the restoration of the soul before a restorative dentistry lecture or test might reach and encourage a discouraged student.
Very often, the pursuit of dentistry feels like an imitation of techniques. It is a primary goal of LLUSD and its members to utilize dentistry to go the extra mile for the broken in body and/or spirit—to be the healing hands of Christ. This may sound lofty, but it becomes real when the same mentors that teach dentistry share their lives in spiritual encouragement—sitting down, head down, earnestly praying with a homeless patient like brothers. These mentors address the chief complaint of the spirit behind their chief complaint, and students are inspired to do the same. The atmosphere is not indoctrination, but warmth that welcomes people of all different backgrounds, statuses, and esteem to be elevated to the same esteem Christ held for the lost.
For any student, religious or not, who considers the grandeur of his opportunities, and asks the question, "For what reason and purpose?" LLUSD invites you to meet people who have captured a spiritual context for their profession.
Janelle Bedford, Loma Linda '14
I appreciate the Christian heritage and values that LLUSD stands for. It acts to remind me of the bigger picture of when I will be a dentist, so I'm not just focused on the next 10 hours of lab work. Since my first year, I have taken one day off each week to attend church, relax and enjoy friends regardless of exams or lab work. This day off allows me to tackle my studies the next day, refreshed and motivated. Although this practice does not work for all of my classmates, I appreciate that I have the option to do so.
At Loma Linda, serving the underprivileged locally and overseas is greatly emphasized. Every break, the students have the option to travel and serve at a different site. From Honduras to Ethiopia, to our neighboring cities in Southern California, it is not only a question of whether the people that we helped had their dental needs met, but also a question of how much was the dental student's life impacted. Many local dentists, some of whom are our professors, support these missions and clinics with their time and knowledge. For these reasons, I appreciate being a student here, which continues to provide spiritual support for students and maintain a strong value in helping those in need.
For more information about Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, visit "http://www.llu.edu/dentistry/" www.llu.edu/dentistry/