This summer, 46 new dental residents—11 of whom are UConn School of Dental Medicine (SDM) graduates—started their residencies at UConn. Catherine Florentine and Julia Witt are two of the 11 recent graduates with the Class of 2023 who are proudly continuing their dental education at UConn. Read more about their stories below.
Catherine Florentine’s Grandfather Inspired Her Love of Dentistry
Catherine Florentine of Madison, Connecticut was 12 years old when she decided she wanted to be a dentist. It was her grandfather, an orthodontist, who inspired her love of dentistry.
Florentine, who completed her undergraduate degree at Connecticut College, knew that UConn dental had a stellar reputation, and liked the small class size, the sense of support, and the collaborative environment with the faculty. She knew that this was an experience not offered at every dental school.
“I saw throughout my dental school experience that everybody really cared about me as a person and that support and connection honestly made my education that much more meaningful,” says Florentine. “Which is why I did not want to leave UConn after I graduated.”
From the first day at UConn dental, Florentine appreciated the expectation that students take advantage of their own learning opportunities. There was a lot of support to try new things and she always felt that she had her friends, classmates, and faculty to fall back on at every turning point.
Early on in her first year, she knew she wanted to focus on oral surgery thanks to exposure and mentoring from a faculty member in the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery department at UConn. She also dreamed about staying at UConn for her residency while in dental school and couldn’t have been more excited when she found out in January that she matched.
“UConn is so special to me because of the faculty, and that was one of the major reasons behind my decision to stay at UConn,” says Florentine. “Even now in the beginning part of my residency, my co-residents and faculty have made what seems like a daunting process of six years seem reasonable, and honestly fun!”
In the SDM, there is a four-year and a six-year oral surgery track. Florentine has chosen the six-year option. The first year consists of clinical oral and maxillofacial surgery and an anesthesiology rotation. The next 19 months are committed to the mandatory and elective School of Medicine third- and fourth-year clerkships after which the medical degree is awarded. The fourth year and part of the fifth year are accredited by the General Surgery Department and the final one and a half years are in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Florentine will rotate at UConn John Dempsey Hospital, Hartford Hospital, Connecticut Children’s, and Saint Francis Hospital. Formal medical education is provided through the UConn School of Medicine and the General Surgery residency is obtained in the Integrated General Surgery program of the School of Medicine.
“I decided to apply for the six-year track to have the opportunity to gain as much knowledge as I possibly can to prepare for whatever I decide to do in the future,” says Florentine. “During dental school, I also had the opportunity to complete the ADEA Academic Careers Fellowship Program, and this made me realize how rewarding teaching is and gave me exposure to another potential career path.”
Upon completion of her residency, Florentine will have earned an M.D. degree as well as a two-year Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education approved General Surgery certificate, and education in oral and maxillofacial surgery leading to a certificate and eligibility for examination by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
“My goal for the future would be to have the opportunity to work with both hospital and clinic patients, as well as teaching dental students, says Florentine. “I am confident that UConn will provide me with all the resources to achieve my goals, and I am looking forward to all the new experiences of residency.”
For Julia Witt UConn School of Dental Medicine Runs in the Family
Julia Witt’s father is a UConn School of Dental Medicine alum. Since she was little, she knew that she wanted to follow in his footsteps into the dental field as an orthodontist. UConn School of Dental Medicine was her top choice when applying to dental school as her dad always said some of his best years were from that program and he has such fond memories of it.
One of nine children, Julia is joined at the School of Dental Medicine by two of her siblings. Her sister Lindsay is a fourth-year dental student, and her sister Madison is a first-year dental student. Her brother is also currently at UConn School of Law. Witt’s undergraduate education was at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she was a microbiology major and a division one athlete in track and field.
Witt took a gap year before dental school and worked as an orthodontic assistant, where she gained more exposure to the specialty of orthodontics.
“I was excited and loved the fact that UConn School of Dental Medicine focused on team-based learning and emphasized basic medical science while attentive to patient-centered care,” says Witt.
Witt describes the dental school as one giant family, building relationships with faculty, mentors, and colleagues as well as the wonderful patients she worked with.
When it came to choosing her residency, she wanted to stay at UConn. While a dental medicine student she did rotations within the orthodontic clinic, through research, shadowing, rotations, and classes and was able to get to know the faculty and program well.
“I was very excited when I learned that I matched at UConn because it’s a great program and I know that I will get a strong orthodontic foundation and clinical exposure,” says Witt.
As Witt prepares to spend the next three years in her orthodontics residency in combination with the graduate program, she will obtain a certificate in orthodontics as well as a master’s degree in dental science, setting a strong foundation through didactic courses, clinical exposure, and interprofessional collaboration with different specialties.
“I look forward to increasing my knowledge and learning as much as possible so that I can provide the best care to my patients,” says Witt. “I know that each case will be different because each patient has their own unique factors, but I can’t wait to help use the knowledge and skills I’ve gained to improve patients’ smiles and increase their confidence.”