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Alum Q&A: Vance Consalvo ’15

Vance Consalvo is a Dentist in New York. Vance was a Biology Major, Class of 2015.

Why did you decide to study Biology at Northeastern? Is there a specific element of the program that you enjoyed in your time here?

I knew the most efficient way to hit all the necessary pre-requisites for dental school was to major in a comprehensive science so that I would have time in my later years at Northeastern to take upper-level electives as opposed to majoring in business or something where finding time for pre-requisites would take from my electives.  Most notably I took a PG level course on Stem Cells and Regeneration that I was lucky to have room in my schedule to take before leaving NU.  But once enrolled in the College of Science I was very intrigued by the other majors – chemistry, biochemistry – but ultimately, I enjoyed how diverse the Biology Major was.  Be it Friday afternoon labs in the Behrakis Center or a bus trip with my ecology lab out to the Marine Science Center at Nahant, I have fond memories of my days as a Biology Major.

How did you first become involved in the PreDental Association? What motivated you to become President?

The Pre-Dental Association was among the first on-campus societies I joined and certainly the one I stuck with the longest.  As big a school as Northeastern is, us pre-dental students were a small group!  I needed that monthly reminder after being lost in the pre-med majority of my science classes that there were others like me prepping for professional school in a slightly different way.  By my junior year I was so interested in reaching out to the local dental schools that I was confident that I would make a great president in organizing tours, events and bringing in guest speakers to our meetings.

How did your studies and student involvement at Northeastern prepare you for a career in Dentistry?  

Hands down the curriculum within the College of Science prepared me for the rigors of dental school.  And there were rigors!  But Northeastern has such a tremendous success rate in graduates matriculating into medical and dental programs that by now it knows exactly what these schools are teaching.  The best example would be to anyone who took AP courses in high school who felt ready for college-level sciences at Northeastern, taking microbiology, biochemistry and gross anatomy that first semester of dental school was reminiscent of the instruction I had while at Northeastern.

How, if at all, has COVID-19 impacted the delivery of Dental care?

 Infection control governs our protocol.  The days of “shirt and slacks dentists” are gone:  Changing in and out of scrubs, caps, N-95 masks and face shields is the only noticeable difference in my personal, day-to-day patient-doctor interaction.  We still provide the same treatment, but handle emergency care with much more scrutiny now.  Offices are now equipped with air purifiers in every operatory, temperature checks and COVID-19 informed consents before each encounter, onboarding patients directly from the parking lot minimizing waiting room and reception encounters are the main differences to our patients.  But dentists have always been ahead of the game when it comes to PPE, where gloves, masks and hand-washing was part of our routine since I started that we don’t find ourselves having to order more gloves or masks than we had in the past.  We are serious about how we are considered very high risk for contracting the virus when the general public’s mouths are our working environment!  I am proud of the profession and hope in years to come other industries will look to dentistry as a model for safe practices during a global pandemic.

What advice could you provide students who are considering continuing a career in Dentistry?

Don’t lose sight of the prize.  It’s a long journey.  Arguably too long.  I never had a backup plan, only because I knew if I got knocked down, I’d retreat and choose the “other” – if not “easier” – path.  Even so, part of the process is being knocked down.  But when you refuse to let roadblocks be anything more than learning experiences you’ll be amazed at how driven and focused you can stay.  I’m relatively new to the field but I’ve been at it enough to report it is as enriching and humbling as we were always promised.  You’ll find when interviewing for schools that soul-searching an honest answer to that “why dentistry?” question will govern how you practice.  Take the time to put that into words.  A simple part of my answer to that question was I wanted to rid people of the pain or discomfort they walk into the office with by the time they leave. I continually am motivated by that each morning when I scrub up, knowing that by the end of my shift if I can send a patient home out of the pain they present with then I’ll have done my job that day, and each day.  I practice each day knowing that I’ve lived up to the answer of that question posed in interviews years ago.

PreMed and PreHealth