The Human Connection

May 14, 2019
Jillian Muhlbauer

Jillian Muhlbauer arrived at Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) in August of 2015 with certain expectations of what dental school would be like. She understood the academic rigor she would face, the hours of studying that would consume her time, and the mountain of knowledge she would be required to retain, but this May when she graduates from HSDM she will leave most astonished by the relationships she fostered with patients, faculty, and fellow students.

“From grammar school through my undergraduate studies, I memorized state capitals and biological pathways; I could recGive Kids A Smile 2018ite the preamble or carefully pipette microliter solutions. Dental school came with its own set of learned concepts; however, it was the human connection, the patient-doctor relationship, that is most memorable,” Muhlbauer said. “As my clinical experience in dental school winds down, I’m amazed by the relationships I have developed with my patients. Dental school gave me the opportunity to connect with patients and understand their perspective in order to provide the best quality care.”

One HSDM faculty member in particular played a significant role in shaping Muhlbauer’s understanding of the patient-doctor relationship. Dr. Supattriya Chutinan, an instructor in Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials Sciences, significantly influenced how Muhlbauer makes strong connections with patients.

“Dr. Chutinan has been a tremendous asset as I developed as a clinical provider. Her dedication to evidence-based dentistry and patient-centered care are an inspiration for my professional career,” Muhlbauer said. “She has helped me tailor treatment plans for unique patient needs and continues to follow-up throughout the treatment. She remembers everything and is always up for a challenge.”

Muhlbauer joins 33 classmates who will receive their Doctor of Dental Medicine degrees from HSDM on Thursday, May 30. As she prepares to bid HSDM farewell, she credits her classmates with enriching her four years of dental school.

“While interviewing for residency programs, an attending once asked me, ‘What are you most proud of coming from HSDM?’ Give Kids A Smile 2018Without hesitation, I answered, ‘my classmates.’ Each day they challenged and inspired me to be a better student, provider, and friend,” she said. “The diversity of different cultures and interests helped me grow on a personal and professional level. We’ve celebrated engagements and new babies and supported each other through moments of loss and disappointment. Dental school has been a shared experience that we will have for a lifetime, and I’m certain the friendships will last as well.”

As co-moderator of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s joint Class Day ceremony, Muhlbauer looks forward to sharing that unique moment with each of her fellow HSDM graduates. “It is a privilege to represent the Class of 2019 on Class Day as co-moderator. I look forward to watching each classmate walk across the stage as ‘doctor’ for the very first time.”

Like many of HSDM’s graduates, Muhlbauer plans to pursue an advanced degree. The next phase of her career will take her to Children’s National in Washington, D.C. for a residency in pediatrics. Muhlbauer reflected on what ignited her interest in dentistry, and how she hopes to impact her patients moving forward. “Twenty years ago, I went to the dentist with a mouth full of cavities and left with the dream of becoming a pediatric dentist. I hope to be that inspiration for my patients in the future.”

Jillian's story is part of a series of profiles about the graduating Class of 2019. Stay tuned for upcoming features! 

See also: Community, Students