Nicole Czajka

First Impression - Predoctoral

Hometown: Clifton, New Jersey

Chapter: Rutgers

Graduation Year: 2020

Position Held At Chapter: District 2 Secretary

headshot - Nicole is in the middle

Who inspired you to become a dentist?

Growing up with a mother who is a surgical technician and who shared her passion for surgery with me, I was always oriented towards a career in medicine. I also worked in my father’s small business growing up and, in doing so, developed a natural inclination for retail and business management. Due to this mélange of interests, I dreaded the infamous, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” question. However, once I reached high school, the inner debate about my future career choice was settled when I discovered dentistry.

After shadowing my general dentist and several specialists for an entire summer, I had never been surer of anything in my life. Witnessing numerous restorative and prosthetic cases, the CAD/CAM system, apicoectomies and diagnoses using a CBCT had me hooked. This might sound silly, but each time I observed the meticulous drill work of the dentists, my fingers tingled with an urge to try it for myself. Most importantly, I find dentistry to be the perfect combination of my interests: science, working with people, public health, art, practicing manual dexterity, esthetics and business.


Before starting dental school, I wish I had known …

More about dental lab work. Although it’s not a requirement, it would’ve been helpful to have had some exposure to a dental lab. The road towards improving your lab work involves much trial and error, and so your final methodology ends up being, in part, based on personal experience. For this reason, it can be slightly overwhelming when you’re just starting to figure out the best way to approach a lab project. Any tips and tricks you can pick up from an experienced professional beforehand can make a difference.


What is your favorite thing about your current year in dental school?

Spending more time in clinic! In addition to assisting the third- and fourth-years, our Introduction to Clinical Dentistry course now includes hands-on modules such as rubber dam placement, patient history, and scaling and root planing on mannequins. It’s exciting to become more familiar with the clinical setting and procedures so that we feel more comfortable once we finally start seeing patients in the summer.


What is your least favorite thing about your current year in dental school?

The academic overload. Simultaneously taking about 10 didactic/lab courses on an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule and frequently having multiple examinations in one week are mentally and physically draining. It’s both a personal and collective challenge, though, because with the support of my classmates, it’s all much more bearable.


What has been the toughest lesson you learned in dental school so far?

You can’t be perfect. Dental school is full of many challenges and demanding expectations. As a person who’s used to picking up new things quickly, dental school has been an interesting learning experience. I’ve realized that I can’t expect to always be good at everything on my first attempt and that certain didactic areas are just not — and might never be — my forte. Expecting perfection in dental school is a recipe for exhaustion and unnecessary additional stress.


What is your favorite place you’ve traveled?

Poland. I travel there almost every summer and still manage to discover something new each time. As a first-generation Polish-American, I am close to my heritage and consider it a critical part of my identity. I am simply captivated by the language, history, nature, food (can’t leave that out) and people. Traveling to Poland is also an opportunity to connect with my family. Knowing where I come from keeps me grounded and inspires me to work harder to achieve my goals.


What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Most people who know me would never believe me when I say this, but I get extremely nervous when it comes to public speaking. Although it’s still something I struggle with, I’ve never let it stop me from doing things that matter to me. For example, I successfully gave a speech in front of my entire dental school class when I ran for class secretary, and I even shared a heartfelt speech at my friend’s wedding reception. While these may seem like commonplace situations, to me, they were great personal accomplishments, as I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone.