Meet the Graduates:
Mona Albatniji MS ’22, ASPID ’23
10 May 23
Originally from the Middle East, Albatniji is the class president for the Advanced Standing Program for International Dentists (ASPID) Class of 2023.
AS LONG SHE CAN REMEMBER, Mona Albatniji dreamed of being a dentist. “There is no backstory,” she says, with a laugh. “It’s just what I wanted to do from the beginning.” Following that dream, she graduated from Misr University for Science and Technology in Cairo, Egypt with a bachelor’s degree in dentistry in 2011 and practiced in Saudi Arabia as a surgical resident.
In 2017, Albatniji moved to the United States and started working as a dental assistant while working to get into the USC program. Coming to the United States was a lifelong goal, she explains: She wanted a more stable life and the ability to increase her academic achievements. “It’s very limited for us in other countries to do that,” she says.
USC was the school she had always had in the back of her mind because her uncle graduated from the school in the 1980s, and two of her cousins are also alumni.
In 2019, she began the master’s program in orofacial pain and oral medicine, completing it in 2022. She began the ASPID program in 2021, and her dental school experience became very real when she walked into the lab the first day and began meeting the other international dentists in the program. They had only met virtually during the first week, and texted through a WhatsApp group. “But then we got to meet each other on our fifth day of orientation week, and we got to really talk to each other in person, and see each other,” she remembers. “That was an amazing feeling. That’s when everything became real.”
Along the way, she took a leadership role in becoming class president. The experience expanded her communication skills, she says: “It changed the way I can talk to others and pass messages from the class, and helped me to understand different points of view — from faculty and students.”
Albatniji says she’s a hands-on learner, so the clinical part of the program was the best part.
“I learn from seeing the procedure done and doing it myself, rather than reading about it in a book,” she adds.
Real-life Training Skills
USC does a big service to its students in teaching them how to run an office by being the primary provider for patients, she says. The school really focused on real-life training skills: Students had to know a patient’s medical history, and how to deal with their treatment and possible complications. “Being the primary provider for a certain number of patients is like running your own small business at the school,” she says, “including referrals to specialists and doing different kinds of procedures at the same time.”
After graduation, Albatniji hopes to stay connected with other alumni as well as the faculty and staff.
She is grateful for the educational experience, she says. “It’s an intense two-year program which is very compressed with time, but still we get to experience a lot. USC provides a great experience in clinical and they do really teach us how to navigate life as a U.S.-based dentist. The class size is just right for that kind of experience.”
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