Pre-Health Core Studies, ’21—expected
Bachelor of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University ‘10
It isn’t every day that a violinist with her own music education business changes course to study dentistry, but for Joyce Lin (Core Studies ‘21—expected), the path was clear. “I feel like my life is always about what I can do to serve others as much as possible. What are the different avenues?” Joyce grew up knowing the medical field “was a field where you can serve people and you can do good things.” Her grandparents were doctors, and her brother is also a dentist, but Joyce had a talent for violin that her parents supported, teaching her that she could use that talent to contribute to society as well.
She realized this contribution by becoming a music educator and started her own business as a violin teacher for Lin Music Prep. In addition to collaborating with schools and providing private lessons, she began working with youth organizations and teaching online courses to help students who wouldn’t necessarily be able to take private violin lessons. Joyce lives in Bucks County and was working with a group called Students in Concert, which serves underserved populations in Morrisville, when she began thinking about changing career paths.
“I worked with a lot of students and I noticed that their confidence could be associated with their smiles,” Joyce noted. Another realization was the underlying health problems that many of the families were facing. Different from populations she had previously taught, she noticed that these students would miss more classes because they or their parents didn’t have access to healthcare. “So that's basically when I started to think, Oh, I've contributed so much to my field and I love music, but there are still other needs out there. I felt like I could do more in terms of contributing to help them in a more compassionate way than just teaching them violin.” Given her family history and the fact that she liked to work with her hands, dentistry seemed a natural choice.
Joyce learned about the Pre-Health Programs at Penn LPS and the dental linkage program from a friend from Carnegie Mellon who had completed the program. She thought it sounded “perfect” because she believed that Penn would provide her with a “stronger research base” required by her plans to specialize. The prospect of being accepted to Penn Dental through the linkage program was essential in her decision as well.
As a new mother with little prior coursework in the sciences, Joyce has really valued the support she has found from both the LPS staff and the Penn professors. Her advisors at LPS have especially helped her with the linkage program: “Jackie and Danielle are just amazing in terms of helping guide me through the process. I felt like I needed a little bit more direction in terms of how to time everything to be able to structure my coursework in a way where I felt like I could fully understand the field, the best that I could.”
One of Joyce’s most challenging subjects so far has been organic chemistry. She recalls being really disappointed about the results of her first exam, but her professor, Dr. Hall, was always available to help. “I feel like she knew exactly how to communicate probably what is one of the toughest subjects, so clearly and concisely to help me succeed in the end.” Some of her favorite courses so far have been the labs. “They really teach you how to think in terms of creating a research question.” She was also really impressed by the lab resources and the software that she learned for how to use and analyze data.
Joyce had planned on doing an internship this summer, but she had to put those plans on hold due to Covid-19. Instead, she was at home taking courses online while caring for her 18-month old daughter. Joyce says that she is really thankful to her professors “for being so creative and flexible in the way that they've moved online.” She thought the courses were well structured and she enjoyed working with classmates in break-out rooms during the synchronous sessions. As far as managing childcare with online coursework, Joyce takes a practical approach: “Every morning I wake up and I have my two goals that I absolutely have to finish…those are non-negotiable. But with everything else, there's fluidity and flexibility because you never know if the baby is going to end up crying and needing something. So, I really think it built me in terms of character, in terms of prioritization and time management.”
Joyce did have the opportunity to shadow at Orthodontics Limited, the only Invisalign Diamond+ provider in the Philadelphia region, before classes moved online, where she learned about time and efficiency (no one wants to be in the dental chair longer than they need to be!). She is thankful for the connections she has made so far and feels that the connections she makes throughout her experience at Penn will be one of the most valuable takeaways from the program. Her advice to prospective students is, “Just don't give up. LPS classes are arguably structured to be harder than any undergraduate course you’ve taken, but keep working at it. If you have this great goal to serve other people, they will be solid steppingstones towards your goal.”