Twins head to North Carolina residency after dental graduation

May 13, 2021
twins in blue scrubs and face masks pose within a dental clinic
Michael Dudleck, left, and David Dudleck will begin one-year residencies after graduating from the College of Dental Medicine. Photo by Sarah Pack

First things first – David and Michael Dudleck are well aware that no one likes going to the dentist. That’s what one of their older brothers warned them when they were considering the College of Dental Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.

People might not like going, the twins figured, but they’ll like us. After all, they liked their dentist. And when they shadowed dentists to get a feel for the profession, they saw the jovial, easy relationship that a good dentist can have with patients.

“It's pretty intimate once you’re in someone’s mouth. I just like the doctor-patient relationship,” Michael said.

David took a little more convincing. He was initially torn between medicine and dentistry. Their mom is a nurse who assists in open-heart surgery cases, and David had the chance to observe some of those surgeries as well as shadow some doctors. Physically, he could handle the blood and gore. But emotionally, he didn’t think he could handle giving someone a bad diagnosis. Between those doubts and Michael’s strong advocacy in favor of dentistry, David was convinced. The College of Dental Medicine it was.

Now, the twins are graduating and headed to a one-year residency at East Carolina University in North Carolina.

For the first time in their lives, they'll live in different cities. Michael will be in Elizabeth City while David will be four hours away in Davidson County.

Residencies aren’t automatic for dental graduates the way they are for medical graduates. While some of their classmates will go directly into private practice, the Dudlecks wanted to get the extra training that a residency can provide.

“If you get a little more training in things that specialists do, you can do some of the easier cases that they would normally do,” David said.

The ECU residency is intended to increase dentists’ knowledge so they can provide care in complex cases in geographic areas where dentists don’t have the benefit of other nearby dental specialists. The university’s residents are located in areas that lack both oral and medical health care options.

Not only will the extra training enable them to take on more complex cases, but it will somewhat make up for the four months of clinical training they missed when the pandemic first reached South Carolina in March 2020 and all public universities and schools were ordered to close.

The Dudlecks and all their classmates went home. By that point in their training, most of each day should have been taken up by hands-on clinical work. Instead, they had to wait until the clinic could safely reopen. Even then, they found that patients were leery of returning, and they weren’t as busy as usual. Only in the past three months or so have the patients come flooding back, keeping them busier than ever.

As dental students, they’re assigned between five and 20 patients. They stay with each patient through the entire treatment plan, and their professors ensure they get to perform a variety of procedures. They also spend time in the special needs clinic, which was challenging but rewarding, and something David said he’ll incorporate into future practice.

The Dudlecks don’t lead with the fact that they’re twins when they first meet individually with patients, which has led to more than one confused patient.

“I walk out into the lobby, and his patient stands up,” Michael said.

Unbeknownst to them, when they first started at the college, their classmates came up with a memory trick to remember who was who. At the time, David had long hair, so their classmates labeled them “short hair/long name” and “long hair/short name.” Unfortunately for their classmates, David cut his hair when he realized that long hair was a liability when you spend all day leaning over, looking into people’s mouths.

The twins get their fair share of “Heeeeeey, you” when people are unsure of which one they’re talking to, but it doesn’t bother them.

“With the masks and the hair, there’s just no chance,” Michael said.

“I don’t want people feeling guilty – we look alike. It's not a referendum into how well you know me. We look the same,” David said.

They envision opening a practice together after they’ve tackled their student debt, probably somewhere in South Carolina – although they can’t yet agree on a name. Michael’s pitched “Identical Dentistry.” David’s response? “Cringey.”

But they have some time yet to figure it out. In their last weeks before beginning residency, they’re enjoying golfing, the easy access to beaches and the great dining scene in Charleston.

“We're going to miss Charleston. This city’s so great,” David said.

About the Author

Leslie Cantu
MUSC Catalyst News

Keywords: Education