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ADCFP Spotlight: Naya Okeke (’21)

Category : ADCFP

The Academic Careers Fellowship Program (ADCFP) provides dental students at UCSF the opportunity to explore academia through faculty mentorship and research- or education-based projects. Read what some of our students are working on below:

Dental schools nationwide are striving to increase student diversity to help better serve our population. Schools have improved in recruiting minority students, but after admission these students’ needs and programs can be forgotten. More attention should be directed into mentorship opportunities for minority students. To do this I will be conducting a qualitative research experiment to understand the experience of underrepresented minorities (URM) at non Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to understand if URM students feel that they receive a sufficient support system after being accepted into dental school.


All About ADEA ADCFP

Category : ADCFP

On top of the typical didactic and preclinical courses we’re taking throughout the year, 22 UCSF students and I are working toward a larger goal: bettering the UCSF School of Dentistry as ADCFP fellows. The ADCFP (Academic Dental Careers Fellowship Program) is an opportunity for motivated, research- and education-minded students to work with a faculty mentor on a project geared toward improving dental education. My project, for example, is to implement waste reduction and waste management systems in our dental clinics and simulation labs and eventually to incorporate sustainability education into current practice and curriculum.

With a cohort capped at 22 students, UCSF’s 2018-2019 ADCFP class boasts projects with a wide diversity of topics, including depression and wellness among California dental students, the accuracy of UCSF student treatment phasing, assessment of nitrous oxide sedation curriculum, and improvement of the relevance of biomaterials courses. The ADCFP program as a whole is designed by national ADEA and has a number of requirements that help students learn about academic careers, including mandatory faculty interviews and teaching activities.

UCSF ADEA ADCFP 2018-2019 Cohort

ADEA Education Chair board members have the responsibility of organizing monthly meetings for ADCFP fellows. Here at UCSF, our November meeting featured a fun Jeopardy game with facts and stories from five of our clinical coaches!  Dr. Diana Nguyen (DDS) reflected on a humorous incident when a patient inquired about her performing breast implants. Dr. Kurt Schroeder (DDS) shed light on his decision to go back to specialize in endodontics after 12 years of general dentistry. And Dr. Ram Vaderhobli (BDS, MS) shared some powerful advice: be thankful for the opportunity of learning and growth that each patient offers, which will help you become a better healthcare professional.    

On a more exciting note, 11 members of our cohort will attend the ADEA Annual Session this March in Chicago, IL.  There, fellows will participate in a poster session presenting their projects to dental students, faculty, and educators from around the nation.  In particular, I am looking forward to the poster session as an opportunity to share my project on sustainability and inspire students and faculty from other schools to look into ways to improve their own sustainability. At this conference, we will also have the opportunity to attend three full days of plenary sessions, speakers, and workshops all about improving the field of dental education. It will be a wonderful weekend of student networking, bonding, and learning all made possible by ADEA, ADCFP, and UCSF! 

The UCSF ADCFP programming is overseen by faculty advisor Dr. Wilson Hsin and run by ADEA Education and Jr. Education Chairs Auvi Tran (auvi.tran@ucsf.edu) and Claire Skach (claire.skach@ucsf.edu). Please contact either Education Chair if you’d like to hear more information about UCSF’s program! 

Posters used in my ADCFP project on sustainability

Why I am Interested in Dental Academia

Category : Personal

To be honest, my decision to pursue a career in dental academia came as quite a shock. I thought I had my whole career mapped out. Prior to high school I set my heart on being a dentist, and it was my dream to have my own little private practice in the Central Valley. Little did I know that there would be several unexpected opportunities that would change my career trajectory.

I first realized that I have a passion for teaching during undergrad. I chose to attend University of the Pacific and participated in their pre-dental program. During my second year, I was invited to teach as a Supplemental Instructor for the Biological Sciences Department. Basically, this meant that I got to hold my own biweekly review sessions, present condensed lectures covering core concepts, and design study materials including group activities, worksheets and mock practicals to facilitate student learning. When Dr. Luthy first offered me the position, it felt really daunting. Being naturally shy and an introvert, I never imagined myself standing in front of a classroom full of students. However, I was up for the challenge and accepted the position. I am so glad that I did because I LOVED it! I remember staying up late and neglecting my own studies just because I wanted to continue developing new study guides. (Don’t worry. I did fine on my exams. I just got significantly less sleep that year). There was one particular evening where I entered my classroom completely exhausted, wondering how I was going to make it through the review session. Turns out, that was probably the best review session I ever had. The students were really engaged. And furthermore, you could tell that they were gaining a thorough understanding of the material. There is a certain look students get when they really start to grasp a concept. Their faces light up and it’s almost as if you can see a lightbulb turning on over their heads. It’s seriously one of my favorite things. Anyhow, I ended up leaving that review session feeling overwhelmingly satisfied with how the evening had turned out and more energized than before it started. I felt like I had found my calling. And ever since then, I have known that my career needs to include teaching.

Dr. Venderova on left

Research has been part of my career for quite some time now. Oddly enough, I used to see it as a really fun hobby that I would eventually have to give up. I was so invested in my childhood dream of becoming a dentist, that it never occurred to me that I could pursue research as part of my career. It took one really amazing mentor to open my eyes to this possibility. During undergrad I worked in the lab of Dr. Katerina Venderova. One of the things I love about Pacific is that students really get to know their faculty. In the context of research, this often means that students learn directly from their PI’s and that they work side-by-side. The Venderova Lab studied Parkinson’s disease using Drosophila models, so nearly every day we would sit down and sort flies together. I still remember the day Dr. Venderova told me that I ought to pursue a PhD. I remember feeling totally stunned because it was completely off my radar. However, that conversation planted a seed, and with Dr. Venderova’s continued encouragement I eventually looked into applying for dual degree programs.

Histology Bench

Now I’m here at UCSF in my 5th year of training as part of the DDS/PhD program. I am still working out the details of what I want for my future career. However, I know that at least part of it will consist of academic dentistry. Academia provides tremendous flexibility and a wide variety of opportunities for intellectual and clinical pursuits. For me, it combines three things that I love: research, clinical care, and teaching. I know that I will never be bored. I am excited at the prospect of not only contributing to the future of our field and to the design of novel therapies but also in providing moral support for students. Dental school is rigorous. There is no denying that. It gives me great joy to think that I will get to be a Dr. Venderova for students in years to come, to encourage them when the road gets tough, to help them find their perfect niche, and to foster their growth as individuals as well as students. For me, academia is a place where discoveries are made, great minds meld, and communities are formed. It is the place where the sterile intellectual world of research meets the empathy and emotional awareness displayed in clinic. Personally, to have one without the other would be an imbalance.

AADR – SF Chapter

A career in dental academia might not be the right fit for everyone. However, it certainly is an excellent option to consider. No matter the career path you choose, I encourage you to discover what you are passionate about and to pursue it whole-heartedly. If I have learned anything through my career journey, it has been to keep an open mind and to hold my dreams loosely, allowing them to change over time. Because you never know what opportunities and experiences will come your way. The best ones are often those that you never dreamed existed.


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ADCFP Spotlight: Allison Jan & Trung Nguyen

Category : ADCFP

The Academic Careers Fellowship Program (ADCFP) provides dental students at UCSF the opportunity to explore academia through faculty mentorship and research- or education-based projects. Read what some of our students are working on below:

Nitrous oxide (N2O/O2) sedation is commonly used in dentistry to reduce anxiety and dental fears in both pediatric and adult patients. When properly used, it serves as an effective adjunct to local anesthesia. The goal of our project is to survey US dental students on N2O/O2 sedation training curriculum at their respective dental programs. We hope to elucidate how training curriculum differs among dental programs, with the overarching goal of standardizing N2O/O2 sedation training across the US.


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ADCFP Spotlight: Albert Ngo & Tim Jung

Category : ADCFP

The Academic Careers Fellowship Program (ADCFP) provides dental students at UCSF the opportunity to explore academia through faculty mentorship and research- or education-based projects. Read what some of our students are working on below:

Throughout the first and second years, UCSF dental students are required to assist as part of their PCC course requirements. However, students often get confused with which procedures they should assist with and how they can assist to the best of their ability, leaving the clinic feeling overwhelmed and perplexed. The goal of our project is to improve the assisting experience by maximizing the learning potential. Our project creates guidelines for dental procedures so that assistants know what to look for and how they can help. These guides will not only serve to streamline the assisting session for the underclassmen, but also ensures that the assistant fully understands the procedure holistically, and yields opportunity for any unclear steps to be elucidated. This project will serve to bridge the gap between pre-clinical and clinical education at UCSF.


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ADCFP Spotlight: Karisa Yamamoto & Rebecca Lerman

Category : ADCFP

The Academic Careers Fellowship Program (ADCFP) provides dental students at UCSF the opportunity to explore academia through faculty mentorship and research- or education-based projects. Read what some of our students are working on below:

We are Karisa Yamamoto and Rebecca Lerman, third year dental students at UCSF. Since our first year of dental school, we have been working on our ADCFP Project with our mentors, Dr. Sophia Saeed and Dr. George W. Taylor. The goal of our project is to research the prevalence of depression amongst U.S. dental students and identify associated lifestyle characteristics present in dental school and the broader society. We hope to pinpoint ways we can integrate wellness into the dental school curriculum and learning environment, and provide accessible resources to support students’ mental health and well-being.  


ADEA 2018 Fall Session Reflection #3

Category : Event Recap

Overall, I was extremely impressed by the ADEA Fall meeting and how organized ADEA as a whole is. I only recently became involved with ADEA last year when I joined the Executive Board, so I was unaware of the multitude of councils that exist, including the Council of Students, Residents, and Fellows (COSRF), Council of Deans, Council of Faculties, and many more! I appreciated that there were tailored presentations and talks for each council, because it made the experience that much more worthwhile to know I was learning about things directly pertinent to me.  For example, the presentation about how to pay back loans through public service was a new discovery! The average national dental student debt is $285,184, so it was incredibly relieving to hear about another way to pay back debt that would also benefit the community. I have always been passionate about community dentistry and I have been looking for ways into community dentistry that would be a financially viable option. The Public service loan repayment program is exactly that!

I also thought that the two lunch plenary sessions were particularly thought provoking. The first session was called “What’s next in Health Care and Higher Education”, which described the trends seen in dentistry and dental educators. Dr. Valachovic’s use of diagrams, charts, and infographics really helped nail the point home that dentistry is becoming more diverse overall in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity! This was especially inspiring to hear because healthcare as a whole needs more representation and this was a positive step in achieving that. Dr. Valachovic then went on to describe the different career paths that new dental graduates undertake. Unsurprisingly, private practice and dental residency were the two highest activities, at 47.9% and 35.9% respectively in 2018. However, I was shocked to learn that less than 10% of graduates work in the public sector, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, federal service, nonprofits, or state/local government employees! Even more so, only 0.3% of students went to become a faculty or staff member at a dental school! That last statistic had a lasting impact on me, because if so few of the new generations of dentists are willing to teach, who will continue on the dental education when the older faculty retire? What will become of dental schools if no one is willing to teach? That was the moment I really realized how valuable and how important having an organization like ADEA was. ADEA is “the voice of dental education” and it’s up to all of its members nationwide to take strides to improve dental education in all facets. As a student and as a post-graduate chair at our chapter, I am more motivated to provide career resources about dental educators to UCSF students! More so now than ever, it is necessary that we begin training and cultivating the next batch of dentists who will shape the future curriculums of dentistry. It will not be easy to create a shift in this trend, but if every COSRF student went back to their chapters and held one event to expose their student community to dental education, then slowly but surely I think we can change this!


ADEA 2018 Fall Session Reflection #2

Category : Event Recap

The national ADEA chapter is growing fast. With the help of established chapters, like UCSF in the Council of Students, Residents, and Fellows, ADEA local chapters have been coming to fruition across multiple dental schools. Forty-eight of the sixty-six US dental schools to be exact. How has this process been stream-lined? By coming together and combining all the successful tips and tricks from all the local chapters into a handy document called a ADEA Chapter Toolkit for Students, Residents and Fellows. This page on the ADEA website is a result of ideations at the Fall and Annual Meetings. The benefit of this website has been priceless as its helped many of the new chapters get a strong foundation, and helped older chapters get new ideas to help promote dental education and ADEA as a whole. UCSF’s local student chapter is one of the longest standing chapters in ADEA. Our contribution into the toolkit has been ample ideas of events that have had successful outcomes and helped our students understand what dental academia looks like and can provide.

What does UCSF plan on doing with this toolkit? We hope to continue to build on it from our local chapter, extrapolate ideas from it, and collaborate more with other local schools to help build camaraderie! With Loma Linda University starting their new chapter, UCLA going into their third year of their chapter, and UOP looking for ways to get more students involved, UCSF has been able to help by being in close proximity and on the same time zone! As of now, one of our mini goals within the local chapter is combining events with our cross town school to give our students a mix of academic taste in the private school and public school setting. We foresee this being a benefit to our students as many of them always have questions about private school and public school environments!

Our local chapter will continue to host events for our students that have had continuous positive feedback in the past. We are also putting all hands on deck in supporting Western University as they are hosting the next West Coast Dental Hack-a-thon that was started by one of our very own here last year at UCSF. This year, we anticipate having a equal number of students from all district 11 schools to attend as well as students from schools in district 9. Our chapter growth and new ideas could not have been possible if we didn’t have our enthusiastic ADEA members attend meetings like Fall and Annual. Our eager students continue to be excited about what’s to come for ADEA and dental academia. What better way to learn and hear about it than from the creators and the backbone of dental education themselves?


ADEA 2018 Fall Session Reflection #1

Category : Event Recap

This past October, my colleagues and I had the wonderful opportunity to head to ADEA’s first ever international Fall Session, held in Ontario, Canada. What a great experience it was to be part of this new venture of ADEA into Canada and immerse myself in this dynamic field of education and change. Our UCSF groups had a warm welcome from the cohort of dental students from Toronto and we were lucky to be involved in one of the highest attended fall sessions of ADEA’s Council of Students, Residents and Fellows (COSRF) in years. Last year I was grateful to have the opportunity to attend the Fall Session for the first time, and I left feeling invigorated and feeling very connected to ADEA and our mission as a national organization. This year, I have the pleasure of serving on our District’s newfound cabinet as District Deputy Commissioner, and as such I had a completely different lens going into Fall Session. With a better overall understanding of ADEA, our vision as a District, and our goals and accomplishments as a chapter, I was able to step back and spend more of my time connecting to other students from other schools and personally speak with them about new ways they can continue growing their chapters. I also had such a fun time observing our second-year students from UCSF branch out, network, and progressively see their passion for ADEA grow throughout the course of the weekend. We left with many new ideas for fundraising and improving current events that we hold and created new platforms for collaboration with other chapters nearby. ADEA on the west coast, and in particular within District 11 is continuing to grow, and UCSF definitely continues to set the gold standard. I am so proud of UCSF ADEA for setting such a great example of chapter accomplishments, and happy to see the level of engagement our attendees had throughout the event. I feel confident about the next generation of dental educators, as well as our leadership at the local level for years to come.


Dinner With 8 Strangers

Category : Event Recap

When Sammi Yu ‘20 pitched the idea of “Dinner With 8 Strangers” to me, I just knew I had to say yes! As a relatively new addition to the School of Dentistry faculty, I jumped at the opportunity to spend some time with a small group of dental students outside of school and away from the responsibilities of patient care. Even though each UCSF predoctoral class is relatively small (85 degree candidates per year is small compared to the 280 in my D1 class at NYU!), four years is hardly enough time to get to know all of my students as well as I’d like to, especially when at least 50% of that time is spent giving out Axium swipes. Plus, there would be FOOD involved in this experience. How could I say no?

On Friday, May 4th, my eight strangers and I made our way to Buffalo Theory with inflatable light sabers in tow. (Why the light sabers, you ask? Because Star Wars Day! May the Fourth Be With You!) Over the next few hours, we shared small plates, big laughs, and our most outrageous dental school stories and memories. Since most of my time at UCSF is spent with D3s and D4s in the predoc clinic, it was awesome to be able to hear the D1s and D2s reflect on their dental school experience so far and listen as the senior students offered insight and advice on how to successfully navigate the next two years of their training. We finished up the night by heading down the street to grab some freshly baked doughnuts at Bob’s Donuts. What a treat! Many thanks to the UCSF ADEA student group for arranging this event. I look forward to taking out another group of 8 Strangers next time!