Return to the Spring 2022 Newsletter

AAOM Membership and Members Highlights

Anwar Almuzaini

Anwar Almuzaini received the Dr. Jawad Behbehani award for best research article published in 2021. This award, conferred by the Kuwait Division of the International Association for Dental Research, was for her research titled “Hypoxia enhances basal autophagy of epithelial-derived ameloblastoma cells.” The study aimed to determine whether epithelial-derived ameloblastoma cell survival and ameloblastoma reactivation are dependent on autophagic processes and if this is modulated by hypoxia. It is unclear why ameloblastoma has a high recurrence rate despite surgical resection, and it is unclear if autophagy activation is involved. The study aimed to bridge this knowledge gap by probing ameloblastoma clinical samples for autophagy and survival markers. This involved a collaborative group of investigators, including Dr. Sunday Akintoye (expertise in oral medicine and bone biology) and Dr.Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia (expertise in biochemistry and autophagy). The study was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, and additional studies are still ongoing.

Richard J. Tananis

I was not inspired by my dental school training in oral medicine at Temple University. I probably hated oral pathology even more. This was not the fault of the dedicated faculty but my own: I concentrated on learning how to do dentures and direct gold restorations (this was the early 80s!). I was hired by Temple, part time, to teach in the restorative dentistry department in 1991.  After a couple years of this, I was transferred into a brand-new department that oversaw treatment planning. This small group of clinicians was eventually taken over by the oral medicine department, where I met Robert Arm. He was a mentor who helped me to love one aspect of dental care that I had previously avoided: oral medicine. Dr. Arm had been a student of Lester Burket and passed along a great deal of knowledge and clinical judgement. Bob saw my enthusiasm and encouraged me to get more training. “Where?” I asked.  “That other dental school across town has a superb training program in oral medicine.”

To my surprise, the University of Pennsylvania accepted me. I became a first-year resident at age 43. Martin Greenberg, Tom Sollecito, Michael Glick, and Scott DeRossi were the folks who spent the most time trying to pound some knowledge into my middle-aged brain. Being "on call’ in the hospital was a challenge: a lot of it was like boot camp. I assisted Martin, Tom and Scott following them around their hospital-based practice. I treated medically complex patients under Michael at the clinic he ran at the school of dental medicine.

When I finished my training, I was told “No one from Penn has ever failed to pass the boards. Maybe we don’t all pass on the first try but among those who sat for the exam, all of us eventually passed. If anyone is ever going to fail, we fear it might be you.”

The gauntlet was thrown at my feet! By this point I was back in my tiny Philadelphia private practice two days a week and was teaching at Penn two days a week. I was working one day a week treating HIV+ patients in Wilmington, Delaware. (The Delaware boards were also a bit of a challenge.)

I did a couple more years of informal self-education, reading constantly. Linda Otis, Mel Mupparapu and the late Eisa Mozaffari helped me with radiology. Faizan Alawi was instrumental in my education in oral pathology.

If I recall correctly, there were six sections for the board exam. They were divided into written and oral examinations: 12 in total. My goal was to pass at least half of them.  I passed 11 of them on my first try. I was asked “Who taught you oral pathology?” I asked why. “Because you got the highest grade on the written section of the oral path exam.” Oh….

I passed the last part of the exam a few months later and still consider the oral medicine boards to be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. At this point, I had become a clinical assistant professor and enjoyed teaching but found that I did not enjoy writing.

My love of teaching was eventually surpassed by my love of private practice and my desire to live near the ocean. I knew the implications behind “Publish or perish”.  I also tired of big city life. I resigned from Penn and bought a small private practice in southern Delaware and expanded it, eventually owning two offices. I still practice general dentistry and oral medicine to this day. f

Now aged 66, my plan is to stop general dentistry in 2026. Following the example of my good friend, Dr. Ron Brown, I hope to continue seeing patients referred to me for facial pain and intra-oral mucosal diseases into my seventies.

Richard J. Tananis, DDS

Hui Yao

As an AAOM member and oral physician, I enjoy my job at the Department of Oral Medicine, Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine in China.

Oral medicine is a discipline bridging dentistry and medicine. Working as a brilliant oral physician requires a wide range of knowledge and effective collaboration with colleagues. Due to the limited health care in oral medicine, it is always exciting and rewarding to see patients with oral problems leave with great satisfaction in our quality health care.

My professor, Tang Guoyao, supported me in attending a one-year full-time preceptorship program at the oral medicine clinic of UCSF in 2016. The team of clinicians there guided and impressed me a lot. A friendly hello from Dr. Veluppillai (Piri) and an encouraging smile from Dr. Chow made me feel like I was learning from a warm and friendly team. Dr. Wu’s skill in oral dryness and Dr. Jones’s knowledge in oral pathology made me feel like I was backed by them. Dr. Robinson drove about two hours to the clinic only for one patient, while Dr. Ramos’s clinic day was packed with appointments.

Their different working styles made me aware of their distinct advantages. Organized Dr. Caroline Shiboski gave me a priceless opportunity to know Dr. Silverman as I read his papers and helped develop a database for Sol Silverman Jr Digital Library. Their evidence-based strategy, careful treatment planning, and health-care-oriented practice have helped me throughout my career.

Right now, I aim to be trained as a good scientist in translational research, which integrates clinical experience with scientific questions. My future professional goal is to be a unique leading physician-scientist in oral medicine who can provide evidence-based oral care and advance oral research.

Hui Yao, BDS, MS