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Periospectives October-December 2015 : Page 32

PERIO PEOPLE Part-time educator spotlight: Dr. James Roberts Since receiving his BA in chemistry at Vanderbilt University in 1964 and his DMD at University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) in 1968, Dr. James Roberts has established a private practice in Birmingham, lectured to dental students and periodontics residents at UAB, and has served as a personal mentor to more than 50 students. In this interview with Periospectives, Dr. Roberts shares how he manages to motivate and serve others both in and out of the classroom. If you are passionate about periodontics and dentistry, but you are too far from a dental school or you just can’t take to time out to teach at one, helping students get a realistic idea of periodontics and dentistry by having them serve as dental assistants in your practice can be a viable way to give back to the profession and to society. y. AAP Perio spectives | 32 How did you ultimately end up in periodontics, both in practice and in the classroom? During my time in the military, I was able to serve in Germany, which allowed me to function for three to six months in each specialty [including periodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery]. This confirmed my passion for periodontics. The surprise, however, was that four of my military assistants had an interest in becoming dentists. A challenge from a dental colleague resulted in my getting all four of my assistants into dental school. One of the four recently sold his very successful practice near Birmingham and is retired. After finishing my periodontal residency at UAB and establishing a private practice, I joined two hospital surgery staffs. One of the operating room nurses was inspired to go to dental school and eventually acquired a practice in St. Louis. Since I was the only periodontist in the area performing regenerative surgery, I would give seminars on this as well as a true sterile prep surgical technique for periodontal residents at UAB. By 1989, the periodontics department chair at the time, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, asked me to help with teaching on a frequent regular basis.

Part-Time Educator Spotlight: Dr. James Roberts

Since receiving his BA in chemistry at Vanderbilt University in 1964 and his DMD at University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) in 1968, Dr. James Roberts has established a private practice in Birmingham, lectured to dental students and periodontics residents at UAB, and has served as a personal mentor to more than 50 students. In this interview with Periospectives, Dr. Roberts shares how he manages to motivate and serve others both in and out of the classroom.

How did you ultimately end up in periodontics, both in practice and in the classroom? During my time in the military, I was able to serve in Germany, which allowed me to function for three to six months in each specialty [including periodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery]. This confirmed my passion for periodontics. The surprise, however, was that four of my military assistants had an interest in becoming dentists. A challenge from a dental colleague resulted in my getting all four of my assistants into dental school. One of the four recently sold his very successful practice near Birmingham and is retired.

After finishing my periodontal residency at UAB and establishing a private practice, I joined two hospital surgery staffs. One of the operating room nurses was inspired to go to dental school and eventually acquired a practice in St. Louis. Since I was the only periodontist in the area performing regenerative surgery, I would give seminars on this as well as a true sterile prep surgical technique for periodontal residents at UAB. By 1989, the periodontics department chair at the time, Dr. Marjorie Jeffcoat, asked me to help with teaching on a frequent regular basis.

Networking with full-time faculty resulted in publication of the interleukin 1 ß link to periodontitis by Hiroshi Kiyono. Later, Dr. Johnny Wang did a retrospective study of my patients which showed that if we keep them in optimal periodontal health, they had no cardiovascular morbidity or mortality in the 28 years of the study. This, of course, has stimulated more research in this area.

Many part-time faculty members choose to teach within graduate programs. You made a deliberate choice to teach periodontics within the dentistry program. What motivated you to do so? I feel like I can make a bigger difference in helping dental students understand prevention, how critical it is, and how everything comes together.

Also, over time I felt frustrated with the low motivation of many dental assistants. The training programs taught them how to suction and make temporary crowns, but totally neglected surgery or prevention. Ultimately, I realized that it was easier to make assistants from people who were motivated to be healthy. I also realized that those who are motivated to seek higher education were easier to develop, even if we had to let two or three of them share a position to work around their classes.

After helping a few more with their undergraduate classes, Dental Admission Test studies, and talking with the UAB admissions committee members I knew, I got a reputation for being an advantage on a resume for dental school. I now have 50 former assistants who have finished or are students in dental schools. From 1998 through 2015, there was at least one in each class.

How does the teaching of the dental students and future colleagues affect your practice? It is most gratifying to instruct these students in the pre-doctoral clinical years. They seem to have an understanding of coordinating treatment, presentation, and the systemic-periodontal connection that their classmates lack. They are not just “shadowing.” They have responsibilities and are paid to work, so they have some ownership.

At this time, I have one student in the application process and two others in line for the next year. Yet, another has applied to work when we have another opening. A few of these students have realized that dentistry is not for them, so they have pursued other professions.Two have become physicians.

While it does take time to teach them, the changeovers to each succeeding pre-dental student is usually very smooth. Many of them select their own successors.

What can a periodontist in private practice do to recruit bright, young individuals into dentistry and create an interest in periodontology? If you are passionate about periodontics and dentistry, but you are too far from a dental school or you just can’t take the time out to teach at one, helping students get a realistic idea of periodontics and dentistry by having them serve as dental assistants in your practice can be a viable way to give back to the profession and to society. Most undergraduate universities have health profession coordinators who can direct students to you initially. Social media can do the rest.

What do you love most about teaching?Having the opportunity to teach everyone.You have to educate your patients about how they got to where they are, and how they can do something about it. When you expand that education to the person who’s going to facilitate the patient’s learning, you are taking education to the next level. And then when you get to the point where you’re helping more educated facilitators and finally other doctors, what could be more fulfilling than that? And to see how they learn and develop—and especially a person that I started with when he or she was in high school, then he or she completes a periodontal residency at the top of the class—that’s just amazing to get to follow students that far through.

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Part-Time+Educator+Spotlight%3A+Dr.+James+Roberts/2364921/286894/article.html.

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