Meet an Alum: Dr. Sapna Lohiya, Class of 2013

Posted on: Thursday, 12/17/2020

As a double Bruin, Dr. Sapna Lohiya prides herself on her allegiance to UCLA and the Westwood campus. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Anthropology in 2009, she continued her Bruin education at the UCLA School of Dentistry. While in dental school, she was active in community service as an Inglewood Community Dental Clinic Director and editor of the student research journal “The Explorer.” 

It was then that she developed a strong interest in surgery and subsequently pursued her oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMS) residency at the University of Washington in Seattle. During her training, she worked at six hospitals in the Seattle area, including the only Level 1 Trauma Center for four states. She authored several book chapters and journal articles, lectured at the local and regional level, and was recognized for her commitment to teaching and providing exceptional care. 

These days, she is in private practice with offices in Hermosa Beach, Westchester, and Culver City. She volunteers at the UCLA dental school as a Clinical Instructor and is active in local leadership as the chair of the Membership Committee of the Western Los Angeles Dental Society. She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, president of the Women in Dentistry South Bay Chapter, and was selected as a recipient of the 2021 Southern California Super Doctors “Rising Star” Award. 

UCLA Dentistry recently caught up with Dr. Lohiya who shared with us how she stays involved with organized dentistry: 

Q: Why did you choose dentistry and what do you enjoy most about being a dentist?

A: “Growing up, I had always been interested in healthcare and the idea of helping people become healthier versions of themselves. I chose to pursue dentistry after participating in a week-long medical/dental mission trip to Panama, when I was an undergraduate student at UCLA. I remember being consistently drawn to the dental side of the clinic, as I watched underserved patients walk in with long-standing infections or acute pain and then quickly could see their qualities of life improve with an extraction or other dental intervention. 

After being admitted to the UCLA School of Dentistry, I became exposed to the dental subspecialty of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and it was a calling I could not resist! The large scope of practice and the variety of my patient population keeps my days interesting, fun, and rewarding. I also very much appreciate the relationships I have with my patients and I am so grateful for their trust and respect.”

Q: Can you share a reason as to why dentists should become involved in professional organizations?

A: “Professional organizations unify, inform, and defend our specialty within healthcare. I have been a voting board member of my local dental society for the past 2 years. It has provided me with the unique opportunity to network with my colleagues, stay up-to-date with important health care issues, and participate in community service and public health events. Through my involvement, I’ve even hosted a few Los Angeles-specific “Guidance for Dental Clinic Re-opening” webinars during the COVID-19 pandemic. I felt so fortunate for the opportunity to help keep our members informed and at ease during this challenging time. 

In private practice, there is also a stark departure from being constantly surrounded by our classmates in dental school and in residency to practicing alone. It is easy to feel isolated and lose sight of the bigger picture of why we chose this career path. Getting involved with professional organizations help to ground us, give us renewed perspective and purpose, and remind us that we are a part of a larger community of talented clinicians and compassionate people!”

Q: What do you do when you are not practicing dentistry?

A: “Outside of practicing dentistry, I enjoy being active, exploring new restaurants, spending time with my family and friends, and supporting my championship-winning LA sports teams! I am also a huge advocate of the ongoing global female empowerment movement, and recently created a local study club chapter for my female dental colleagues to collaborate with each other through social gatherings, wellness events, and practice discussions. Since the field of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is still only ~10% female, this also extends to encouraging more female dental students to pursue the specialty.”

Q: If you could share one piece of advice to current dental students, what would it be?

A: “It is easy to get caught up in the challenging schedule of dental school. It is so important, however, to remember to take care of your mental and physical health during these 4 years and beyond. Spend time with your family and friends, eat well, take breaks to walk outside and get fresh air, and stay active by going to the gym or exploring the outdoors. This can be a lifelong career and the habits you develop now will keep you more focused and reduce burnout in the future.”

Q: What is one of your fondest memories while you trained at UCLA SOD?

A: “Professionally, my fondest memories came from visiting the operating room with my Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery mentors. I remember assisting Dr. Felsenfeld as he harvested an anterior iliac crest graft and working with the Harbor/UCLA chief residents to drain a submandibular abscess during my second and third years of dental school. I feel so fortunate that the UCLA School of Dentistry not only provided me with these incredible opportunities to explore all aspects of dentistry but also encouraged me to find my true passion and calling within the field. 

Personally, I am forever grateful for the life-long friendships I developed during dental school. There is a bond that is unlike any other when you experience the ups and downs of training, and the people I met along the way have all made me into a better clinician and person. Dental school is certainly challenging but the education, mentorship, and relationships you gain are truly invaluable. I am a very proud Bruin and appreciate getting to still be involved with the students and campus, including the honor of chatting with you for this UCLA spotlight interview!”