New Leadership | New Ideas

Posted on: Tuesday, 06/25/2019

Restorative dentistry gains two new leaders who strive for excellence in training, research, and patient care within a collaborative environment

Restorative Dentistry Leadership

WITH MORE THAN 160 FACULTY MEMBERS, from full-time to volunteer instructors in the clinic, restorative dentistry is UCLA Dentistry’s largest section. A collective term for diagnosing, treating, and managing diseased teeth and surrounding structures, restorative dentistry builds the foundation for our pre-doctoral students’ understanding of the art and science of dentistry. Dr. Reuben Kim, a UCLA Dentistry alumnus with the Class of 2003 and chair of the Section of Restorative Dentistry, takes his role very seriously. “There are a lot of exciting changes going on in the study of restorative dentistry. I’m determined for UCLA Restorative Dentistry to become the gold standard across all dental schools.” 

The Section also operates two residency programs in advanced education in general dentistry (AEGD), with 13 residents admitted annually. One program operates out of the Westwood clinic and the other program out of the Wilson-Jennings-Bloomfield UCLA Venice Dental Center. Also under the Section's purview is the BISCO Clinic for Esthetic Dentistry, a highly regarded specialty clinic that offers patients cosmetic and esthetic services, directed by Dr. Yair Whiteman, assistant clinical professor.

To say his plate is full is an understatement, but Dr. Kim isn't new to hard work and perseverance. He was hired as an assistant professor of restorative dentistry in 2006 while he was still working towards his PhD degree in oral biology, which he completed in 2008. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2014 and then appointed as chair of restorative dentistry in 2018. At the beginning of 2019, Dr. Marc Hayashi, assistant clinical professor of restorative dentistry, who joined UCLA full-time in 2016, was appointed as vice chair of the Section. Dr. Hayashi received his DMD degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and completed his advanced training at USC and Sepulveda VA.

Together, they have devised a plan to enhance the Section in four key areas: digital transformation, research, community dentistry, and communication with faculty and staff.

“Ultimately, we’re striving to create a dental home for our patients, where the focus from our faculty and student dentists is on a case completion model with attention on prevention,” said Dr. Hayashi. “With this, we can offer an affordable treatment option for our patients that will arrest their decay, and, if necessary, buy them time before deciding on a more permanent treatment option.”

Leading a Digital Transformation

Drs. Kim and Hayashi’s top goal is to further implement the use of digital technology within the Section’s patient care and clinical training initiatives. 

“My goal is to increase the digitization of our curriculum and offer modern approaches to clinical training and faculty calibration,” said Dr. Hayashi. “By providing more frequent online modules and audience response systems, we can create a more engaging and dynamic education for our students and instructors, resulting in a more cohesive and informed body that ultimately improves the patient experience and level of care provided.”

Recent acquisitions of digital scanning and impression tools are preparing pre-doctoral students to leave UCLA with the skills needed to practice dentistry using the most advanced technology on the market. The immediate goal is to increase the use of digital milling systems, such as CAD/CAM machines, in clinical instruction in order to facilitate all pre-doctoral students gaining experience using the equipment. 

The Section is also tracking to be the first in the School to incorporate axiUm, the School’s electronic health records management software, in preclinical teaching so that first year dental students are familiar with the software before they begin seeing patients during the summer of their second year.

Promotion and Investment in Research

While in dental school, being introduced to oral health research was a seminal moment in Dr. Kim’s career. “Dentistry is built upon evidence-based research and science, and I wanted to be a part of it. I decided to pursue a PhD degree after my second year in dental school. For me, research opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking and approach to my training. I really want to encourage dental students to incorporate some type of research in their time here, and as early as their first year,” said Dr. Kim. “Research is a time-consuming activity and the true value comes from identifying a mentor and learning and producing tangible results that can apply back to patient care.”

Over the last 15 years, the UCLA School of Dentistry has become a research powerhouse, with the help of significant investments made in physical laboratory space and other resources. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the dental school was awarded more than $10.3 million from seven agencies under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) umbrella. As a recipient of multiple NIH grants, including a R01 training grant, Dr. Kim plans to continue this precedent of research excellence in the Section. He is in the process of building a dedicated research laboratory to house the latest research equipment, where restorative dentistry faculty of all levels can conduct research. He hopes that more resources will help promote clinical, basic, and translational research, especially in dental materials.

Bringing Restorative Dentistry to the Community

With the recent introduction of the Community-Based Clinical Education (CBCE) program in the fourth-year curriculum, dental students will now be exposed to valuable, real-life clinical experiences during six-week rotations at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) or clinics that treat underserved populations. UCLA dental students become a valuable part of a clinical team, which provides services to patients who generally struggle with access to oral health care. Across the 12 CBCE sites where students rotate, the majority of the treatment being provided is restorative work, making the Section a vital partner in the success of the School’s pre-doctoral training curriculum.

Throughout the past year of getting the CBCE program off the ground, constant calibration and communication between restorative dentistry faculty here in Westwood and CBCE clinical educators in the community has been crucial in ensuring teaching material and best practices are aligned with UCLA quality standards of care. This newly formed collaboration functions to close the gap between the School and the community.

“Restorative dentistry is the pillar of dentistry. Without knowing how to prep and restore teeth properly, there is no post-graduate education,” Dr. Kim said. “There’s no better preparation for our graduates than getting that hands-on experience in restorative work, not only at the dental school’s clinics but also at the CBCE sites.”

Culture of Inclusiveness

Drs. Kim and Hayashi believe that none of their plans and aspirations can transpire without the vested interest and motivation of their faculty, staff, and trainees. One way that they plan to create a more inclusive culture is to establish multiple pipelines of communication so that administrative decisions are transparent to all. 

“We want to make sure that everyone feels a part of our shared progress. To do so, we are implementing ongoing communications, such as face-to-face interactions and emails to the entire section and our stakeholders about our progress. We also have quarterly faculty and staff meetings, including weekend sessions to regroup amongst ourselves,” Dr. Kim said.

Despite the size of the Section, the leaders hope that everyone in restorative dentistry feels that they can make suggestions for improvements and solutions. This management approach is in line with one of the dental school’s core values of professionalism and humanistic culture. Moving into their newly renovated offices, where many of the part-time faculty have dedicated workspace and a meeting room, is helping to work towards this goal.

“I want everyone to ‘feel at home’ in restorative dentistry, which is our motto for this year. This shouldn’t be a place you only come to work and train. I want it to be a place where people can enjoy expressing their ideas and sharing their talents,” Dr. Kim said. “To me, UCLA is a place where we work and study and build significant relationships with our colleagues, who are also friends and family. This is the reason why I come to school every day full of excitement and expectations.”