Alumni Volunteers Teaching Students
Dental Graduates Return to Educate Current Students
By Catherine Duncan
Throughout their dental education, students at the Center for Oral Health Care & Research have an opportunity to learn from a special type of teacher—alumni who volunteer to teach clinical skills.
William “Bill” F. Rose, D.D.S., director of the Predoctoral Division and associate professor of comprehensive dentistry, said alumni can volunteer one or more four-hour periods each week.
“Clinical volunteers work with third- and fourth-year dental students in the general practice clinic,” he said. Patients are 16 years and older. Alumni teach students who are providing restorations, periodontal therapy, crowns and bridges, partial and full dentures, root canals and extractions.
The graduates bring a different perspective to the students than the faculty members do, Dr. Rose said. “The alumni remember that dental school is a very difficult academic program. I think because alumni volunteers are often more recent graduates, the students can relate to them. The volunteers went through similar curriculum. They are also able to point out to students how excellent this program is. They explain how much better trained they are when they begin practicing.”
Volunteers are important because there is much to learn in the clinical setting. Students are developing hand skills while learning to communicate with patients, he said. “They are no longer sitting in the classroom learning. These graduates help the students relate what they learned in the classroom to actual patient care.”
Marwan Fattouhi, D.D.S. Class of 2018, volunteers two half days a week and has been doing so since September 2018, just months after he graduated.
“Teaching is a big passion for me. I enjoy spending my time off being here with the students,” Dr. Fattouhi said. While a dental student, he tutored other students and realized how much he enjoyed it.
He works in private practice as a general dentist five days a week, including Saturdays. This schedule allows him to volunteer at the dental clinic on Fridays.
“I really like interacting with the students. They walk in knowing nothing, and they walk out knowing a new skill. I have been here since the current seniors first started school.
I have watched them grow each year,” he said.
Dr. Fattouhi plans to work and volunteer for two years and then apply to the residency program at the dental school so he can continue to teach. “I want to become a teacher in the future. While I do like helping patients and making them feel better, I get my true joy from teaching,” he added.
Brad Seddighzadeh, D.D.S. Class of 2016, volunteered a half day a week from October 2016 until February 2019 when he became a paid assistant professor.
“I felt like I owed the school, and it was the right thing to do. I wanted to give back and help students with what I struggled with when I was a third- and fourth-year student,” he said. “I enjoy the first time we meet students. They are not confident in their skills. It is great to see them at mid-semester when their skills are developing and their confidence increases. By the end of their third year, they really have grown.”
Now working a half day every Friday, Dr. Seddighzadeh decided to make a long-term commitment to the school. In addition to teaching, he works in private practice in New Braunfels, San Antonio and Seguin.
“It is nice being in the school environment. I think it really keeps me up to date on current literature and techniques. I think it makes me a better general dentist,” he said. “I encourage other graduates to consider coming back and volunteering. We need more volunteers, and it feels really great to give back.”
Karen Wuertz, D.D.S. Class of 1992, has been volunteering once a week since October 2018. Although she was born and raised in San Antonio, she was gone for 27 years. She now maintains a part-time private practice and travels around the country training fellow dentists.
Moving around the country with her husband, who is a minister, Dr. Wuertz taught at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, after graduating from the School of Dentistry. She also went into private practice. She later volunteered at the School of Dentistry in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
“Teaching really is a passion of mine. It is in my blood,” she said. “I enjoy working with the junior and senior dental students. Because of my experience in private practice, I can tell students about the realities of being out in the dental industry.”
Dr. Wuertz teaches dental students about her two specialty areas: dental sleep medicine and orofacial myology, which is restoring function to the oral complex. She also is a diplomate in dental laser science.
“Each of us who volunteers is able to share our areas of expertise with the students. We give them exposure to more disciplines,” she said. “I love teaching. There is nothing like watching a student’s face when they have that aha moment and everything just clicks.”
Dr. Wuertz said she feels an obligation to give back to the School of Dentistry. “This is where my start came from. I am fortunate I can work with the next generation of dentists.”