School of Dentistry Graduates Succeeding in Myriad Fields

Alumni Profiles


Dana Paladino, B.S.D.H. Class of 2015, RDH
Dental Hygiene Instructor
Coastal Bend College
Concorde Career College
San Antonio, Texas

Paladino is a dental hygienist and dental hygiene educator. She grew up in southeast Texas near Beaumont but has lived in San Antonio for seven years. Prior to becoming a dental hygienist, Paladino graduated from Oklahoma State University with an undergraduate degree in biological sciences. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. After hygiene school, she completed a master’s degree in aging and dementia studies from Texas State University in San Marcos.

Paladino worked in clinical dental hygiene for five years, but she missed the educational atmosphere. That is when she decided to become a teacher. Now Paladino is a dental hygiene instructor at both Coastal Bend College and Concorde Career College. She said because of her dental hygiene education and the faculty at UT Health, she is able to successfully and happily live out her career dreams.

She is thankful to have gotten her start at the UT Health Dental Hygiene Program and hopes one day to return as an educator.


Sarah Shoffstall-Cone, D.D.S., M.P.H., Certificate in Dental Public Health 2018
Interim Director, Department of Oral Health Promotion, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Commander, United States Public Health Service
Anchorage, Alaska

Dr. Shoffstall-Cone is serving as commander in the United States Public Health Service. She earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from The Ohio State University in 2005 and her Master of Public Health degree from A.T. Still University in 2010. In 2018, she completed a public health residency at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. In 2020, Commander Shoffstall-Cone earned Board Certification in the specialty of Dental Public Health.

After graduating from dental school, she moved to the hub community of Bethel, Alaska, to work for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC). This organization provides health care for 58 rural communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in southwest Alaska. During her years at YKHC, Dr. Shoffstall-Cone served in several roles including staff dentist, deputy dental director and as acting dental director.

In 2009, she moved to Anchorage to work at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), as the clinical site director with the Alaska Dental Therapy Educational Program. In March 2020, Dr. Shoffstall-Cone assumed the role of director of the Ilisagvik College Alaska Dental Therapy Educational Program, the first CODA Accredited Dental Therapy program. She is also serving as the interim director of the ANTHC Department of Oral Health Promotion. She continues to serve rural communities across Alaska.


Nikita Ruparel, D.D.S. Class of 2011, Ph.D. Class of 2011, M.S.
Associate Professor,
Department of Endodontics
Director, Advanced Education
Program in Endodontics
School of Dentistry,
UT Health San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Ruparel is an associate professor and director of the Advanced Education Program in Endodontics at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. She received her Certificate in Endodontics in 2013 after receiving her Ph.D. and D.D.S. from UT Health in 2011. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Endodontists and maintains both a clinical and a research program at UT Health. Dr. Ruparel is the Carlos E. del Rio Chair in Endodontics.

Her research program has been funded by foundation and federal grants. She serves as the general chair of the American Association of Endodontists and president of the Pulp Biology and Regeneration group of the International Association of Dental Research. She has been awarded the American Association of Endodontics Educator Fellowship for committing her career to academics. She is committed to a long-term career as a clinician-scientist.


Taraneh Maghsoodi-Zahedi, D.D.S. Class of 2006, M.S. and Certificate in Maxillofacial Radiology 2009
Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist
Chief Maxillofacia Radiologist, 360imaging
Assistant Professor of Periodontics, School of Dentistry,
UT Health San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas

Dr. Maghsoodi-Zahedi received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from UTSA in 2000. She received her D.D.S. in 2006 from UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. Following graduation, she continued her education in the maxillofacial radiology program at the School of Dentistry where she received her certificate in 2009 and Master of Science degree.

Dr. Maghsoodi-Zahedi has maintained private practice and academics since 2009. She has been engaged in patient care as the chief maxillofacial radiologist at the nationally recognized imaging center 360imaging since that time. In 2010 she joined the dental school as an assistant professor in the Department of Periodontics.

She received her board certification from the American Academy of Maxillofacial Radiology in 2010. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology. She has published articles in different areas of radiology. She has delivered presentations nationally on 3D imaging, radiographic interpretation and technical skills. Dr. Maghsoodi-Zahedi has been engaged in multiple areas of patient care, including evaluation of pathology, trauma, TMJ, implant surgery, maxillofacial reconstruction and craniofacial syndromes.


Aaron Liddell, M.D., D.M.D., FACS, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency 2011
Maxillofacial Surgeon,
Colorado Oral Surgery
Division Chief, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Swedish Medical Center
Medical Director of Facial Trauma, Trauma and Emergency Subspecialty Surgeons
Denver, Colorado

Dr. Liddell completed his undergraduate education at the University of Utah with a degree in medical biology. He went on to earn his D.M.D. at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. Following dental school, he attained his M.D. at the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio. He completed a six-year residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery.

His clinical interests include the correction of dentofacial deformities (orthognathic surgery), reconstructive surgery of the temporomandibular joint, and repair of traumatic facial injuries. He also enjoys dentoalveolar surgery, dental implantology, and advanced bone grafting.

Dr. Liddell has been heavily involved in both clinical and benchtop research. He has numerous publications and continues to collaborate on research publications. He lectures nationally for AO North America on facial trauma and reconstruction. He currently serves as the medical director of facial trauma for Trauma and Emergency Subspecialty Surgeons, a multi-specialty surgical group covering six trauma centers across the Denver Metro region. He is the division chief of Oral and Maxillofacial surgery at Swedish Medical Center, one of Denver’s regional level 1 trauma centers. Additionally, he is a team physician for the Denver Nuggets.


Ahmed Alotaibi, B.D.S., M.S. in Dental Science and Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics Certificate 2020
Orthodontist and Captain
Prince Sultan Medical Military City
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Dr. Alotaibi completed dental school in King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2013. Throughout that period, he worked with and shadowed local orthodontists and developed the desire to pursue a career in orthodontics. After graduation, he enrolled in the Saudi military to serve as a military dentist. He currently holds the rank of captain.

He earned his master’s degree and completed the orthodontics residency program at the School of Dentistry at UT Health San Antonio in 2020. Dr. Alotaibi said the dental school gave him the opportunity to work with great faculty members.

After graduation, he moved back to Riyadh and started working in Prince Sultan Medical Military City, where he provides orthodontic care for military personnel and their families. He looks forward to assisting in the training of local orthodontic residents in the future.


Joseph Castellano, D.D.S., Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency 1991, Pediatric Dentistry Residency 2002
Pediatric Dentist/Co-Owner
Castellano & Carpenter Dental Associates
Laredo, Texas

Dr. Castellano is a practicing pediatric dentist and co-owner of Castellano & Carpenter Dental Associates. He is a graduate of United High School in Laredo and completed his undergraduate studies in 1986 at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Upon graduation, he attended the University of Texas Dental Branch in Houston and received his D.D.S. degree in 1990. Dr. Castellano then completed a one-year residency in advanced general dentistry and later a two-year residency to specialize in pediatric dentistry at UT Health San Antonio.

He is board certified in pediatric dentistry. Dr. Castellano serves as an assistant clinical professor for the Department of Developmental Dentistry at the UT Health School of Dentistry. He has authored and co-authored several publications in dental literature.

Dr. Castellano is a member of numerous professional organizations. He most recently served as president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, is a past-president of the Texas Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and continues to serve on various committees with both organizations. He is also a past-president of the Laredo District Dental Society.


Bradley DeGroot, D.D.S., M.S., Periodontics Residency 2015
Partner, Periodontal Medicine and Surgical Specialists
Chicago, Illinois

Dr. DeGroot received a Bachelor of Science degree (Summa Cum Laude) and his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (Summa Cum Laude) from Marquette University. While there, he was inducted into the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Society, a national honorary organization for dentists.

Following his dental training, Dr. DeGroot completed a three-year residency in periodontics and dental implants at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. While there, he completed research and successfully defended his thesis on placement protocols for immediate implant placement. Following the completion of his residency, Dr. DeGroot moved to Chicago and began working in private practice. He currently practices as a partner of Periodontal Medicine and Surgical Specialists with three locations in the greater Chicago area.

Dr. DeGroot continues to research, teach, and publish nationally and internationally on the topics of periodontal surgery, complex treatment planning, bone and tissue augmentation, and dental implant surgery. He is an ad hoc reviewer for the International Journal of Periodontics and Restorative Dentistry. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology and is an active member in the American Academy of Periodontology, American Dental Association, Illinois Dental Society, Chicago Dental Society, and is the current president of the Illinois Society of Periodontists. He holds a certificate and license to provide conscious sedation services and is on staff at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois.


Ryan Cook, D.D.S., M.S. and Dual Periodontics/Prosthodontics Residency 2010
Associate Clinical Professor
Director, Advanced Education in Prosthodontics
Director, Advanced Education in Periodontology
Adams School of Dentistry, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hills
Chapel Hills, North Carolina

Dr. Cook is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Southern California.
Upon completion of dental school, he was trained at the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry in a dual residency program in periodontics and prosthodontics. During his residency, he completed his Master of Science exploring the topic of “Periodontal Phenotype/Biotype and Labial Plate Thickness.”

He is a diplomate of the American Board of Prosthodontics and American Board of Periodontology. After maintaining a full-time practice in Laguna Niguel, California, he entered academia where he is currently the director of the Advanced Education in Prosthodontics, director of the Advanced Education in Periodontology, and a Stallings Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry.


Ryan Sheridan, D.M.D., Certificate in Prosthodontics 2014, M.S. in Prosthodontics 2015
Director, Surgical Prosthodontics,
Air Force Postgraduate Dental School
Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Air Force Base
San Antonio, Texas

Major Sheridan serves as the director of Surgical Prosthodontics for the Air Force Postgraduate Dental School at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Major Sheridan is responsible for all in-house didactic and laboratory training related to surgery and supervises clinical training for 15 residents. He serves as the director of research for the Prosthodontics flight and participates in the monthly Dental Research Function, providing critical oversight to all resident research endeavors in the 59th Dental Training Squadron. He developed and implemented surgical implant placement training as required by the revised standards of the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Major Sheridan commissioned into the Air Force in 2015 as a direct accession candidate and immediately matriculated into Commissioned Officer Training Class 15-04 where he served in a group leadership position. He previously served as director of First Year Prosthodontics Resident Education where he was a key planner for the expansion of the prosthodontics residency program curriculum from 36 to 42 months.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry in 2006 from Case Western Reserve University; a Doctorate of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine in 2009; a certificate from a two-year hospital-based general practice residency from Monmouth Medical Center (an affiliate of Drexel University College of Medicine) in Long Branch, New Jersey, in 2011; and a Certificate in Prosthodontics (2014) and Master of Science degree (2015) from UT Health San Antonio. He successfully challenged the American Board of Prosthodontics to attain diplomate status as well as a Fellowship in the American College of Prosthodontists (2015).

Major Sheridan has contributed to the specialty of prosthodontics through service to the American College of Prosthodontists as a member of six committees and subcommittees. He is currently serving as the ACP Region 6 Federal Services Director, sits on the ACP Board of Directors and represents all member prosthodontists in the VA, Army, Navy, and Air Force. He has served on mission trips with Mountain Medics International and the Indian Health Service. He was a critical asset for the 59th Medical Wing during the COVID-19 pandemic response. He led a team of 38 providers for point of care testing services for 240,000 beneficiaries, reducing demand on emergency clinics by 83 percent.

He has academic appointments as an associate professor of prosthodontics for the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and as an adjunct assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio.


Susannah Payne, D.D.S. Class of 2015, and her father, Steven Payne, D.D.S. Class of 1978, both graduated from the School of Dentistry. Photo courtesy: Katie Westbrook Photography

Susannah Payne, D.D.S. Class of 2015
Advanced Education in General Dentistry Certificate 2019
Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Comprehensive Dentistry
School of Dentistry, UT Health San Antonio
Co-Owner, Payne Dentistry, San Antonio, Texas

“Dentistry all started for me Christmas Eve of 2009. My father, Dr. Steven Payne (D.D.S. Class of 1978), received a phone call from a patient who had lost a front tooth out of his partial denture and was embarrassed to attend his family gathering the following day. I offered to accompany my father so he wasn’t by himself and ended up being allured by this world of science, art, and community care. I matriculated two years later and had ideations of attending a specialty program in periodontics. Dr. Ed Wright had an enlightening conversation with me in the hallway telling me how crazy I would be not to join into practice with my father, whom he had taught with in the Dental Anatomy class for decades. This was the moment I first learned of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry program where a general dentist could be taught by specialists and trained to perform procedures in all specialties. My interest in this program continued to be nurtured by Dr. William Rose who has literally created a dynasty of residents.

A blip on the radar of my dental career was a move to Seattle, Washington, to practice for two years. A key aspect of this move was learning the business side of dentistry from two different offices in the region, one corporate and one private. I encourage all newcomers to pursue such an experience to gain wisdom from successful businesses. This allows you to incorporate them into your permanent clinic home. My plan was always to return to complete our AEGD program, and I was fortunate to be accepted into the program under the direction of Dr. Luis Yepes. I opted to undergo two years of training and was blown away at the amount I learned during that time. My method of practice before and after completing the program is astounding. This encompassing knowledge allows me to formulate the best plans for my patients and gives me the skillset to accomplish most of it myself. When unable to complete procedures myself, I can explain to my patients in much greater detail and with confidence what they will need; this results in their following through with referrals on a more frequent basis.

The most fun part of my dental life by far has been the last year I have been practicing with Dr. “Big” Payne and getting to return to the AEGD program as an attending part-time faculty member. Teaching in arguably the strongest AEGD residency in the country I am continuously proud of the progress in practice our residents obtain and how eager they are to prove their abilities. Our curriculum and talent as far as mentors within the program improve every year and I am lucky to consider myself a small part of their incredibly talented team of teachers currently led by Dr. Ahmed Sabbah, part of the GPG3 Dynasty.”

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In the 2020 issue of Salute

Salute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Dentistry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our dental alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2020 issue

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