By Jennifer Parraga, BA’93
For more than two decades Dr. Mariela Anderson, BSc'89, DDS'93, MClD'10, has been a fixture at Western University, and specifically Schulich Dentistry. From student to teacher and back again, she has come full circle twice in her relationship with the organization, and today continues to enjoy her experience as a faculty member working on a part-time basis.
Growing up in London, Ontario, attending Western University seemed like the perfect fit. And it was. Although she experienced many of the same first-year challenges that many freshmen do, she completed her undergraduate degree, and with the encouragement of her family, applied and was accepted to dentistry.
“My education at Western was very good and my clinical and didactic dental education was extremely good,” Dr. Anderson said. “When I graduated in 1993, I was ready for clinical practice,” she added, noting some wonderful professors including Drs. Donald Gratton, Glen Walker and Robbie McConnell.
Following graduation, Dr. Anderson practised general dentistry dividing her time between rural and urban settings.
She credits several mentors for guiding her, especially Dr. Mike Hornyak, DDS'86, whom she worked alongside for eight years.
“Working with Mike, I came to really understand and appreciate how to be a good clinician, how to listen to your patients, to treat them so they remember you and how you make them feel,” she said. “The most important thing is treating people with care and respect, and making sure they feel good about their interaction with you and your whole team.”
Shortly after graduation, Dr. Anderson began teaching at Schulich Dentistry. “Teaching has been a really good experience,” she said. “It’s great to interact and teach students.”
But fourteen years into practice, Dr. Anderson was ready for a change. She set her sights on the Graduate Orthodontics program at Schulich Dentistry.
As she headed back to class, she wasn’t disappointed. The excellent teaching and camaraderie the Graduate Orthodontics program is known for, held true to fact.
Now a practising orthodontist in Stratford, Ontario, Dr. Anderson is continuing to share her expertise with students at Schulich Dentistry teaching in the Children’s Clinic. In addition to developing the clinical skills of the students, she admits to lending an empathetic ear to the challenges graduating dentistry students are facing today.
“Young dentists today are facing many different challenges than I did. Many graduate with a great deal of debt, much more competition in the marketplace, and have to find a way to manage the rise of corporate dentistry,” she said.
As one of more than 200 part-time faculty members at Schulich Dentistry, Dr. Anderson’s role has become ever more important to students, who benefit greatly from the teacher and mentor relationship they develop with faculty members.
“Working in the clinic, you are able to supplement what they don’t learn in the classroom. So we teach them to listen to patients, to understand that everyone has a different point of view, and how important it is to keep that in mind,” she said. “We also work on their communication skills, and teach them how to talk to people, how to explain treatments and treatment plans, how to see the patient as a whole person, and not a procedure.”