Feature: Building strong relationships

By Ashley Rabinovitch

With three degrees and more than a decade teaching on campus, Dr. Ali Tassi has deep roots at Western.

Now as the Assistant Dean, Postgraduate Dental Education, and Chair of the Graduate Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics Program, he is committed to supporting learners and championing forward-thinking educational initiatives. 

Between clinical practice, teaching, research and administrative duties, the greatest challenge he encounters is finding enough hours in the day to do justice to it all. “I love that there are so many aspects to my job, because the variety keeps it fresh and exciting,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 

In the decanal role, he is focused on strategic planning, including identifying opportunities to develop new dental specialty programs at the School.

As Chair, he supports resident training and development. Some days he teaches seminars and courses, while others are spent ensuring smooth operations at the clinic. Still others involve conducting and overseeing research.

Currently, Tassi is spearheading a multidisciplinary project on the effects of jaw surgery on the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, a relatively novel intervention that has the potential to cure a chronic condition that has historically required lifelong compliance with medical devices to keep it under control.    

He says he has learned the art of leadership under the mentorship of senior faculty members like Dr. Antonios Mamandras, who retired in 2019. “What I learned from leaders like Dr. Mamandras was that exceptional outcomes for students and patients start with building strong relationships,” he said.

Whether he is supervising residents in the clinic or teaching a seminar, Tassi aims to cultivate a family-like atmosphere. In his experience, creating a feeling of belonging often comes down to small but intentional gestures, such as ordering lunch for the clinic on a busy day and inviting the families of residents and staff to program events.  

It also rests on his ability to listen carefully to the perspectives of those around him.

“I bring a good deal of experience to my role, but I don’t always assume I’m the person who knows the most about every single area of the school or even of our program,” said Tassi. “Consulting with those around me is critical to make them feel like stakeholders in our mission and understanding what’s happening at the ground level.”

It’s a juggling act to balance his professional responsibilities with his home life, where he enjoys staying active in music and sports with his wife and four young children, but Tassi remains energized by the colleagues around him and the patients they serve. “At the end of the day, we’re extremely lucky to be in a profession where we can change people’s lives through the services we offer,” he said. “I never want to take it for granted.”