Home team advantage

Derek Tomson, DDS'10

By Emily Leighton, MA’13

When Dr. Derek Tomson, DDS’10, Graduate Orthodontics Class of 2016, laces up his hockey skates and sports the iconic Mighty Dents jersey, he joins a proud and storied tradition at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry

Dentistry’s revered hockey team is part of a culture of team spirit among students, staff and faculty alike, and has ignited a friendly rivalry with the University of Toronto.

It’s a camaraderie that Dr. Tomson continues to enjoy as an alumnus and current graduate student. “I’m in my seventh year on the team,” he said with a grin. “And I’m now friends with the younger students who come out and play. It’s a great atmosphere to be part of.”

Dr. Tomson played for the Mighty Dents in the inaugural ODA President’s Cup Hockey Classic in 2008, a memory he holds in high regard as being one of his favourites.

Born and raised in Burlington, Ontario, Dr. Tomson obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Guelph. Following a year of travel in Southeast Asia, he completed a master’s in epidemiology at the University of Ottawa.

A career in dentistry appealed to him as a way to connect his science background with the health-care industry. “I like working with different people every day and seeing diverse cases,” he said. “Having a positive impact on people’s health is important to me.”

After shadowing his family dentist to get a sense of what the job entailed, Dr. Tomson entered the DDS program at Schulich Dentistry in the Class of 2010.

Following graduation and three years of private practice, Dr. Tomson decided to return to school, looking to his alma mater to pursue training in orthodontics.

He gravitated toward this specialized field because of the patient base and the opportunity to have a significant impact. “A lot of the patients I see lack confidence due to their smile. Orthodontics not only allows me to straighten teeth, it affords me the opportunity to improve their quality of life,” he explained. “I also feel like I’m developing better relationships with my patients because I get to see them more often and over a longer period of time.”

Now in his third and final year of the Graduate Orthodontics program at the School, Dr. Tomson is preparing to leave the Schulich Dentistry nest yet again.

And like many orthodontic graduates before him, he attributes his professional success to an influential figure: Dr. Antonios Mamandras, chair of the program.

“I call him my ‘London Dad’ because every decision he makes is to benefit the residents,” said Dr. Tomson. “He makes us feel valued, that we’re part of something meaningful.”

Dr. Tomson also points to the faculty support more generally, as several faculty members travel from out of town to teach in the orthodontic clinic. “It’s a caring environment and all the faculty really make it drive,” he said. “It definitely makes me proud to be a student here.”

For his part, Dr. Antonios Mamandras says students also play an important role in making the program a success.

“Derek has an ability to reach even the shyest patients and make them feel comfortable in the chair,” he said. “He’s been a great leader and will be an excellent ambassador for the program.”

Dr. Tomson is hoping to open a practice of his own or partner with an established orthodontist when he graduates in March. With his wife’s company based out of Mississauga, he is aiming to stay in the GTA region.

“I’ll actually probably end up moving back to my hometown of Burlington,” he said.

Regardless of where he sets up shop, Dr. Tomson has a number of classmates to turn to for advice with these types of major life decisions.

Affectionately called ‘DROMCAT’ – short for Derek, Rory, Oren, Marshall, Cam, Andrew and Tyson – the group graduated from dental school together in 2010 and have remained close, meeting a few times a year to reminisce and catch up.

“We always end up chatting about life and offering each other advice,” said Dr. Tomson. “As nerdy as it sounds, we’ve even discussed the best matrix bands on the market.”

Dr. Tomson does have some unfinished business going into the final three-month stretch of his time at Schulich Dentistry – the elusive ODA Cup that was lost in a devastating shoot out to the University of Toronto in 2014.

But regardless of bragging rights, the skates and jersey are representative of something far more meaningful to Dr. Tomson. “I’m where I am today because of the people I met in dental school,” he said. “My best memories are of our time spent together.”