The Future is Bright

Photograph of Dr. Dr. Antonios Mamandras and studentA small, passionate group of alumni raised $1 million to fund the Dr. Antonios Mamandras Chair in Graduate Orthodontics. Now, the Graduate Orthodontics Program is poised to enter a new season of impact and growth

By Ashley Rabinovitch

"Dr. Mamandras is not an easy act to follow,” admitted Dr. Ali Tassi, the Acting Chair and Program Director of the Graduate Orthodontics Program.

Since 1973, the Graduate Orthodontics Program has provided advanced orthodontic training to a small, select cohort of students. Under the directorship of Dr. Antonios Mamandras from 1994 to 2019, the program solidified its position as a national leader in training high-calibre orthodontists. Dr. Tassi credits Dr. Mamandras with cultivating a family-like atmosphere and creating a “25-year legacy of exceptional outcomes for students and patients alike.”

In anticipation of Dr. Mamandras’ retirement, an endowment fund to create the Dr. Antonios Mamandras Chair in Graduate Orthodontics was established in 2009. Nearly a decade later, the fund had about one-third of the total needed to endow the new Chair.

Four key alumni leaders came together to rally the program’s alumni to make up the difference.

“I felt it was important to give back in order to continue that tradition and support teachers who are as passionate as Dr. Mamandras.” — Dr. Anthony Mair, MCID’90

Between June 2018 and March 2020, Drs. Bruce Hill, MClD’90, Len Chumak, MClD’85, Kent Floreani, DDS’87, MCID’92, and Robert Elliott, DDS’89, MClD’93, spearheaded an ambitious peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to raise an additional $1 million, which the University matched to reach the $3 million mark.

Dr. Sonia Palleck, DDS’93, MCID’99, didn’t hesitate to make a donation when she heard about the campaign.

“I have tremendous love and respect for Dr. Mamandras,” she affirmed. “Students and alumni have a real sense of pride in the program, which pays tribute to the leadership of Dr. Mamandras. He instilled in us a conviction that everything we do is for the good of our communities. We’re doing our best to live up to his example.”

From Dr. Palleck’s perspective, the new endowed Chair demonstrates that the School can attract high-quality people and run a strong program.

Another alumnus, Dr. Anthony Mair, MClD’90, calls Dr. Mamandras a kind, gentle soul.

Dr. Mair can only recall one time that  Dr. Mamandras ever lost his temper. “He was absolutely livid over the mistreatment of one of his students during a qualifying examination,” remembers Dr. Mair. “He really went to bat for this student and changed the whole examination process to reduce bias. That’s who he is. Orthodontics is generally a collegial profession, but Dr. Mamandras brought a higher level of civility and community than you normally see.”

Dr. Mair donated to fund the Chair as a way to honour Dr. Mamandras and strengthen a program that makes a tangible impact in local communities.

“I felt it was important to give back in order to continue that tradition and support teachers who are as passionate as Dr. Mamandras,” he shared.

“This funding ensures long-term viability of our program. By making it possible to hire prominent faculty members who will expand and elevate our research and educational offerings.” — Dr. Ali Tassi

Thanks to the outpouring of support from alumni of the Graduate Orthodontics Program, Canada has its first endowed Chair in orthodontics.

“This funding ensures long-term viability of our program,” said Dr. Tassi. “By making it possible to hire prominent faculty members who will expand and elevate our research and educational offerings, the Dr. Antonios Mamandras Chair in Graduate Orthodontics will help us maintain our position as one of the top orthodontic schools in North America.”

From offering specialized training in surgical and craniofacial orthodontics to establishing new curricula in the fields of dental sleep medicine and orofacial pain, Dr. Tassi has no shortage of strategic plans for the future of the program now that the new Chair position is in place.

In the fall of 2020, three new residents will enter the Graduate Orthodontics Program. Dr. Arpen Mahal, DDS’17, an Alberta native, is looking forward to returning to London after earning her Doctor of Dental Surgery from Schulich Dentistry.

“I already know and value the expertise of the instructors at the School, so I’m especially excited to begin this journey along with my coresidents,” she said. From her perspective, the emphasis on multidisciplinary learning at the School will be a “key part of building a thriving practice” in the future.

Dr. Sidney Mugford, a native of Nova Scotia, hopes the program will serve as a launching pad for the next phase of her career. “After graduation, I plan to work in private practice while teaching part-time,” she shared. “The Graduate Orthodontics Program provides an opportunity to pursue both goals within a  supportive network of colleagues.”

The third member of the incoming class, Dr. Deborah O’Reilly, hails from Dublin, Ireland. “I actually discovered that the program has a history of Irish dentists,” she said. “It’s a major move, but I’m ready for the adventure of joining a new community and gaining a broad range of experience in the field of orthodontics.”

Selected from a pool of more than 40 qualified applicants, these three incoming students will form the program’s first-ever all-female class.

“It will be an honour to welcome these women into our program and into our profession,” said Dr. Tassi. “Across all health care disciplines, we’ve seen how greater diversity leads to a better understanding of the population’s needs.”

With new funding in place and a steady stream of high-calibre students joining the program, Dr. Tassi is confident that the best days are still ahead for Graduate Orthodontics.

“The future looks very bright.”