When you ask Deborah Loh what motivates her, her answer is simple. It’s her patients.
“As an orthodontist, you can make a huge difference in a person’s life, especially a child’s life,” said Loh, a second-year resident in Roseman University’s three-year Orthodontic Residency program. “Studies have shown not only the health benefits of straight teeth, but people who receive orthodontic treatment experience a boost in self-esteem that can go a long way in helping them live happier, healthier lives.”
A graduate of University of Southern California, where she received her undergraduate and dental degrees, Loh has dedicated her life to transforming people’s smiles. She, along with 29 fellow Roseman University residents, interns and faculty collectively see up to 70 patients each day at Roseman University’s Orthodontic Clinic in Henderson. Loh said that she, along with her peers, focus on developing individualized treatment plans for every patient. “We utilize the latest in imaging technology and diagnostic tools, and patient cases are often presented to our entire class of residents and our faculty to get input as we develop the most optimal treatment plan for each patient,” said Loh. “I think it’s a huge advantage for our patients, because each individual is unique, so their treatment plan should be as well.”
For Loh, being able to treat a diverse group of patients helps her fine-tune her clinical skills. It also makes her day-to-day work in the clinic and in classes less routine.
Each morning, Loh wakes up, gets ready and heads to clinic for another fulfilling day. For the first hour the residents, interns and faculty assemble for a case presentation, often one that is deemed especially challenging.
“No two cases are the same, and no two residents or faculty are the same as well. Presenting the cases in class allow for unique perspectives that, admittedly, sometimes I don’t think of,” said Loh. “This has taught me to look at my patients’ needs from different angles and think beyond just orthodontic braces.”
Typically, around 9 a.m., Loh and her fellow residents begin seeing patients in the 20-chair clinic. The clinic uses a sophisticated, electronic patient tracking system that displays a patient’s status on screens throughout the clinic. Loh’s patients check in on a touch screen computer in the lobby and she is immediately notified of the patient’s arrival. “When my patient arrives, I always go out to the lobby and greet them as well as accompanying family members. This is especially important for children who need the support of their parents. I take time to ask if my patient has had any issues over the weeks since I last saw them and answer questions about what is planned for the day’s appointment,” said Loh.
When Loh takes her patients back into the clinic she has an opportunity to develop a trusting doctor-patient relationship. Loh said, “I have a lot of fun being part of my patients’ lives. I especially like the patients who may be quiet and shy at the beginning of treatment, but as they progress over the months they begin to become more open and excited about how their smiles are transforming. It’s rewarding.”
During clinic time, treatments can range from new patient screenings, appointments where 3-D and 4-D images and molds are created to prepare Loh for developing a treatment plan, to fitting patients with braces and other orthodontic appliances, to making adjustments. Every patient’s appointment is different, she said.
When each patient’s treatment is complete, a faculty member is called to double check Loh’s work. She explains to the faculty member how the patient is progressing and what was accomplished at the day’s appointment. “Having that faculty member is like having a team member to offer support and expert advice whenever you need it. This is also great for patients who can be confident that the treatment they’ve received is well thought out and carefully implemented, because there’s an extra set of eyes making sure everything is done perfectly,” Loh said.
In addition to the hands-on skills developed in the clinic, some days are dedicated to classroom learning. Loh and her fellow residents hear from guest experts from all over the country.
“At Roseman we are exposed to not only many of the orthodontic community’s top experts, but also experts in other areas like pharmacy. Oral health plays an important role in overall health, and vice versa. As dentists and orthodontists, we can play a role in preventative care. Our guest lecturers offer so much great information to help us be proactive and knowledgeable in other areas,” said Loh.
Loh and the other residents also earn an MBA during their time in the program. Roseman University’s Orthodontic Residency is the only such program in the nation to require its residents to earn an MBA to develop their business, management and leadership skills to complement their burgeoning clinical skills. Every few months, Loh and her classmates take a break from patient treatment to complete MBA courses that range from business law, human resources management, operations management and finance. “All of the courses in the MBA portion of the program help me prepare for running my own practice after graduating next summer,” said Loh.
Loh often spends evenings reviewing cases as she prepares for the next day’s appointments. Despite the rigor, she still manages to find time to unwind, especially on weekends. Loh takes great pride in the relationships she’s built with her fellow residents and they often hang out, go on hikes and other exciting adventures. “My fellow residents are like family,” she says with affection. “Even beyond graduation, they will certainly be lifelong colleagues.”