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U of T Faculty of Dentistry graduate to continue research as university professor

Trevor Thang, who graduated this week from the Faculty of Dentistry's oral and maxillofacial radiology program, recently began a job as an assistant professor at Western University (photo by Jeff Comber)

He’s graduating with the University of Toronto’s fall class of 2019, but Trevor Thang is very happy to be heading straight back to school – this time, as a tenure track professor.

In September, Thang began a new position as an assistant professor at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, where he’s the sole specialist in oral and maxillofacial radiology (OMFR).

OMFR is a highly specialized branch of dentistry. U of T’s Faculty of Dentistry has one of the highest profile programs in North America and offers the only graduate specialty training degree in Canada. Admitting up to two students per year, the three-year program involves clinical training as well as an advanced research component. 

It was a career path that suited Thang perfectly.

“I chose academia because of my inherent curiosity to learn new things,” says Thang, who graduated with his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from U of T in 2016. “Being at a university will allow me to do that, while also allowing me to develop new knowledge through research.”

Thang has already added to the field. His master’s research looked at developing guidelines for how long digital dental X-ray sensors can and should be used (there’s currently a lack of industry standards). Over time, the image quality of the sensors degrades, potentially leading to poor quality images. Thang’s research, soon to be published in a dental journal, will be used by regulatory bodies as they develop and publish guidelines on the emerging technology.

“I think the radiology program at U of T is unmatched by any other program in North America,” says Thang. “It creates a culture where you can learn as much as you want, grow as much as you want. [Associate Dean, Graduate Education] Ernest Lam provides us the time to be curious and explore new things without putting a focus on simply getting the work done.”  

Lam, who is also the graduate specialty program director at the Faculty of Dentistry, says a three-year graduate program at the faculty goes by quickly. “As a mentor, you hope your students have learned the necessary skills to become competent clinical specialists,” he says. “But more than this, we hope they develop a sense of responsibility for advocating and leading the specialty into the future. I think that Trevor was able to do all these things and more during his time with us.” 

At Schulich, the only other dental school in Ontario, Thang will teach undergraduates the fundamentals of oral radiology. He’ll be the onsite radiologist and radiation safety officer – and he’s already putting his advanced degree to work as he develops policy decisions for Schulich. 

He’ll continue on with private practice, as well. In his specialty, the more you see and diagnose, the better you become, he says.

“You’re only as good as the amount you see.” 

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