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2023 AAOM Fall Newsletter

Message From the President (2023-2024)

Dear AAOM Colleagues:

November 2023- where did the time go?! So much has happened since we last saw each other in Savannah last Spring. If you recall, we ended our relationship with SBI management firm, and after entertaining bids from six companies, we selected our new management firm, Management Solutions Plus (MSP), based in Maryland, owned by Shawn McLaughlin.  The transition to MSP went without a hitch through the month of August under the direction of our new executive director, Susan DeCourcey, and our transition team, Drs. Eskow, Hatch, Ikeda, Thoppay, Patton and myself. I want to thank you for your patience over the past couple of months, and please feel free to reach out to welcome Susan or contact MSP with any questions you may have at (240) 332-3152 or [email protected].

I am pleased to report that the financial health of the Academy is in good standing as we were able to recover outstanding revenue from the sales of our Clinician’s Guides and the success of the workshops and corporate sponsors at the annual meeting. Our sponsorship committee, chaired by President-Elect Dr. Ikeda, has been actively recruiting new sponsors and developing sustained relationships with our current sponsors.


We have been continuing to develop our relationship with the ADA to enhance awareness of the AAOM and support the ADA’s vision of enhancing oral health. Dr. Ikeda and I represented the Academy at the ADA’s SmileCon, where we met with ADA leaders, Drs. Shepley, Edgar, and Preble. We are in the midst of developing a series of webinars, CE, and workshops. SmileCon also had a large Oral Medicine Hub on the exhibition floor that consisted of a fun escape room showcasing several oral mucosal conditions. Drs. Thoppay, Ikeda, and I have also been serving as subject matter experts with ADA representatives regarding ICD-10 code mapping and CMS taxonomy and billing. These efforts will lead to optimizing insurance reimbursement for our services in the practice of Oral Medicine.


One of my stated goals in April was to increase member benefits. Thanks to our collaboration with Tufts Interprofessional Pain and Headache Rounds, our members now have free access to this year-long lecture series and CME credits. I am also in the midst of negotiating additional educational opportunities, so keep an eye out for that.


Drs. Tiffany Tavares and David Ojeda hosted a very successful Fall Meeting, “Demystifying the Modern Dental Patient,” in San Antonio, Texas in October where AAOM past presidents Drs. Craig Miller and Michael Huber and I were featured speakers. It was well attended, and delightful to see so many of our colleagues in attendance.


With the help of our immediate past president, Dr. Treister, we continue to support our subcommittees, who have been diligently working on the first phase of our Academy’s strategic plan as we prepare for phasing out those who have completed their assignments and making plans for expansion into the second phase. I am thankful to all of the members who have devoted so much of their time to this; the Academy is stronger due to their efforts, drive, and enthusiasm.


It has truly been an honor representing the Academy these past 6 months and I have so much more to do before our annual meeting in Orlando in April 2024. I cannot wait to see you all there!


Vidya Sankar, DMD, MHS

AAOM Membership and Members Highlights

Robert Haberkorn


Beaufort, SC

My journey in oral health began in 1966, at the age of five. I watched a movie that in my opinion at the time, was the best movie of the year.  It was not “A Man for All Seasons” (which won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year) but rather “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The star of that show and the influencer for me was Hermie the Elf, the dentist in training.  We shared a commonality of being diminutive in size and having blond hair. But more importantly, a passion for helping all people and creatures with their oral health. His goal was service to others in the education of oral hygiene and prevention. In Oral Medicine, he saw the need to help the Abominable that had bumfuzzled Yukon Cornelius. I saw dentistry as a noble profession that was different than others. It focuses on doing your job so well that you put yourself out of business rather than encouraging planned obsolescence, like other career paths.  That seemed to me to be what I wanted to be ultimately. A healer and teacher, and someone who could help others by example and leadership.


I graduated with Honors from UMKC School of Dentistry in 1986 and began private practice after purchasing a practice from an older dentist (who then became my Associate, as well as mentor). Dr Dean Melkus was a great dentist and taught me many things that a 24-year-old needed to know, not only in oral health care but in pearls of wisdom on life. I wrote all those things down in a blue notepad and continued looking at those writings for years, not just from him but from the other four older practitioners I had lunch with each Wednesday. Sadly, the last hurricane here in Beaufort, South Carolina, saw those notepads damaged irreparably from the flooding, but they are forever etched in my brain. 


Long before Malcolm Gladwell wrote the book “Outliers,” I saw that for me to become excellent in my career, I needed experience. The 10,000-hour rule to become an expert had to be done in the shortest amount of time that I could accomplish, and so I worked 75-hour work weeks to arrive at that 10,000-hour mark in just around two and a half years. I saw as many people as I could to allow me the chance to advance as rapidly in experience as I could. It was exhausting, but that time in my early career allowed me to be a sponge and absorb many lessons and patient experiences.


Dr Melkus insisted that I perform an oral cancer screening on every patient and look for lesions, bumps, or sores that looked suspicious. He was methodical and thorough, and I wanted to be the same.  He encouraged me to take an implant mini-residency course, which I did within months after beginning practice. I liked the thought of replacing teeth with things that were not dentures or removable prosthetics. But that training also taught me to see the entire oral cavity and the head and neck in a different light. Patients had unique characteristics, and they had to be evaluated as a whole, not just a tooth or the gingiva.   Education after dental school is paramount to continue the quest to be better every day for your patients, family, and your own being. The passion and thirst for knowledge must never be quenched.


Dr Melkus also insisted that I go through the Pankey Institute and its curriculum for further knowledge, not just in dental health and temporomandibular disorder, but to absorb the lessons they would give me in balancing life, work, and family. I loved my time there, and that was where I first met Dr. Sam Low. His lessons in periodontics and oral health medicine drove me to learn everything I could about the mix of oral medicine and dentistry.


Dr. Brendan Stack was instrumental in educating me on the role of the temporomandibular joint. He showed me the intersection of oral health, dentition, joint, gingiva and mucosa, and airways. His ability to make something complex into something more easily understood helped me educate my patients on the role that each component plays in both oral and systemic health.


My Uncle Ron Reed was the inspiration behind the foray into Lasers and their applications in oral health and medicine. He was a brilliant individual. He was a CPA who had a Master’s degree in computer science and was a CFO for a Fortune 500 company. Ron told me that he knew of a company that had developed a CO2 laser that was to be introduced into oral health care. He suggested that this would be healthcare’s future and one that dentistry would also utilize. 


I took his advice and purchased my first laser in early 1990. From my initial use of a CO2 laser to the 800 nm diode, and subsequent 940 nm diode, and my current 2740 nm Er,Cr:YSGG laser, I am forever grateful for his recommendation, as it has revolutionized the way that I practice. I have nine of them now (three hard tissue and six soft tissue). From removing dental caries to periodontal surgery to healing traumatic ulcers and now to skin rejuvenation, they are a gift for me as I am daily able to resolve pain and make patients’ lives better. Utilizing the lasers fulfills my commitment to relieving pain and pathology. Its usage in our oral environment is still in the early stages, and I like that I have been a pioneer with all of them. Being able to have this type of technology and grow with its many advantages and successes feels like those older dentists that went from “jack rabbit slow speeds” to the first high-speed handpieces. 


Those mentors gave me the tools, ideas, and encouragement to be more than just a “filler of teeth” but rather more like a physician of the oral cavity. They made me consider the whole rather than the part and to be as thorough as possible. However, one experience early in my life made my practice grow into one focused on the evaluation of oral tissues, both hard and soft, and it was not from a patient but from a family member.


I was at my parents’ home to share dinner and family time on Christmas 1988. My sister Diane sat down next to me on a couch and told me that she had a sore on the right side of her tongue, and it had been present for more than a month. She told me that she had an appointment later that week with one of my hygienists but asked if I would at least look at it.  I grabbed the lamp beside me, looked at the spot on her tongue, and immediately felt my heart stop. I had seen pictures of oral cancer and had done about 100 biopsies in the first couple of years of practice, but this looked different and got my full attention. 


I asked her to come in early the next day, and we took an incisional biopsy of the area.  Within a few hours, I received the results from the pathology lab, confirming what I suspected. It was oral squamous cell carcinoma, and it was invasive into the tongue. I asked her and her husband to meet with me to let them both know of the results. It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do, telling a loved one that they had cancer. I referred her to a surgeon that I had referred to previously, and within a few days, the right half of her tongue was removed. She subsequently had radiation done to help eradicate any remaining tumor cells. I was able to help her with the multiple mouth ulcers that occurred after the radiation using a homemade rinse utilizing glycerin, children’s liquid Benadryl, and Kaopectate. We kept her on a three-month hygiene schedule, made fluoride trays that she used daily to prevent caries, and checked her at that same time for any returning signs or symptoms of anything suspicious.    


We were hopeful that this would resolve the disease, but unfortunately, it returned less than two years later.  This time the tumor was on the left side of the tongue and had spread to the lymph tissues. I referred her to MD Anderson in Texas for evaluation.  And went with her as they examined and gave her the diagnosis.  It was squamous cell carcinoma, and it had spread to her lymph nodes. The remaining part of her tongue was removed, as were any involved nodes. She was referred to The University of Chicago for a pilot study utilizing new chemotherapeutic agents, but within 18 months, she passed away at home surrounded by family. 


Losing her left me heartbroken but driven to raise awareness among my patients of the significance of early detection of this disease. It drove me to make oral oncology and medicine the most important thing in my practice. I would still restore teeth, perform surgery, and treat all areas of need in general practice. However, oral oncology and medicine would be first and foremost to bring awareness, diagnosis, and subsequent treatment to as many patients, colleagues, and the public as possible. The loss would be turned into a victory, as I still am inspired by her memory to serve and treat.


The drive to bring awareness to the communities that we serve is of utmost importance. I have spent the entirety of my 37 years of practice serving the wonderful people of rural America - those who have been underserved and, by and large, ignored. I also have been on multiple mission trips, domestic and international, to areas that need oral health care. From providing written information to the marginalized communities who are my patient base, as well as speaking to those who are at risk, my crusade to battle for prevention and early detection of oral cancer has been a wonderful journey and more rewarding than any tangible reward would ever bring. The communities that I serve are at much higher risk for oral cancer than others, and making awareness, diagnosis, and treatment options, as well as follow-up care, allows me to feel like I can make a difference. I have treated a great multitude of patients who had oral cancer and used every bit of my knowledge base to assist them in their journey toward healing.


Other oral health diseases have also been a large part of my practice. For the many who suffer from xerostomia from a wide array of diseases like Sjogren’s, RA, medication side effects, HN radiation, and other autoimmune diseases, I have been able to provide help with products and services that can reduce the symptoms. My training in oral medicine and nearly four decades of experience have given me wonderful resources of other practitioners I can refer to for assistance in their care. I remain thankful for what they can provide in the treatment of our mutual patients. My role feels much like a quarterback does - handing off or throwing to skill players who can get the ball over the goal line.


I do not feel like I have been practicing for these 37 years, and I feel blessed to have learned from those amazing mentors that I mentioned early in my career that set me on a great path in dentistry, oral oncology, and oral medicine. I recently have been in a mini-residency program at The University of Florida in their oral medicine and oncology department. The two colleagues from that department, Dr. Seunghee Cha and Dr. Joseph Katz, have been added to my Mount Rushmore of Dental Mentors. The additional ideas and treatment info have allowed me to grow even more in my knowledge base. They are true gems for our dental and healthcare communities with their wealth of knowledge. I have the utmost respect for them and those who work with them. 


I continue to yearn to learn and improve daily in my journey in life. My mentors and the AAOM allow me to do just that. I continue to improve my education in every form that I can. I earned an MBA from The University of Notre Dame, plus a Masters in Laser Therapy, and will add education in oral medicine and orofacial pain to expand my knowledge base. I also have advanced education in facial esthetics, pain management, and sleep medicine. This educational smorgasbord is very helpful with sorting through the complexities of daily practice life.


Dr. Melkus told me two important things. One was, “If you find something you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I have felt that way since I started at age 24 in practice, and I still do today. I have no plans ever to retire as I get to do what I love to do with people that I love to be with. He also told me to remember “that every tooth, tongue, and gum has a person attached to it, and so be compassionate.” I try to live that message every day. I hope to inspire other colleagues to do the same. Our professional lives should be one of service and passion to improve ourselves. I remind myself of that as I start each day. When I meet all of my mentors and my sister Diane in the afterlife, I want them to tell me that my life in dentistry fulfilled what they expected from me. 


Then go watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Man for All Seasons” with them. I hope they bring popcorn!

News From the Schools



Name of the Program Director/Department Chairman /Division Director:

  • Program Director: Takako I. Tanaka, DDS, RCSEd
  • Assistant Program Director: Roopali Kulkarni, DMD, MPH
  • Department Chair: Thomas Sollecito, DMD, RCSEd.


Calendar of upcoming events:

November-December 2023 – Residency Interviews


Current Residents:


  • Dr. Afrah Alfaifi
  • Dr. Naser Alkandari
  • Dr. Maya Ramachandran, Co-Chief
  • Dr. Heba Turkstani
  • Dr. Natalia Trehan, Co-Chief



  • Dr. Kavya Alluri
  • Dr. Naheel Alkhudiri
  • Dr. Mashael Ben Rashed
  • Dr. Rachel Boice
  • Dr. Colton Cannon



Philadelphia Top Dentists 2023

  • Dr. Katherine France
  • Dr. Thomas Sollecito
  • Dr. Eric Stoopler

Dr. Miriam Robbins – Honorary Diplomate, ABOM

Dr. Roopali Kulkarni – Diplomate, ABOM



  • Dr. Thomas Sollecito – American Academy of Oral Medicine, Organization of Teachers of Oral Diagnosis Award
  • Dr. Katherine France – Penn Dental Medicine Earle Bank Hoyt Award
  • Dr. Roopali Kulkarni – Pennsylvania Dental Association “10 Under 10” Award
  • Dr. Adeyinka Dayo – Award for Excellence in Oral Health Research, Colgate Clinical Research Innovation Day, Colgate-Palmolive and National Dental Association Foundation Research Day Certificate of Recognition, Student National Dental Association Award for excellence in student engagement, 2023 IDEA Prize Finalist/travel award


Research Awards:

  • Dr. Katherine France – faculty advisor for students presenting at the AADOCR meeting
  • Dr. Miriam Robbins and Dr. Alicia Risner-Bauman – faculty advisors for students presenting at the Special Care Dentistry annual meeting
  • Dr. Sunday Akintoye – faculty advisor for students awarded Research Day Gail Schupak Travel Award
  • Dr. Temitope Omolehinwa – co-author awarded Research Day AADOCR Travel Award
  • Drs. Katherine France and Roopali Kulkarni – faculty advisors for students awarded Excellence in Penn Dental Medicine Honors at Advances in Clinical Care and Education Day
  • Dr. Alicia Risner-Bauman – faculty advisor for Independent Research Award at Advances in Clinical Care and Education Day


New faculty members:

  • Dr. Chizobam Idahosa
  • Dr. Sean Meehan
  • Dr. Stefanie Brazzoli



WVU School of Dentistry Oral Cancer Screening Becomes an Annual Event

West Virginia University School of Dentistry and its accompanying WVU Dental clinics are committed to improving the oral health of West Virginians one patient at a time. Carrying out that mission means offering on-location services and educational opportunities in the heart of communities. An invitation to participate in a community health fair at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clarksburg, W. Va., has become an annual oral cancer screening and oral cancer awareness event.

Department of Diagnostic Sciences, which offers oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology, and oral medicine services at the Health Sciences Center clinics, partners with the Department of Dental Hygiene to educate residents about the causes, signs, and treatment of suspicious lesions. Dental and dental hygiene students, along with expert faculty, spend the day in a familiar setting for residents communicating, answering questions, and carrying out oral cancer screenings.


A total of 46 people received a kit and one-on-one counseling from dental students about performing oral cancer screenings at home. A dozen others received one-on-one counseling about tobacco and nicotine use and methods for cessation. This year, 16 oral cancer screenings were performed. One of the 16 health fair participants was recommended for further evaluation of a suspicious lesion. All participants were referred for hygiene services or encouraged to see their dentist and hygienist for regular exams and cleanings.

Keeping professionals in-state following graduation from WVU dental school

The West Virginia University School of Dentistry creates opportunities for hands-on experiences for doctor of dental surgery students that have contributed to an increase in practitioners choosing to stay in the Mountain State following graduation. Of the students who begin dental practice following graduation, the number of WVU graduates deciding to start their career in West Virginia more than doubled from 19% to 41% with the Class of 2023, compared to the previous year’s graduates. Additionally, 40% of graduates who have chosen to continue their education have remained in the state and are completing a residency program at WVU. Each year, the Doctor of Dental Surgery program enrolls 48 students. A rural rotation that places dental and dental hygiene students in a private practice in rural West Virginia for several weeks. For many graduates, that experience is pivotal in deciding where they choose to treat patients. The increase of graduates staying in the state to practice is much needed as West Virginia experiences a shortage of dentists. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Oral Health Program reports 49 dentists per 100,000 individuals in the state compared to the United States average of 61. The School’s mission to improve oral health by transforming students into clinically excellent, service-oriented practitioners, to provide exceptional patient care, and to discover solutions that reduce oral health disparities in the state, is also met through student participation in local projects and statewide initiatives.

Biopsy Seminar Offers Unique Experience for Dental Students 

West Virginia UniversitySchool of Dentistry students graduate with experience in specialized diagnostic sciences skills. Experts in oral medicine, radiology, pathology, and forensics lead hands-on experiences through the Dr. Henry Bianco Seminar Series. In October, esteemed faculty provided both didactic and clinical components to a biopsy seminar. The day-long rotation enhances biopsy components taught through the school’s regular curriculum. The seminar offers realistic, hands-on surgical biopsy procedures, microscopic diagnosis instruction, and education on interpretation of reports and patient management.   Interpretation of Reports and Patient Management. Specifically, the seminar is designed to teach future providers how to:

  1. Distinguish between normal oral tissues and pathological tissues
  2. Define the indications and contraindications for a biopsy
  3. Describe the various techniques for performing both soft and hard tissue biopsies
  4. Determine location and orientation of the various biopsy procedures
  5. Perform excisional and incisional soft tissue biopsies
  6. Complete a biopsy requisition form and prepare a sample for mailing to the lab
  7. Describe the different components of a laboratory report
  8. Communicate the findings of a laboratory report with a patient/guardian tailored to an individual’s station in life and personality in a simulated environment
  9. Determine a course of action for the patient based on the laboratory report findings

Some of the students’ feedback:

“This seminar was very helpful!”

“I really loved the experience, it was great!”

“Great job by the presenters, and it was awesome to get hands on and truly get feedback! Thank you all!”

WVU Dental School Oral Medicine Provider and Professor Receives WVU Chancellor’s Award. Dr. Juan Bugueno recognized for service- September 2023

A West Virginia University School of Dentistry faculty member and WVU Dental provider is among the individuals and teams recognized at the last September Health Sciences Chancellor’s Awards ceremony. Dr. Juan Bugueno, associate professor and oral medicine specialist in the Diagnostic Sciences Department, received the “Outstanding Achievement in Local and Regional Service Award,” which recognizes faculty for advancing the service mission of WVU Health Sciences. The Chancellor’s Awards honor faculty and staff who are recognized by their peers for their outstanding accomplishments at WVU Health Sciences. Bugueno was nominated by colleague Dr. Jerry Bouquot, oral pathologist, and supported by other faculties, students, and members of the community. He received a certificate signed by the Chancellor and an engraved WVU memento.


Dr. Bouquot’s comments included:

“Since specializing in oral medicine, he has worked hard and constantly in the academic world to improve the convergence of biomedical and clinical sciences, especially as a focused lecturer for disciplines such as microbiology, pharmacology, physiology, and biochemistry. He has mentored numerous dental students, eventuating in Clinical Case Reports often being submitted to national oral medicine and oral pathology meetings; many have been selected for either poster or oral presentations. In 2019 he moved to the WVU School of Dentistry, continuing his clinical activities with a strong emphasis on head and neck oncology. There he has developed a strong relationship with otolaryngologists, oncologists and radiologists at the WVU Cancer Center, initiating and strengthening coordination of oral care services for cancer patients… a long-neglected aspect of WVU cancer care. His patients in this arena also are often from underserved, low-income

regions of the state”


From left to right: Dr. Stephen Pachuta, Dean of WVU School of Dentistry; Dr. Juan Bugueno, and Dr. Clay Marsh, Chancellor and Executive Dean WVU Health Sciences 


Sahar Mirfarsi, DDS

"Biopsies Save Lives"

"Biopsies Save Lives" is a multidisciplinary program developed by the Western University of Health Sciences (WesternU) College of Dental Medicine (CDM), the University of California - Irvine (UCI) Health Dermatology Department, and the International Pemphigus and Pemphigoid Foundation (IPPF) that delivers low-cost or free diagnostic testing services for patients with pemphigus and pemphigoid to underserved communities across Southern California.


"This is an example of a wonderful collaboration between oral medicine, oral and maxillofacial pathology, IPPF, and the medical healthcare professionals who created unique resources for patients needing specialized diagnostic services," said Dr. Sahar Mirfarsi, an oral medicine specialist and one of the co-investigators of the "Biopsies Save Lives" project. She added, "I'm delighted to help patients finally find their disease diagnosis at our clinic, working alongside my colleague, Dr. Mark Mintline, an oral and maxillofacial pathologist who led this wonderful project. We are very proud!"


"Biopsies Save Lives" aims to improve access to diagnostic laboratory testing services for low-income people with autoimmune blistering diseases and to support education and training for delivering oral diagnostic services to people with erosive and blistering disorders. With support from the Quest for Health Equity (Q4HE) initiative and the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation, "Biopsies Save Lives" provides:

  • Free or low-cost consultations
  • Intraoral tissue biopsies
  • Routine anatomic pathology testing services
  • Direct immunofluorescence biopsies
  • Serum testing for patients with erosive and blistering diseases for low-income and uninsured patients

The program also aims to educate the students and healthcare providers in helping to screen and biopsy erosive and blistering diseases while promoting the interdisciplinary care of pemphigus and pemphigoid. 

Press Release


The 2024 AAOM Annual Meeting is April 17 - 20, 2024 - More details coming soon!