Alan M. Atlas - Professor, Researcher, Lecturer and Private Practitioner
Dr. Atlas is Clinical Associate Professor, Co-Director of the Restorative Dentistry Clinics, Director of Implant Dentistry and Primary Care Unit Group Leader for the Department of Preventative and Restorative Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine for two days a week and maintains a private practice 3 days a week in Center City, Philadelphia.
With a background in medical research and experience owning a private practice for a number of years, he decided to pursue academic dentistry to get involved in dental research. This article will detail Dr. Atlas’ work as a professor, dental researcher and private practitioner.
The day highlighted below covers a typical day at the dental school.
7:00 am: I arrive at the dental school and begin with administrative work involving my responsibilities as co-course director for Clinic Dentistry and course director of Implant Dentistry. As co-director of Dentistry Clinics I counsel 3rd and 4th year dental students regarding their progress, competency and graduation. I review all advanced cases for the main clinic to determine if treatment should be referred to other clinics for treatment and oversee patient management issues regarding unsuccessful treatment outcomes. Most importantly, I assist in the incorporation of advanced clinical modalities to improve the learning experience of students and better prepare them for their professional careers.
7:30 am - 12:00 pm: Instruct students in a variety of procedures from simple operative procedures to more complex crown and bridge and implant restorations. Also, I assist students with devising comprehensive treatment plans along with monitoring student progress in Restorative Dental Clinic areas.
1:00 - 2:00pm: Lunch break that may incorporate interdepartmental meetings, research, faculty calibration and training sessions.
2:00 pm – 5:00pm: Continue with the afternoon session of clinical instruction. Meet with students to review treatment plans and participate in quality control assessment for restorative clinic prosthodontic procedures.
Three days a week I see patients in my private practice. I have a fee for service practice that is dedicated to advanced restorative dentistry
7:00 am: I review the day’s schedule and go over it with a staff of hygienists and dental assistants in a practice dedicated to advanced restorative dentistry.
7:30 am-12:30 pm: I usually see between one and four patients depending on the procedure –from a simple operative procedure to a full mouth reconstruction.
12:30 pm: Usually I have a working lunch catching up on emails, preparing presentations.
1:00 pm-6:00 or 7:00 pm: Usually see patients to 6:00 -7:00 pm.
After work, my focus is my wife and two young sons. I enjoy working out and playing baseball and football with my boys. I devote time to lecturing evenings and on weekends. I have been fortunate to have lectured around the world sharing a range of research findings dedicated to improving the clinical protocols. In addition, I’m involved as an expert witness in court hearings as an advocate for dentistry and in reviewing cases for the defense side.
What do you do as a dental researcher? I develop clinical protocols (studies) selecting patients from a patient pool as part of a clinical study in the area of implant dentistry and other dental materials/procedures involving adhesion, composites and ceramics. Patients are offered financial incentives to be part of the studies.
These studies have been approved by institutional review boards and have been presented to the International Association of Dental Research (IADR) and other dental associations worldwide. These studies are on the cutting edge of dental technology providing for the use of new materials and techniques and enhancing dentistry for every one.
When did you get interested in dentistry? Early on-I knew I wanted to be a dentist. I had an interest in art, sculpting and a love of science and the scientific process.
What advice would you give a young person interested in dentistry? Volunteer and spend time in dental offices getting to know what goes on day in and day out. Learn as much as you can about the administrative, behavioral and clinical aspects of the profession. While in college, get involved in research. It will give you a better understanding of evidence based dentistry and broaden your appreciation of the profession. As I advise my students and dental professionals that I meet while lecturing, dentistry is a unique and rewarding profession that enables you to learn and enhance your skills every day you practice. With dedication, you can go from good to great!
For anyone interested in pursuing a career in dental research, helpful sites include the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and information on summer internships. Also the International Association of Dental Research.