On the Move

Dr. Rajesh Khanna

Dr. Rajesh Khanna Appointed Professor of Molecular Pathobiology and Director of the NYU Pain Research Center

Rajesh Khanna, PhD, has been appointed a tenured professor of molecular pathobiology and the director of the NYU Pain Research Center. Dr. Khanna earned a PhD in physiology from the University of Toronto and went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Physiology and Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience at the University of California Los Angeles.

Dr. Khanna’s scientific investigations have generated new insight into the biologic mechanisms of pain, accelerated the pace of discovery in pain research, and laid the groundwork for the development of a new category of non-opioid pain relievers. His research is supported by over $8 million in NIH, foundation, and private venture funding. In addition to his scientific contributions, he has been awarded five patents for the treatment of pain and has authored more than 175 peer-reviewed publications.

Prior to joining NYU, Dr. Khanna was the associate director of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine–Tucson, and a member of the BIO5 Institute. He also cofounded the company, Regulonix, LLC, and is the Chief Scientific Officer of this early-stage biotechnology company.



Dr. Kara Gross Margolis

Dr. Kara Gross Margolis Appointed Associate Director for Clinical and Translational Research and Director for Brain Gut Research at the NYU Pain Research Center

Kara Gross Margolis, MD, has been appointed associate director for clinical and translational research and director for brain gut research at the NYU Pain Research Center. Dr. Margolis is a pediatric gastroenterologist with internationally recognized clinical expertise in brain-gut axis disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASD). She has also been appointed a tenured associate professor of molecular pathobiology.

Dr. Margolis has clinical expertise in disorders that affect the gut and brain, including disorders of gut brain interactions (DGBIs). Pain is the chief concern of many of her patients. She treats a wide variety of disorders including abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, eosinophilic esophagitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). After earning a medical degree at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine in 2001, Dr. Margolis completed a pediatrics residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine – Montefiore Medical Center Children’s Hospital in New York City, and a three-year pediatric gastroenterology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Prior to joining NYU, she held a tenured position as associate professor of pediatrics at Columbia University.

In her new leadership roles at NYU Dentistry, Dr. Margolis will utilize her expertise as a physician-scientist to build research networks and programs that unite basic and clinical research.



Dr. May Khanna

Dr. May Khanna Appointed Associate Professor of Molecular Pathobiology

May Khanna, PhD, has been appointed a tenured associate professor of molecular pathobiology. She holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from Wayne State University, and she completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California Los Angeles and at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Khanna’s research focuses on chemical biology tools for neurodegenerative diseases, specifically on a chemical biology, systems-based approach to targeting protein-protein and protein-RNA interactions for neurodegenerative disease therapeutics. She has authored 60 peer-reviewed publications in her area and has been awarded five patents for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Prior to joining NYU, Dr. Khanna was an associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, and a member of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science and BIO5. She is the cofounder of Regulonix, LLC, an early-stage biotechnology company, where she serves as vice president and director of structural and biophysical chemistry. She is also a senior member of the National Academy of Inventors.



Dr. Nigel Bunnett

Dr. Nigel Bunnett Appointed Assistant Dean for Research Development

Nigel Bunnett, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Pathobiology, has been appointed assistant dean for research development, effective September 1, 2022. Dr. Bunnett will continue to serve as professor and chair of the Department of Molecular Pathobiology.

“As a world-class research scientist,” said Brian Schmidt, DDS, MD, PhD, senior vice dean for research development and academic affairs, “Dr. Bunnett will establish the long-range vision for the research program at NYU Dentistry. He will be responsible for the facilities, infrastructure, and personnel required to continue to strengthen NYU Dentistry as a premier research institution. We are very fortunate that he has accepted this position.



Dr. Farnaz Shamsi

Dr. Farnaz Shamsi Appointed Assistant Professor of Molecular Pathobiology

Farnaz Shamsi, PhD, has been appointed assistant professor of molecular pathobiology. Dr. Shamzi holds a PhD in developmental biology from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany, and an MS in medical biotechnology from the University of Tehran in Iran.

Dr. Shamsi’s laboratory studies the regulation of adipose tissue development and function and its role in systemic metabolism. She is a recipient of the Max Planck Society Scholarship, the American Diabetes Association Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the NIH/NIDDK K01 Career Development Award.

Prior to joining NYU, Dr. Shamsi was an instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School Joslin Diabetes Center.



Graduation 2022: Together Again

After two-plus years of hardships, quarantines, and physical distancing because of COVID-19, on May 23, 2022, NYU Dentistry was able to hold its first in-person graduation ceremony since May 2019, and it was a fitting celebration of the members of the Class of 2022’s milestone achievement and a welcome opportunity to bring together the candidates, their families, and guests.

Once again, the ceremony was held in the magnificent Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, where more than 500 candidates for the Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, Advanced Education Program certificates, MS degrees in biomaterials and in clinical research, AAS and BS degrees in dental hygiene, and Dental Assisting Program certificates saw their dreams come true as they received their degrees and certificates before an audience of more than 4,000 people.

In addition to the candidates, the College honored two individuals who have made a profound impact on increasing diversity in higher education and on championing the needs of disabled New Yorkers.

Dr. Dennis Mitchell, who serves as executive vice president for university life, senior vice provost for faculty advancement, and professor of dental medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, received the Harry Strusser Memorial Award for his outstanding contributions to public health through his efforts to diversify the academy at every level. At Columbia, he served as the first diversity-focused dean at a U.S. dental school, leading the effort to increase the proportion of historically underrepresented students in each incoming class from 3% to 20%. As senior vice president, Dr. Mitchell implements the programmatic elements of Columbia’s ongoing financial commitment to enhance the diversity of the faculty and works with the leaders of each of Columbia’s schools to evaluate and strengthen their diversity initiatives. As an academic, he has focused on building programs to diversify the health professions by creating two pipeline programs that bring more than 125 young scholars from underrepresented groups to the Columbia campus each summer.

The College’s highest form of recognition, the David B. Kriser Medal, was awarded to Anastasia M. Somoza, the New York City Council’s first liaison to the disability community, for her inspiring work in expanding our understanding that disability rights are human rights. A lifelong disability rights advocate, Ms. Somoza grabbed headlines in 1993 as the fearless 9-year-old who grilled then President Bill Clinton on why she and her twin sister, Alba, who was less verbal than she was, could not be in the same mainstream classroom. That led to a lifetime of advocacy and friendship with the Clintons, which culminated in a galvanizing speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention, where she was a Delegate for Hillary Clinton, followed two years later by her ground-breaking appointment as the City Council’s Community Liaison for Disability, Civil, and Human Rights, a position of prominence from which she fought for equal treatment for disabled New Yorkers through her efforts to humanize disability and reduce the gap between us and them.

Class Representative Margaret Mullen spoke on behalf of the BS Program in Dental Hygiene, and Dr. Bilal Chaudhary spoke on behalf of the DDS Program.

Alumni Association President Dr. Bruce Brandolin,’84, brought greetings on behalf of the Alumni Association.

Following the presentation of degrees and certificates, Colonel Tawanna McGhee-Thondique, Director of the Dental Directorate of the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM), officially commissioned six newly minted DDS program graduates entering the U.S. Armed Forces Dental Corps, continuing a tradition that began in 2015, when members of the graduating class were formally commissioned as part of the Graduation Ceremony.



NYU Dentistry Performs First Dental Student-led Robot-assisted Dental Implant Surgery

NYU Dentistry Performs First Dental Student-led Robot-assisted Dental Implant Surgery

Robotic technology enhances dental education and clinical practice

Dental students Alireza Hatamifar (left) and Gregory Wilkins (right) perform the first student-led robot-assisted dental implant surgery on May 4, 2022. Here, Wilkins prepares to place the dental implant into the patient's mouth, guided by the robotic device. ©Sorel: Courtesy of NYU Photo Bureau

NYU Dentistry is one of only three dental schools in the nation with a robotic system for dental implant surgery. While NYU faculty and postdoctoral students have completed approximately 150 dental implant cases since acquiring the robotic technology last year, this surgery marks the first time that dental students led the procedure from start to finish.

“We are excited to have our dental students actively engaged in the complexity of implant care using this cutting-edge technology, which will help them to be more skilled, innovative, and collaborative oral health professionals,” said Dr. Robert Glickman, associate dean for clinical affairs and hospital relations and professor and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Placing dental implants — in which small metal structures are inserted into the jawbone to support replacement teeth — requires a high degree of accuracy and precision. Yomi, developed by Miami-based health care start-up Neocis, is the first and only robotic device cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for dental implant surgery. The system uses software to preoperatively plan dental implant procedures and provides real-time visual and physical intraoperative guidance to implement the plan.

Three students performed the robot-assisted dental implant surgery under the supervision of Dr. Huzefa Talib, clinical associate professor and clinical director in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. The students, who were completing their third year of dental school, had already been observers and surgical assistants for approximately 20 faculty-led implant procedures using the robotic technology. They also led a series of hands-on simulations for other interested students as part of the oral and maxillofacial surgery and periodontal study clubs. Dr. Thomas Wiedemann, clinical associate professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, prepared the students with didactic and simulation experiences throughout the training phases.

NYU Dentistry is currently in the pilot phase of introducing robotic technology into the DDS curriculum with interdisciplinary participation from the Departments of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Prosthodontics, and Periodontology and Implant Dentistry, and plans to increase opportunities for dental students in the coming year to gain experience with advanced technologies to prepare them to be leaders in digital dentistry.



Second AHEAD

Second AHEAD Symposium: Changes in Policy and Practice Held on April 5

NYU College of Dentistry hosted its second AHEAD symposium (Achieving Health Equity through Access for All with Disabilities), which focused on changes in policy and practice, on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. The virtual symposium brought together experts in the areas of health care advocacy, access, and funding at the state and federal levels for people with disabilities.

COVID-19 created new access issues in health care, but people with disabilities faced significant barriers to receiving care long before the pandemic. To see a dentist, people with disabilities may need to find a practice with an accessible office and a provider who is willing and prepared to see patients with disabilities. Payment can also be a barrier: while more than 10 million people with disabilities are eligible for Medicaid, many dentists do not accept it due to low reimbursement rates.

Keynote Speakers at the event were Bill Cassidy, MD, U.S. Senator from Louisiana, who has championed expanding resources for people with disabilities and increasing access to oral health care throughout his career. He has sponsored legislation including bipartisan bills on retaining Social Security benefits for people with disabilities who work and targeting federal funds to provide dental care to vulnerable populations; and Natalia Chalmers, DDS, MHSc, PhD, who was named the first Chief Dental Officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2021. In this new role, Dr. Chalmers — a pediatric dentist, oral health policy expert, and public health advocate — guides CMS in advancing oral health in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Marketplace, and Medicare.

More than 200 people from around the world logged on to the program. A recording is available here.



New Faculty Awards Program Established: “Celebrating Teaching Excellence”

While few would disagree with the statement that excellence in teaching is central to the mission of educating tomorrow’s health care providers, it is often undervalued and under acknowledged. Because NYU Dentistry values the integral role of our faculty in the success of our students, we are committed to continuing to affirm that excellence in teaching is a major institutional priority. To that end, we have established a new, annual faculty educator awards program, which we are calling "Celebrating Teaching Excellence."

The Celebrating Teaching Excellence Awards program does not replace existing faculty recognition awards such as the University Distinguished Teaching Award and the Faculty Council Teaching Awards. Rather, it provides an additional opportunity to recognize and formally honor full-time faculty for their exemplary teaching, mentorship, and impact. Thanks go to Dr. Leila Jahangiri, Ira E. Klein Professor of Prosthodontics and chair of the Department of Prosthodontics, for proposing the establishment of this program and chairing the inaugural awards selection committee, and to the distinguished faculty members who served on the committee.

The inaugural Celebrating Teaching Excellence Award recipients are:

Elena Cunningham, PhD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Molecular Pathobiology, recipient of the Excellence in Education Innovation Award. This annual award recognizes one full-time faculty member for her/his outstanding contribution(s) to enhancing education through any type of technology or originality to enrich the lives of learners.

Elena Cunningham, PhD

Mijin Choi, DDS, MS, clinical associate professor in the Department of Prosthodontics and Director of the Jonathan & Maxine Ferencz Advanced Education Program in Prosthodontics, recipient of the Excellence in Mentoring Award (Clinician Mentor). This annual award recognizes one full-time NYU Dentistry faculty member from each mentoring category for his/her outstanding mentoring.

Mijin Choi, DDS, MS

Shoshana Yakar, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular Pathobiology, recipient of the Excellence in Mentoring Award (Research Mentor). This annual award recognizes one full-time NYU Dentistry faculty member from each mentoring category for his/her outstanding mentoring.

Shoshana Yakar, PhD

Kenneth Fleisher, DDS, clinical professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, recipient of the Dean’s Award for Distinction in Teaching. This annual award recognizes one full-time NYU Dentistry faculty member who has made a major impact on the educational lives of students. 

Kenneth Fleisher, DDS



New Issue of JADE Online Now

New Issue of JADE Online Now

A new issue of NYU Dentistry’s online, open access magazine, the Journal of the Academy of Distinguished Educators (JADE), is online now.

The new issue invited clinical faculty across departments at NYU Dentistry to respond to the question: “How did you adapt your teaching in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?” It takes as its title "COVID & the Curriculum: Faculty Perspectives,” and features stories that derive from the Zoom-enabled Clinical & Educational Showcase hosted in January 2021 by the Academy of Distinguished Educators. The stories recount the ways in which clinical faculty were able to discharge teaching responsibilities during the pandemic. They include reports of resilience, concern for the well being of patients, students, and faculty, the development of alternative assessment techniques and teaching methods, and indications of lasting improvements in the educational environment.



Dr. Andrew Spielman

Dr. Andrew Spielman Donates 28 Rare Books to the College’s Rare Books Library

Many were restored by Dr. Spielman using a process called “guided book regeneration”

Twenty-eight rare books chronicling the history of dentistry from 1557 to 1750 have been donated to NYU Dentistry’s Rare Book Library by Andrew Spielman, DMD, PhD, professor of molecular pathobiology, director of the College’s Rare Books Library and Historical Archives, and president of the American Academy of the History of Dentistry. The books represent the latest donation of rare books by Dr. Spielman, who collected them over the course of many years from rare book dealers in England, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Switzerland. As director of the College’s Rare Books Library and Historical Archives, Dr. Spielman has made it his mission to digitize, preserve, and enrich the library’s collection, including by restoring texts on the history of dentistry that have fallen into disrepair.

When Dr. Spielman purchased the books, all had been through restorations, cleaning, or reconditioning. At least 20 of the 28 were missing spines and boards, or fire/water damaged. Many were originally part of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland Library but were sold off to rare book dealers because their condition required extensive and expensive repairs. Dr. Spielman used a Guided-Book Regeneration (PDF) process to restore the books and memorialize their relevance to humanistic education at the College. 

Dr. Andrew Spielman Donates 28 Rare Books to the College’s Rare Books Library



In Their Own Words

To support student recruitment activities, the College has produced a series of videos that feature several of our graduates and faculty sharing what their experiences at the College have meant to them.


Mark Makiling, DDS, '15, discusses how the breadth and depth of clinical experience at the College prepares our students for any clinical challenge and how his service ethic influenced his career path.



Marcus Johnson, DDS, '08, shares his thoughts on the welcoming and inclusive community he experienced as an NYU Dentistry student and how that has shaped him as a leader.



Elena Cunningham, PhD, discusses the interplay of her research with primate cognition and her teaching methods, as she aims to find the most efficient and least stressful ways for our students to learn.  



Ron Kosinski, DMD, shares his passion for educating students to treat people with physical and cognitive disabilities with confidence and competence at the NYU Dentistry Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities.



Paul Zhivago, DDS '11, Prosthodontics '14, explains how his early artistic interests led him to use 3D software for digital design and how he translated this digital process to his work as a dentist, ultimately recommending that the Department of Prosthodontics adopt the software.




Read more in this issue of Global Health Nexus