Global Health Nexus, Winter 2004

Korean Implant Program Alumni Stay Connected through Continuing Education

Sang-Choon Cho, DDS, MS
Clinical Assistant Professor of Implant Dentistry

Dr. Sang-Choon Cho is a 1997 graduate of the Advanced Study Program in Implant Dentistry for International Dentists and a 2003 DDS Program graduate. Prior to coming to NYU Dentistry, Dr. Cho earned a dental degree (1984) and a Master of Science degree (1991) from Kyung-pook National University in South Korea, and practiced privately in South Korea for eight years.

The first thing a private practitioner in South Korea shows his visitors is usually a room in his office dedicated to ongoing training and education. “Korean dentists — especially NYU Dentistry alumni — are passionate about continuing education,” said Dr. Yoonje Jang, a 1997 graduate of the Advanced Study Program in Implant Dentistry, as he pointed out a spacious classroom stocked with instructional CDs and videos during my trip to Korea last August with Dr. Stuart M. Hirsch, Associate Dean for Development and International Programs; Dr. Nicholas Elian, Director of the Implant Dentistry Program; and Mr. H. Kendall Beacham, Assistant Dean for Continuing Education. Enthusiasm for continuing education is a pivotal part of a competitive culture that has made many South Korean dental offices showcases for the latest digital technology, meticulously kept patient charts, and distinctive decor, some featuring waiting areas set amidst rock gardens and ponds brimming with exotic fish.

The high value that South Korean alumni place on keeping up with the latest advances in dentistry has led them to create a model for continuing education so successful that NYU Dentistry alumni in other countries, including Italy, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia, are working to emulate it. It was a desire to see this model first-hand that led Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Elian to invite me on their week-long trip to my native South Korea, where I helped to arrange meetings with graduates of our international implant dentistry program who have established study clubs over the past five years in the capital, Seoul, and in three other cities, Daegu, Inchon, and Pusan. Some 25 alumni train over 200 Korean dentists annually in these clubs, as well as in continuing education classes and brief seminars, including some accredited by the Korean Dental Association (KDA).

NYU Dentistry wants to do all it can to help our international alumni to continue to build a cohesive network for advancing knowledge in their countries. Dr. Elian and I presented implant workshops at study club meetings in Seoul and Daegu, and invited attendees to NYU Dentistry to participate in an intensive continuing education program covering the latest developments in implant dentistry. In addition, Dr. Hirsch nominated three Korean study club leaders — Drs. Dal-Joon Yoo, Hyung Goog Ko, and Yoonje Jang — for faculty positions at NYU Dentistry; the Korean alumni group donated $15,000 for the purchase of a new implant dentistry operatory at NYU Dentistry; and several Korean alumni participated in NYU Dentistry’s annual international implant symposium in December 2003.

Each year increasing numbers of South Koreans enroll in advanced study programs for international dentists. There are a total of 25 Koreans enrolled in all advanced study programs at NYU Dentistry this year, up from 14 in 1995, when I began my implant training. That year, I was one of five Koreans studying implant dentistry at NYU Dentistry; today there are 20 Korean implant students, reflecting the attractive professional prospects for implant dentists in South Korea. Although some postgraduate Korean students arrive at NYU Dentistry knowing implant technique, few have learned the scientific principles behind it. They find that learning the science helps them to develop comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment plans.

While most of our international students go on to work in private practice, I hope that at least a few more will choose a teaching career, as I have. Students who come to NYU Dentistry from South Korea and around the world are an inspiration to me. I see my interaction with them as a global exchange of ideas. To me, that’s what continuing dental education is all about.