Office of Science Education Office of Science Education LifeWorks Icons
LifeWorks
Search
OSE Home > LifeWorks > Interviews > Sunil Wadhwa
LifeWorks Icons
Meet a real Dentist, Orthodontist, Sunil Wadhwa
Interview

Sunil Wadhwa, D.D.S., Ph.D., Orthodontist and Researcher, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
Sunil Wadhwa, D.D.S., Ph.D., Orthodontist and Researcher, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

1. I chose this career because...

2. My typical workday involves...

3. What I like best and least about my work …

4. My career goals are...

5. When I'm not working, I like to...


1. I chose this career because...

Back to Top  Back to top
Sunil sits at the head of a typical reclining chair used in an orthodonics clinic
Sunil sits at the head of a typical reclining chair used in an orthodonics clinic

I chose to become an orthodontist because it is a form of oral medicine that causes less pain than typical dentistry work. People don’t want to go to the dentist because of the pain involved in some procedures. I don’t like putting people in pain. In orthodontics, it’s just the opposite. People want to see me, and there is nothing I do that causes them pain. Since about 75 percent of my patients are kids, that is important to me. Also, orthodontics was a perfect-fit career for me, because it combines my math and engineering skills with my interest in science and medicine.

Education
  • Bachelor of Arts, Physics, Bowdoin University, Brunswick, Maine
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery, Columbia University, School of Dental and Oral Surgery, New York
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Oral Biology, University of Connecticut, Farmington
  • Clinical Certificate, Orthodontics, University of Connecticut, Farmington

I decided to get my B.A. in physics because I’ve always been good with numbers. It helps to have parents who are both math professors. The early courses in physics were easy. The later courses I didn’t enjoy as much because they were more conceptual and theoretical.

I wanted a curriculum that was fact-based, so I entered graduate school as a mechanical engineer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. While there, I did volunteer work at the free community clinic. This experience made me reconsider my career. I questioned whether I wanted to sit behind a desk all day since I enjoyed interacting with patients in the medical setting. I ruled out medicine, because my older brother was a doctor with a hectic schedule. He was on call a lot and often worked late nights. I wanted a more flexible work schedule.

2. My typical workday involves...

Back to Top  Back to top
Sunil conducts an experiment on a bone sample
Sunil conducts an experiment on a bone sample

My typical workday in the lab is divided into three experimental sessions:
  • I usually come into the lab early, around 7:00 a.m., and get started on an experiment. It’s usually quiet and I can accomplish a lot. Since most experimental procedures take around 4 hours, I use that time to review and plan. I think about expected results and how my work relates to other published results, and I plan the next experiments.
  • While at lunch, I’ll have another part of my experiment running.
  • In the afternoon, I set up another experiment or one that may run overnight. Once this is going, I usually do maintenance work, like taking care of cell lines, checking supplies, or preparing for the next day’s work.

In the Lab

My current research project involves studying bone growth of the skull. It grows similarly to the way the upper jaw grows. We use mouse models to study human diseases like craniosynostosis, which affects skull growth, physical appearance, and intelligence. By understanding bone growth, we may be able to develop effective treatments for children who have this and similar diseases.

In the Clinic

One night a week, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., and usually one day on the weekend, I work in a private practice. My assistants do the preparatory work with the patients, and then I see them. My assistants and I perform whatever procedures are needed and work back and forth between two chairs. In this way, we can see more patients in a time-efficient manner. Last Tuesday night, I saw 28 patients in 4 hours.

Equipment I Use in the Clinic
  • Panorex machine – for taking X-rays of the oral cavity
  • Chair– reclining chair with a lighting fixture and an air-water syringe and suction system
  • Light cure apparatus – to harden and set the cement when applying corrective braces
  • Drill – for removing cement after braces comes off (The drill doesn’t hurt!)




3. What I like best and least about my work …

Back to Top  Back to top
Sunil reviews a dental x-ray
Sunil reviews a dental x-ray

Orthodontist

What I like best about my work in the clinic are the tangible results, the instant gratification, and interacting with the patients. After working with the patients, I feel like I have accomplished something good for the day. You go home, and there is nothing more to think about.

What I like least about my work in the clinic are the repetitious procedures and the lack of schedule flexibility. Also, I would rather not have to deal with the business part of the clinic, like managing the staff and handling insurance claims.

Researcher

What I like best about my work as a researcher are the flexible schedule and the opportunity to engage in critical and analytical thinking.

What I like least about my work as a researcher is that it never ends. Experimental results lead to more experiments. Every answer leads to more questions.

4. My career goals are...

Back to Top  Back to top
Sunil standing with a model of a human skeleton
Sunil standing with a model of a human skeleton

My career goals are to become a professor at a dental school and teach clinical orthodontics while I continue to do research.

5. When I'm not working, I like to...

Back to Top  Back to top
Sunil holds a light cure apparatus
Sunil holds a light cure apparatus

When I’m not working, I like to spend time with my three children and travel when possible. I also love to watch Cleveland Indians baseball games. I’m obsessed with the stats.


















































     
Office of Science Education skip navigation
Contact Us   |   FOIA
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services   |   National Institutes of Health   |   USA.gov - Government made easy


Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives • National Institutes of Health • Bethesda, Maryland 20892

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®