1) Your name, program, mentor name.
My name is Hesham Alsaigh. I’m currently in the third and final year of the Orthodontics residency program and the Master of Science in Dental Science program. My research title is “Geometric morphometric analysis of teeth in patients with cleft lip and cleft palate.” My mentor is Dr. Peter Gakunga.
2) Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health San Antonio, and your program.
Ever since I can remember my parents have always been role models in every aspect of my life. We are very close and I have always looked up to them. My mother was the one who had always worked hard to instill the principles and values that make me the man that I am today. In addition, all throughout my schooling, she was the prime source of encouragement and aid. After high school, my father helped me in determining my interest. He went out of his busy work as a surgeon to research the various schools in Saudi Arabia to ensure that I join a reputable and distinguished program. His support extended to funding my education and being the wise voice of reason whom I could consult.
During my final years at dental school, I gravitated towards orthodontics. Even though the
specialty is held in high regard, there is a shortage of practitioners in Saudi Arabia. The country
is in desperate need of highly qualified orthodontists, particularly in academia. This realization
furthered my decision to pursue orthodontics. I also came to the conclusion that the United States offered the best opportunities for orthodontic training and graduate study.
After my graduation in 2012, I began applying to U.S. programs that offered a masters, doctoral or certificate program. I believe that incorporating research during my study is beneficial to the educational process and will allow me to meet the high expectations set by the Saudi Arabian government, who are my scholarship sponsors for the duration of my studies. In 2014, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the orthodontics program at UT Health San Antonio where a Master of Science in Dental Science was offered in conjunction with the certificate.
3) Tell me about your research. Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?
In my research project, I used a new 3D method called geometric morphomertic (GMM) analysis to compare the dental morphology in patients with cleft lip and palate to that of subjects with no craniofacial defects. I became interested in this research topic for two reasons, first, the 3D method used in measuring tooth shape and size gives us a more accurate reading compared to 2D methods, this improves our ability to diagnosis and treatment plan for our patients.
Second, here in Texas and back home in Saudi Arabia, the prevalence of cleft lip and palate is high compared to other states and countries. I believe that by studying this area, I can better help those seeking care during my residency program and at home.
4) What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn?
My best memory was during the first week when I officially began the orthodontics residency program. I had known about the residents and faculty and had talked to them during interviews, but I had yet to know how each resident and faculty member treat the program and its constituents as an extension of their family.
Regardless of how big or small any obstacle was during that time, everyone helped and made sure that we were welcomed and comfortable. It was, and still remains, very endearing and touching. We are still encouraged to be kind, welcoming, and helpful to any new additions to our family.
5) What do you like to do outside of graduate school?
I like meeting friends, watching soccer games, and reading about politics.
6) What’s next?
I was honored to be accepted in a Translational Science Ph.D. program at UT Health San Antonio.
After graduation, I plan on returning home to Saudi Arabia, where I will work to educate and train upcoming dental students and orthodontic residents through all that I have attained during my training. I hope that I will be able to make a contribution to the improvement and furtherance of dentistry as a whole and orthodontics as a specialty. I also intend to maintain a strong relationship with UT Health San Antonio and my program so that I may be able to maintain and improve upon the joint efforts and communication between my country and the United States.
At the end, everyone is born with a dream, and that dream may be difficult to reach, but with enough dedication, motivation, and hard work I believe that every dream can come to light. Even though the road before me is difficult, I believe that I will not only make it through with my goal, but excel in postdoctoral studies in the field of orthodontics and scientific research.