Spring 2006 Table of Contents
International Partners in Health
Focus on International Faculty

Dr. Mladen M. Kuftinec

Dr. Cristina Teixeira

Dr. Farhad Vahidi

Dr. Mladen Kuftinec: Creating an ever-higher profile for the international orthodontics program

In the past five years, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Korean, and Greek have been named the “official language” of the Advanced Program in Orthodontics for International Dentists. Dr. Mladen M. Kuftinec, a Professor of Orthodontics and the Program Director, began naming an official language in 2002 to highlight the program’s growing diversity and to honor the country with the most students represented.

The program is quite well-known around the world, thanks in part to Dr. Kuftinec’s frequent travels to present his research at scientific congresses and meet colleagues at dental schools throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America. Dr. Kuftinec, who was born in Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia, travels so often, and has so many friends overseas, that several cities – among them Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Zagreb, and Veracruz – have made him an honorary citizen.

Dr. Kuftinec’s reputation as an innovator in orthodontic concepts and techniques has been an important factor in building the program’s international reputation. For example, he helped develop a self-ligation technique, the System-R and the System-C with In-Ovation Bracket®, which is widely acknowledged to be a more efficient treatment method with fewer side effects than traditional orthodontic procedures. NYUCD was one of the first schools to teach this new technology.

The Advanced Program in Orthodontics for International Dentists enrolls 15 to 20 students annually from approximately 12 countries, and includes several faculty members who hold international dental degrees. “The program’s appeal has grown with the addition of students and faculty from more countries,” Dr. Kuftinec says. “For our international students, networking with colleagues from around the world, while learning a variety of newly-developed orthodontic methods, is a major reason for choosing our program.”

International research collaboration allows Dr. Cristina Teixeira to stay close to her roots

It was supposed to be a brief visit. Dr. Cristina Teixeira arrived in the U.S. in 1993, shortly after receiving a DDS degree from the University of Porto in Portugal, with the intention of spending two years in an orthodontics specialty training program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine.

Instead, she remained at Penn for eight years, earning not only a postgraduate certificate in orthodontics, but also a DMD degree, an MSc in oral biology, and a PhD in cell and molecular biology. She also taught orthodontics at Penn before joining NYUCD in 2001 as an Assistant Professor of Orthodontics and of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology.

But Dr. Teixeira has found a way to maintain her ties with the University of Porto. “This year,” she explains, “I arranged for a junior scientist from the Biomedical Engineering Institute at the University of Porto to collaborate with me on a cartilage engineering study.” Dr. Teixeira believes that understanding how cartilage evolves into bone could lead to new growth disorder treatments. For example, implanted cartilage could replace grafted bone in cleft palate patients, because the cartilage would grow more fully and provide more natural-looking results. “Mentoring him is one way in which I can stay close and say ‘thank you’ to the Portugese foundations that helped me come to the United States.”

Dr. Farhad Vahidi: "My students are like family"

Arriving in New York in 1973 fresh from receiving his DMD degree from Teheran University in Iran, Dr. Farhad Vahidi knew that he had a place waiting for him in NYU’s postgraduate program in prosthodontics; what he didn’t have was an apartment. In those days, there were few resources available to assist students looking for housing.

His experience was a far cry from the kind of welcome awaiting today’s students in the Advanced Program in Prosthodontics for International Dentists. “When students arrive, it’s like a family member comes to visit. We do everything we can to help them find housing and adjust to life in
New York,” says Dr. Vahidi, the program’s inaugural Director and an Associate Professor of Prosthodontics. “In addition to teaching prosthodontics to the international residents, I try to advocate for their best interests.”

A faculty member for 26 years, Dr. Vahidi is also Director of the Jonathan and Maxine Ferencz Advanced Education Program in Prosthodontics. “I may divide my time between the two programs,” says Dr. Vahidi, “but I regard all the students as part of my extended family. And while the Advanced Program in Prosthodontics for International Students is designed as a continuing education program, the same high standards apply as in the postgraduate program. In fact, we recently introduced a requirement that has students from both programs working together on many cases and sharing the same clinic.”

Even after Dr. Vahidi’s international students graduate and return to their home countries, they remain within the family fold. “I encourage graduates from around the world to form alumni organizations,” he says. “We have active alumni groups in Greece, Portugal, Thailand, and Morocco, and more locations are planned. The alumni demonstrate their enthusiasm for the education and training they received at NYUCD by arranging clinical programs to introduce visiting faculty to local practitioners. It’s a wonderful way to maintain family ties.”

Dr. Kenneth Judy, Class of 1968, and Co-Chairman of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) left, speaks with Chen Shui-bian, President of Taiwan, about the 2006 meeting of the ICOI to be held in Taipai in October. Over 1,500 delegates are expected to attend the meeting, which will feature presentations by NYU implant dentistry program faculty, including Dr. Dennis P. Tarnow, Professor and Chair of the Department of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry. President Chen’s daughter, a dentist, has taken continuing education courses at NYUCD.