Laura Sibrava, D.M.D.,

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The following is an interview from when Laura was a student at Midwestern University's College of Dental Medicine-Arizona.

Laura Sibrava thinks that's pretty exciting—especially as it relates to recent advances in dental research that are introducing new ways to stop bone and tooth loss.

A Stepping Stone

"I really like research," says Laura Sibrava. "Before dental school, I worked with the Biomedical Sciences Department at Midwestern University-Downers Grove, with Program Director Dr. Michael Fay and Dr. Nalini Chandar. I realized pure research was not my life's calling, so I did research in a dental-applicable field and then applied to the new College of Dental Medicine in Arizona. It was a great stepping stone for me."

During her two years in the biomedical sciences program, Laura studied osteoblast cells and their role in re-growing bones. Specifically, she studied a gene signal called P-53, which has anti-cancer properties. "A lot of dental research now has to do with how to re-grow bone over tissue," she adds. "If you lose teeth, you lose bone support. In the future, this research will be applied more in surgery, treating with proteins."

But it was always frustrating for Laura to work on only a "tiny part in the grand scheme" of how research might eventually be applied in healthcare. Now, with experience in research and as a dental student, she feels like she has found the best of both worlds.

Once a "Science Geek"...

As a college student in Chicago, Laura also lived in two different worlds: science and dance. She majored in Biology, but trained as a ballerina and performed with the Chicago Honeybear Dancers until she injured her knee. And she loved both. "I was a complete freak," she laughs. "It was like I was always wearing leotards in the science lab and goggles in ballet class. . . ."

Today, she notices many similarities between dancing and working in the state-of-the-art dental simulation lab on campus. "There is a very artistic side to dentistry," she explains. "You have to have left-brain ability to create something that wasn't there before {like a crown}."

Guiding Hands, Sharing Stories

Laura enthuses that "the best thing about the school is the faculty! They were previously private practice clinicians, and they are so excited to tell us about their experiences and give us the advice no one gave them. They guide our hands and tell us stories - it gives you confidence that no matter what, you'll be able to get through it."

With a total of 53 faculty members now teaching and supervising in the college and clinic, there is always someone to give advice and serve as a mentor.

There is a very artistic side to dentistry. You have to have left-brain ability to create something that wasn't there before (like a crown). ”

Laura Sibrava, D.M.D.
CDMA Class of 2012

Patients Who Can Talk Back

This year, as a fourth-year student, Laura is practicing in the newly-opened Midwestern University Dental Institute, along with the other 110 students in the inaugural class. The student dentists work in pairs, seeing patients, developing treatment plans, and writing chart notes five days a week. It's a big change for the students, who until this point have practiced only on each other and on manikins in the high-tech simulation lab. But it's a leap for which they all felt ready and well-prepared. As Laura puts it, they just "had a lot of normal nervousness about working with patients who can talk back to you!"

Dream Job

Ideally, she hopes to put all her training to work in a private dental practice, while maintaining her connection to research. "It might be working in a testing center, or even lending a hand with research at a university," she says. "There's also a lot of work being done now to send MWU students to underserved areas and countries, "notes Laura, who served last year on the Arizona Dental Association Executive Board and wants to continue her work with the community after graduation. "Community service is a big focus."

A Defining Moment

So what led her down this path to dentistry? For Laura, there was a defining moment in college. "I was in home room one day," she recalls, "and my advisor assigned a paper about a moment that had changed my life. I couldn't think of anything until the topic of my braces came up-and I realized they had really changed my life! I have no idea what type of person I would be if I hadn't had braces and surgeries for my canine teeth that didn't come down. I would have problems chewing, and with my teeth falling out from alignment problems. And I have no idea how I would look, talk, eat, or chew."

"Even after two surgeries by the same oral-maxillofacial surgeon, who I later worked for after college, I still really liked it!

Patients of the very enthusiastic future Dr. Sibrava will no doubt say the same.

Laura Sibrava, D.M.D., is a 2012 graduate of the College of Dental Medicine-Arizona, located on the Glendale Campus of Midwestern University.