5 Questions With ... Dr. Leila Jahangiri

Leila Jahangiri, B.D.S., D.M.D., M.M.Sc.
Ira E. Klein Professor and Chair of Prosthodontics
NYU College of Dentistry

1. What’s the best career advice you ever received?

“Go for it but be prepared.” I had two mentors who encouraged me to reach for exceptional opportunities that at the time appeared to be outside of the realm of my reach. In particular, 21 years ago, I was far less experienced and applied to become the Chair of the Department of Prosthodontics at NYU. Many of the NYU faculty were highly esteemed, accomplished, well-recognized names, and older. My mentors taught me to look beyond these important facts and prepare myself by truly understanding and learning all aspects of the position. They also stressed that reputation is not made instantly and it takes time. This allowed me to focus on tasks at hand and not worry about perceptions or elements out of my control. Subsequently, I received fantastic support from my NYU colleagues and to this day, I benefit from their presence.

2. What drew you to dental education?

I grew up in a family of academicians in health care. Both my parents being physicians and university professors, the university environment was a second home to me. From the time I was in dental school, I envisioned a life in academic dentistry. The vibrancy of student connections, their youth, their energy is what motivates me. I love the combination of work in an academic environment: teaching, mentoring, patient care and strategic planning for enhanced curriculum are intermixed and perfectly proportioned. I thrive being among colleagues and sharing ideas for a common vision.

3. If you could change one thing about dental education (or dentistry) with a snap of your fingers, what would that be?

The slow pace of change. I strive to get the curriculum and teaching to be pushed ahead of private practices, much like in medicine, where patients go to the academic center to receive the most up-to-date care. In dentistry, patients primarily go to dental schools based on financial benefits. I would like to see a day where all innovations are first tested and implemented in dental education. While all schools may share this vision, the pace of change is never fast enough in the academic environment, and this frustrates me the most.

4. What do you look forward to outside of work?

Spending quality time with my family and friends. I also love to travel. I find experiencing different cultures highly enriching and long-lasting.

5. Who is your go-to person when you need advice?

My father—for his wisdom, smarts and candor.