Orthodontic graduate looking forward to changing smiles

Dr. Kevin Chen, MSc Orthodontics '20

Jessalyn King - 31 July 2020

Dr. Kevin Chen came to orthodontics to learn to change someone's smile. He says, "It's the ability to give someone self-confidence. When I had braces, it did wonders for me. I was able to smile more, and that's a big deal."

He completed his DDS in Detroit and worked a few years in Ontario as a general dentist before specializing.

The University of Alberta was his first choice, and he says, "I was lucky. Orthodontics is quite a competitive program. I guess I just clicked with the interviewers, and they chose me!”

Dr. Carlos Flores-Mir, Orthodontic Graduate Program Director, says, "Kevin is the quieter one in his group... it's not natural for him to come openly with an opinion. He's not interested in talking about himself, but he's such a good listener! He will be a really good clinician."

Chen is thankful for a lot of aspects of orthodontics. First, he says, "I like that orthodontics is thought-provoking. And as much as I like working with my hands, I also enjoy very methodically planning out treatments. It has the mechanical aspects of planning out different movements of teeth and, and seeing the results of your treatment planning unfold over time. I think that's unique to orthodontics."

As a child growing up with buck teeth and a lot of crowding, Chen says braces changed his life. "Other kids made fun of me for my teeth. You know, kids can be cruel... So I didn't smile much and had low self-esteem. I was afraid of presenting at school. When I was 10 or so, I started orthodontic treatment, and everything changed. I made more friends, my confidence grew, I smiled more."

Chen says his childhood orthodontist was a big inspiration for becoming an orthodontist. He says, "I'd see him every two months during my formative years, and he was always very kind to me. That has an impact on a kid!"

Besides teaching him to practice orthodontics, the program at the U of A offered him lasting friendships and a new appreciation for clinical research. "I've never really appreciated the relevance of research to clinical practice."

"This cohort of students was a very special group," Flores-Mir says. "They were really close, did a lot of social activities together including travelling everywhere together."

Chen also recognized the faculty. He says, "Drs. Carlos Flores-Mir, Manuel Lagravere and my other instructors pushed us to think critically and to stretch our boundaries."

Chen is most excited to get to work and see the real world. He says, "I've been in school for so long! But I'm also excited to continue learning... How to run a practice, how to be a leader... I'm just looking forward to moving on."

His advice to students entering the program is, "Work hard, ask lots of questions, even the ones that don’t seem important. And rely on your classmates and your instructors. They're here to guide you along the process."