Bold re-start

October 15th, 2013


  Photo: American Academy of Periodontology Foundation, Julia Zhogina Photography

Periodontics’ Dr. Pilar Valderrama will stop at next to nothing in her quest to teach. One specialty organization has taken notice.

Dr. Pilar Valderrama received her certificate in periodontics. Twice. It was a necessary step to continue in her career goal: teaching.

After nine years as an assistant professor at the Pontificia Universidad Javierna School of Dentistry in Colombia — the location where she earned her first periodontics certificate in 1993 — opportunity beckoned.

In 2003, Valderrama accepted an ITI Foundation research scholarship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The experience led her to pursue and complete a master’s in clinical investigation at UTHSCSA’s biomedical sciences program in 2006, and she didn’t hesitate at the prospect of completing her residency in periodontics, even if it was for the second time.

05experts-valderramaAfter finishing her residency in San Antonio in 2010 and becoming a diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology in 2011, Valderrama was ready. She joined Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry’s periodontics faculty in August 2012 as a full-time assistant professor.

Now, the American Academy of Periodontology Foundation has recognized her commitment to dental education with a $50,000 award.

Each year during the academy’s annual session, one or more members in their first three years of full-time teaching are awarded the AAP Teaching Fellowship. It’s designed to support a young periodontist’s commitment to a career in education. For many academicians early in their careers, this means welcome relief from student loan debt.

While Valderrama recognizes she has already devoted more than a decade to education, the fellowship marks the start of a bright academic career in the U.S.

“You have to follow your heart!” says Valderrama. “For the past 20 years I have dedicated my life to research and education. This fellowship award will be an additional incentive and support during my early stages in academics in the United States.”

To be eligible for the fellowship, Valderrama had to apply and attend a personal interview with the fellowship selection committee during the 2013 annual session, which took place Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 in Philadelphia.

Valderrama wasn’t the only person in the college’s periodontics department to receive recognition during the annual meeting.

Academy Award recipients from A&M Baylor College of Dentistry include:

  • Dr. Terry ReesOutstanding Periodontal Educator
  • Dr. Paul Ezzo – Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring in Periodontics
  • Dr. William Cody Brown ’13 – Dental Student Award for Achievement in Periodontology

—Jenny Fuentes

— Jennifer Fuentes