Ona Erdt, BS

DMD 2016
Erdt Ona

Why did you choose Western U?

I never thought I would end up going to school on the West Coast, having been born and raised in Michigan, but Western University was unlike any other school in the country. Having seen first-hand the correlations between oral and systemic health in my experience as a dental assistant in a VA hospital dental clinic, it was important to me to learn dentistry as a whole body approach. Western University takes a humanistic, whole body approach to dentistry. Taking classes with the medical school, getting to interact with the medical school staff and students, and having amazing dental faculty teaching us in detail each of the body systems was an amazing experience. I know that when I graduate I will be more than a tooth doctor, I will be able to improve patients’ overall health by treating their individual oral health needs.

What has been your best clinical experience?

My best clinical experience was when I did a filling on a 7 year old at one of our school based clinics. His family could not afford dental care and neither he nor his Mother spoke English. He was very nervous at the beginning of the procedure but I was able to demonstrate to him what I was going to do before I did it and put him to ease. Even with a language barrier the procedure went great and he left smiling and thanking me. Our opportunities to work in the school clinics are a great experience and this particular experience was one I will never forget.

What has been your experience with CDM faculty?

Being an older student and having had several years of experience in the dental field I was excited at the opportunity to work with the faculty as peers. I have enjoyed the guidance and mentorship of the faculty and feel as if I am learning from colleagues with whom I share a love of dentistry.

Staci Smith, BS

DMD 2017

Smith Staci

Why did you choose WesternU?

That’s easy… because it felt like home! I took the opportunity to visit campus the day before my interview and my grandfather asked to come along. It was during this time that we ran in to Dr. Brent Fung in the hallways of the dental school and he, asked if he could help us with anything. I informed him that I was to be interviewing for the program the following day and he lit up with pleasure. He talked to us some about the dental school and then offered to show us into the Sim clinic where he was about to give instruction to a senior class. We joined him in the Sim clinic and he introduced myself and my grandfather to the students and encouraged them to offer me any information that they may find helpful to me. The students gladly came up to talk to me, despite their Sim assignment and were pleased to answer all of my questions. I had interviewed at multiple other schools before this and at no time did I experience that type of welcome. The feeling continued throughout the day I interviewed and as I left campus that day, I knew that WesternU was where I fit. Everyone I met was kind, helpful and above all, passionate about dentistry. Never for a moment did I feel as though I was the 500th student that they had interviewed for placement. My personality id very friendly and bubbly and in many of the programs that I interviewed for I felt that perhaps it was not the best fir with the person I am. WesternU instantly made me feel as though it was perfect match.

What has been your best clinical experience?

The great thing about WesternU is that you begin to see patients in the beginning your 2nd year. It’s one of the only programs in the nation that allows 2nd year students to see patients so early on. As one could imagine this also an incredibly stressful event in a dental students life, as it was for me. However, seeing my 1st screening patient was a quintessential moment in my dental school education. My patient came to the dental clinic because they had knocked out their maxillary incisors. As anyone could imagine the patient was very distraught over her appearance. On top of it all she was a single mother and had very limited funds to spend on dental treatment. Because we are a dental school, not every patient is able to be accepted and because of this the patient I was working with was so terrified that she would not be approved as a patient to our clinic. She was the sweetest 1st patient that a student could ask for and she remained increasingly calm and understanding throughout the screening appointment. At the end of the appointment my managing partner and I came to the decision that she was an acceptable case for our dental school and we informed her that she had been accepted for treatment. Upon the news the patient burst into tears of happiness. In that moment, the past year and a half of school was vindicated. The long hours, the sleepless nights, all the stress and anxiety that I had experienced in the past year were worth it. To see the smile on my patients face and the tears of joy that she shed, I was reminded of why I entered into this field and that it was all worth it because of just one patients smile.

Elizabeth Andrews, DDS, MS

Associate Dean of for Academic Affairs, College of Dental Medicine

Why WesternU: I chose WesternU for its forward thinking and innovative approach to healthcare. I think it is important for healthcare professionals to communicate with each other about mutual patients in order for the patient to have complete healthcare.

Interprofessional Health Care: Dentistry and good oral health play an important role in the patient’s overall health picture. We tend to compartmentalize our health care and by teaching students from the beginning of their health education how to effectively work together across disciplines WesternU can change the trend to a more complete healthcare model.

Systems Based Curriculum: A unique aspect of the College of Dental Medicine Program is that they learn in a systems based curriculum. I think this type of learning promotes complete healthcare and enables the students to see how the body functions as a whole.

David Lazarchik, DMD

Associate Dean for Clinical Initiatives and Program Development

Why did you choose to work at WesternU? I came to WesternU two years ago to be part of a new and innovative way of training students to be general dentists. Although other universities have incorporated bits and pieces of our philosophy, we have put all the pieces together in one program. Examples include early clinical experience, integration of biomedical science and clinical practice, an interdisciplinary dental sciences curriculum, emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving skills, and a patient centered faculty-student group practice model. All this, plus a highly collaborative faculty and staff and an open and respectful working relationship with our students has assured that I have not been disappointed in my decision to move 2500 miles to come here. The California weather and lifestyle is also a plus!

How do you think the interprofessional education (IPE) curriculum will enhance student’s professional lives? By learning and practicing together during their education at WesternU, students will begin to realize that no healthcare profession exists alone or above any other. If we are truly interested in the overall health of our patients, we must learn to work together to that end. For example, periodontal (gum) disease can complicate the management of diabetes, and diabetes can affect the severity of periodontal disease. Only by working together to treat both problems can our patients achieve optimal overall health. IPE offers the opportunity for students to learn in their first semester what other professions do and what they have to offer our patients. Since IPE continues throughout the student’s time at WesternU, we hope that by working together we can begin to break down the barriers that exist between professions in the “real world” and thus be able to offer our patients the best overall health possible.

Jenny Sun Tjahjono

Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care

On Humanisim: Through the Service Learning course, I lead 26 WesternU students who presented hand hygiene and oral hygiene instructions to six elementary schools in Pomona Unified School District. It was a rewarding experience for the WesternU students to assist the underserved children in Pomona.

WesternU’s Curriculum: The curriculum has several aspects to be commended that will benefit graduates. One of the several, include the ability for students to work at extramural sites, offers them the experience to learn how to treat patients for a specific procedure that can be performed in a variety of ways.

On Interprofessional Education:The IPE curriculum will enhance a student’s professional life by fostering a philosophy that professionals working together cooperatively ultimately translate into taking care of patients effectively. The curriculum teaches the importance of how professionals can improve patient care and outcomes through collaboration.

Dr. Brielle Renz

DMD 2013

Most Engaging Part of the Program:

One of the most engaging aspects of the dental program is the time that we get to spend in our Sim-Clinic. Sim-Clinic allows us to take all of the knowledge we receive in lectures and put it into action. We started working with instruments and our hand-pieces within the first few weeks of school. This proved to be a great confidence builder as we were able to watch our hand skills progress over the year.

Best Clinical Experience:

One of the best clinical experiences I’ve had this year occurred while participating in the “Give Kids A Smile” day at a local pediatric dental office. I was working with a little boy that needed a couple of sealants put on his teeth. While sealants are a very minor procedure the boy was still quite distraught and had big alligator tears running off his cheeks. After a little bit of chatting about our favorite cartoon shows and why we like riding bikes he told me he would let me seal his teeth. It was a wonderful feeling to know that I had gained this child’s trust and that his oral health would be improved because of it.

Pomona Homeless Outreach Project: One of the clubs that I was immediately drawn to was the Pomona Homeless Outreach Project. This club meets on Tuesday evenings and serves a meal to the homeless of the Pomona community. We not only provide them a hot meal, but equally as important, we provide good conversation and companionship. I met several wonderful people through this club and each time I participate, I leave feeling like I got more out of it than I put in.

Dr. Luisa Snyder

DMD 2013

Community Service:

Growing up in Guatemala, I have seen poverty first hand and realize that community service is an important tool that can influence and improve people’s lives. Now, as a dental student at WesternU, I volunteer through the Latino Medical Student Association Club providing dental exams to local migrant workers and low income families. I observed how my presence comforted a pregnant woman who spoke only Spanish and looked at me with trust and security. As I explained how her dental hygiene would affect her baby, I could see the difference that my service had made.

Support From Medical Student:

As the first dental class, we did not have upperclassmen to be our mentors and guide us through the hardships of the first year. However, in Pejman Fani, a DO 2012 student, we found a selfless, compassionate leader that took a role as a mentor and friend. Even though he had no obligation to take this role, he always made me and other dental students feel part of the WesternU family and created a welcoming environment for our new college. Throughout the year he encouraged me with my classes, gave me tips and provided information that helped me do well in my classes. He has inspired me to do the same for other incoming students.


WesternU’s humanistic philosophy is one of the main reasons why I chose this university. I experience every day the views that make this university so unique. Dr. Timothy Martinez is the Associate Dean for Community Partnerships and Access to Care, and he is a great example of approaching health care in a humanistic manner. He is caring and compassionate, and he is always willing to extend a hand when there is need. He has taught me that volunteering around the community is very important and that even if the help is small, it can make a big difference in someone’s life. He is an inspiration and a role model to follow.

Dr. Susan Braik

DMD 2013

Most Memorable Experience:

There is nothing like the first time that you pick up a handpiece, step on the pedal, and touch it to a tooth surface (even if it is just a plastic tooth in your typodont). It was the first moment that I really felt like my dream of being a dentist was actually coming true. I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling.

Pipeline to Health Careers:

I have been part of the Pipeline to Health Careers 7th grade program since coming to WesternU. It is so much fun to teach these students about the opportunities available to them in health care and about topics important to their health and the well being of their families.

Favorite Faculty Member:

While there are several faculty members that I really like, I think my favorite is Dr. Lazarchik. Dr L is always ready with a tip on how to improve in the clinic, an encouraging word, and a smile. On top of this, we are from the same region of the country and it is always comforting to hear that familiar southern accent!

Whole Person Approach: We are taught from the first day that there is a person attached to the mouth that we are working on and are frequently reminded that many people visit the dentist more often than their physician. With this in mind we focus on the whole person, not just the part that we are working on.

Dr. Mike Saade

DMD 2013

Why I Chose WesternU: Being a part of the inaugural class of the College of Dental Medicine has been the best experience of my life. When applying to the university I had no upperclassmen to talk to and relied solely on the answers from the WesternU faculty. The faculty who were the reason I chose WesternU (Dean Koelbl, Dr. Trombley, Dr. Henson, and Ms. Monehen) had passion and dedication to a program that was still non-existent. They made me feel like family from the first time I visited campus and took time to tell me why WesternU would be a great dental school. They take time out of their day to meet with students to listen to our needs and care about us on a personal level. I owe a lot of my success to the hard work they have put in to build this program.

Not A Large Public University: The first time I visited campus as a prospective applicant, several current students approached me and asked how I was doing and what program I was visiting. This caught my attention immediately as I came from a very large public university where that rarely occurs. The emphasis of humanism continued with the basic science faculty educating the students in a way that focused on the patient and their concerns. In addition, our first weeks of school included participating in simulated patient encounters where we learned the proper way to interact with patients. I have seen humanism practiced in all aspects around campus which I believe starts with President Pumerantz and is funneled down to the students.

Dr. Elmer Hilo

DMD 2013
Hilo Elmer dr

Why I Chose WesternU:

Looking back at my dental education, I can I say I am absolutely pleased that I was able to pursue dentistry at Western University of Health Sciences. Immediately, it becomes apparent that WesternU is a very special place that trains to you not only to become a competent health professional, but an overall humanistic caregiver. You become a part of something distinctive, you become a part of a family. As part of the inaugural class, I chose WesternU because of the wealth of opportunities I knew could not be found elsewhere; I knew I was pioneering something original and new. Technology is state of the art and the accessibility to instructors is unparalleled. I always regarded the staff highly, for they possess a wide range of qualifications and experiences that provide one remarkable educational experience. These experiences range from simulation clinic, research, patient care, board preparation, and community services. While many schools do not like to change, WesternU embraces it. It is their capacity to change, flexibility, and open mindedness that makes this new educational institution a school that will continue to improve and make them even better than they are now.

How has the emphasis on community service impacted your career?

Community service has played a big role in my life, as it is what drives me to continue to help people. It is our social responsibility to as health professionals to give back to our community. It has taught me the importance of public health in which we reach out to affect as many people as possible. At WesternU, I was given the chance to start a Student Run Health Clinic to provide free dental services to the homeless and underserved population of Riverside, CA. Not only did we provide much needed oral care, but we provided a unique clinical experience to the dental students and pre-dental students that shadowed. This clinic played a pivotal role in giving rise to subsequent external dental clinic sites. This opportunity could not have been presented anywhere else; as it was for both the emphasis of community service WesternU possesses as well as their unmatched support to students, that wouldn’t have made this possible otherwise.

As an alumni of the College of Dental Medicine you can expect

Opportunities: Most DMD graduates will practice as general dentists but others may become a specialist such as an endodontist, oral surgeon, orthodontist, pediatric dentist, periodontist, or prosthodontist.

Starting income: $100,000 – $175,000

Expected Job Growth Next Ten Years: 9%

The WesternU Difference: Early clinical training to develop professional and communication skills; wide array of clinical training sites; low student-to-faculty ratio.