In our latest feature celebrating part-time faculty members, we’re honoring alum Dr. Edward Sommers, who has been teaching part time for more than 42 years! After earning his DMD from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Edward Sommers completed a tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corp. In 1978, he finished his advanced training in orthodontics at Eastman Institute.
“With his many years of clinical experience, Dr. Sommers is a valuable asset to our department,” said Dr. Emile Rossouw, chair, EIOH Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. “His contributions as a faculty member, both didactic and clinical, have enriched the education of our residents and are very much appreciated.”
A member of the International College of Dentistry, Dr. Sommers has lectured around the world. He earned the EIOH Excellence in Teaching Award, and a Continuing Dental Education Achievement Award from the New York State Dental Association.
When did you start teaching at Eastman?
I graduated in 1978 and started teaching in 1981 as part-time 1 day a week.
Why did you choose Eastman?
I had about eight interviews with different places that I had applied to, but Eastman was the strongest of all. I felt this way because of the information that I received from Dr. Robert Bray (Ortho ’75, MS ‘76), and residents at the time. I also acquired information from the faculty including Dr. Subtelny, who was the chairman. He was very convincing that this was one of the best. This program basically has the strongest background in orthodontics.
The Rochester location contributed to my decision as it was close to where I grew up in Pennsylvania. Another factor I liked was the fact that this was not a dental school because in dental school faculty have a lot of time involved with the undergraduate whereas here, the focus is more toward the graduate level.
What did you do after graduation? Private practice?
I became an associate with Dr. Subtelny for one year then later we formulated a partnership for about 12 years before he left and it became my sole practice.
What about teaching do you find fulfilling or meaningful?
Interactions with the residents. It's one thing to sit in the seminar and discuss all the articles and textbooks, but the real thing I like is being right at the chair pointing out things that they're learning but haven't done yet so clinical management of patients chairside along with residents beside is fulfilling.
You have to realize that they've never done this before and it's true in all aspects of dentistry. I enjoy the hands-on experience with them, saying ‘OK here's the wire-- let me show you how,’ or sometimes I do one side and they do the other. I don't just say ‘OK do this, do this’ and walk away.
Any stories to share that was especially meaningful?
In 1989 I was invited by three Italian alumni to present courses. They sponsored my entire trip. It was a memorable experience and I felt honored to have been invited.
Is your teaching style similar to how you were taught at Eastman?
Yes, but except for I prefer more hands-on training for residents.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I don't have any advice; I don't think I would change anything about my younger self.
What advice would you give today’s orthodontist in training?
I would say enter the specialty with the intention of entering an association practice, if you don't want to start your own. From there you can acquire skills in both practicing orthodontics and the business aspect of handling a practice.
Why is the ortho department and its alumni such a tight-knit group/family?
There's a certain philosophy, certain educational style here that has emerged from Eastman over the years. It's the camaraderie of other alumni with similar training backgrounds. For example, six residents in a class become close over a two-year period. After graduation, they maintain a close relationship. The alumni basically have respect for all who went through the program and it’s meaningful to them.
Do you do any research?
Cephalometric, which led to a major publication in 2019. The material was published in a prestigious journal. That was a good feeling and excitement especially because that’s not my strength.