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An Interview with Dr. Mo Kang

Written by Dr. Lauren Kuhn

It’s November 2018 and Dr. Mo Kang’s vision for the future of endodontics is strong. With multiple irons in the fire, he is as a renaissance man who believes in the importance of patient care, education and teaching, research, and being involved with national and international organizations that benefit the specialty.

Now, you may ask, why are we interviewing Dr. Kang in particular? Not only is he the chair of the endodontics section at UCLA, but he is also a recipient of a grant from the Foundation for Endodontics. In fact, he credits the Foundation for Endodontics in helping him make strides in research, which recently lead him to receive funding from the NIH.

From left to right, Dr. Mo Kang in the lab at the UCLA School of Dentistry
with Immediate Past President for the Foundation, Dr. Peter Morgan and
Foundation Treasurer Dr. Kirk Coury

Tell the readers a little about you and your work.

I’m a professor at UCLA and I spend my time in a variety of areas: 20% seeing patients, 20-40% administrative work, 20-40% research, and 20-40% teaching. I’m the chair of the endo section at UCLA. We have 10 residents and I’m working on three main research topics: oral cancer, the mechanism of oral inflammation, and pulp regeneration (funded by the Foundation for Endodontics).

What legacy do you want to leave with your work?

I’ve been in academics for 15+ years. I consider myself to be a basic scientist. I feel that endo is very special and we can boost the level of scholarship. I think it’s important to have lots of resident research and guidance. I want to continue to expand scholarship at UCLA. I’m a strong proponent of science and research in endodontics. Research needs to benefit clinicians and academics, and endodontists should be at the forefront of their research so that it has an impact on other fields of dentistry too (wide scope)! I want to contribute to research that can be used by other fields of dentistry too, not just endodontics. For example, if apical periodontitis is very common in the general public, it’s not just endodontists that need to be knowledgeable about it.

The Foundation for Endodontics supports your pulp regeneration research. Can you tell me more about it?

The foundation has a huge impact on our specialty because only our foundation can fund such studies. We’re currently running clinical trials and our approach is to use minced pulp tissue as a source of stem cells. We are hoping to develop a new clinical protocol that can be used chairside. We want to create something that benefits patients by developing a clinical-friendly protocol for real pulp regeneration. Work like this is actually possible with funding from the foundation.

Why is the foundation valuable to you (aside from your own work)?

We are so blessed that our association has the Foundation for Endodontics. I have been on the board of trustees since 2015 and I have witnessed first-hand the board’s true interest in the wellbeing of the specialty and the success of the AAE’s members. The foundation is working hard to provide resources, funding, and educational programs to benefit and promote the success of our specialty. In that sense, they have our best interest in their hearts. It is comforting to know there is someone behind you—whether you’re seeing patients regularly, are teaching, or are a resident, etc.—that there’s someone looking after you, around the clock. They make sure members reach their full potential.

What’s your advice for clinicians, in general?

Aim high. Most endodontists are in private practice. Be proud of what you are and what you can do for patients. Help our patients to save teeth because this is important for the overall health of patients. Be PART of the association and work together. It’s easy to lose sight. You can lose sight because of production goals, the isolation of solo practice, etc. We all have a common interest for the betterment of the patients. If opportunities exist, then GET INVOLVED, collaborate with other endodontists, and get involved with the association!

What’s your advice for residents?

This is your LAST opportunity to be in the educational setting. Take every opportunity to get the most out of your educational experience. And remember, the camaraderie between co-residents can be life-long! Cherish it and nurture it beyond the residency program.