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Presidential Profile: Linda G. Levin, D.D.S., Ph.D.

LevinLindaThroughout her career, Dr. Linda G. Levin has focused her efforts on strengthening the endodontic specialty. As an educator, she has ensured that future dentists receive quality endodontic training to provide superior patient care. As a researcher, she has advanced the specialty’s knowledge by authoring numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in endodontics and pulp biology. And as an organized dentistry leader, she has worked to address issues that affect endodontists, so the specialty can continue to thrive for years to come. Now Dr. Levin is taking on her newest challenge – president of the AAE – with that same focus and determination.

“My involvement in the AAE has evolved out of a concern and love for our specialty in particular and dentistry in general,” Dr. Levin said. “I have always been an advocate for change when needed and for maintaining those things that keep our profession strong.”

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Dr. Levin addresses the AAE membership at the 2013 General Assembly in Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Levin with ADA President Dr. Carol Gomez Summerhays (center) and AAE Immediate Past President Dr. Terryl A. Propper (right).

Dr. Levin was born in Virginia near Little Creek Naval Base, where her father served as a Navy officer in a dental unit. Upon her father’s retirement, when Dr. Levin was five years old, the family moved to a farming community in rural North Carolina. She spent her childhood there before heading to Durham, N.C., to attend Duke University.

As an undergraduate at Duke, Dr. Levin developed a strong interest in scientific research. She worked her way through college as a laboratory assistant and set her sights on pursuing a Ph.D. and becoming a research scientist. Upon graduation from Duke, she was hired as a research technician in the Dental Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry. During her time there she recognized that a career in dentistry could give her the exposure to science that she loved without the solitude of laboratory research.

She began dental school at UNC-CH in 1979, a time when there were very few female dentists and women were not encouraged to enter the profession. Fueled by the challenge to prove that she could provide the same quality of care as her male peers, Dr. Levin excelled in her program. She received influential advice from UNC-CH School of Dentistry Dean Dr. Ben Barker, a prosthodontist, to continue her education and pursue a dental specialty. Dr. Levin decided to enter the endodontic residency program at UNC-CH. As a resident, she met Dr. Gunnar Bergenholtz, then the new chair of the UNC-CH endodontics department, who became – and continues to be – a valuable mentor to Dr. Levin.

“Dr. Bergenholtz’s pursuit of biologically based treatment resonated with my strong interest in scientific research,” Dr. Levin said. “He showed me that scientific pursuit and clinical expertise can go hand in hand.”

Throughout dental school and endodontic residency, Dr. Levin was encouraged by her professors to consider a career as an educator. After earning her Certificate in Endodontics in 1985, Dr. Levin received a National Research Service Award grant to pursue her master’s degree and joined the school’s faculty as a part-time clinical instructor in the department of endodontics. Two years later, she was promoted to assistant professor. As her academic career thrived, Dr. Levin continued to develop her research interests. She entered a Ph.D. program in microbiology and immunology at the UNC-CH School of Medicine and strived to balance the demands of the program with those of her career and family.

“I was completing my Ph.D. while teaching, practicing, and being the mother to two young children and the wife of a successful surgeon who spent long hours at the hospital,” Dr. Levin said. “It was one of the most challenging experiences of my career.”

Receiving a Physician Scientist Award from the National Institutes of Health allowed Dr. Levin to take time away from teaching to focus on her studies, and she completed her Ph.D. in 1995. She returned to the UNC-CH faculty, teaching courses at the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels. In 2002, Dr. Levin became chair of the department of endodontics, a role she held until she left the university for full-time practice in 2005.

Dr. Levin has been active in organized dentistry for more than 30 years, beginning with a summer fellowship from the American Student Dental Association to work with the American Dental Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C. After that experience, she went on to serve as the national legislative representative for ASDA and as a student consultant for the ADA Board of Trustees, advising on legislative matters affecting dental students. She has since joined numerous dental and specialty organizations, including the Tarheel Endodontics Association, North Carolina Dental Society, International Association for Dental Research and International Association of Dental Traumatology.

After Dr. Levin became Board certified in endodontics in 2002 – which she identifies as the proudest moment in her career – she extended her involvement to the American Board of Endodontics. Between 2004 and 2010, she served the ABE as the Oral Examination Committee chair, Ethics Committee chair, director, secretary and president. She returned to the ABE Board of Directors as a counselor in 2011-2012.

An AAE member since 1983, Dr. Levin has been part of several AAE committees including Research and Scientific Affairs, Budget and Finance, and the Special Committee on Quality Improvement. In addition, she is a past member of the Annual Session Planning Committee, serving as program chair for the 2006 meeting in Honolulu and general chair for the 2007 meeting in Philadelphia. Dr. Levin joined the AAE Board of Directors in 2012 and has held the positions of treasurer, vice president and president-elect.

Dr. Levin currently lives in Durham, where she is in private practice and an adjunct professor at UNC-CH. She has two adult children, daughter Celia, who lives in New York City, and son Ben, who lives in Colorado.

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Dr. Levin with the 2004-2005 Board of Directors of the American Board of Endodontics. AAE Past President Dr. John Olmsted recognizes Dr. Levin as general chair of the 2007 annual meeting.

As Dr. Levin embarks on her AAE presidency, she looks forward to working with the Board of Directors to advocate for the specialty and develop solutions for the challenges facing endodontists. One area of particular importance to Dr. Levin is endodontic education. With 30 years of experience as an educator, Dr. Levin is acutely aware of the need to revamp the endodontic predoctoral curriculum. She hopes to facilitate educational initiatives such as supporting the teaching of endodontics by endodontists and enhancing programs’ abilities to teach to competency. Continuing education also is a key issue for Dr. Levin as she aims to evaluate and improve the AAE’s educational offerings for members.

Furthermore, Dr. Levin is focused on raising public awareness of endodontists. “It is important for the public to know what specialists are and how they work with the dental team to achieve the best possible outcomes for patients,” Dr. Levin said.

Though there are several concerns to address, Dr. Levin is confident that this will be a year of growth and progress for the AAE and its members.

Dr. Levin said, “I am fortunate to have a hardworking and creative Board of Directors to partner with as we steer our specialty through the different challenges we face.”

Dr. Linda G. Levin was installed as AAE president at the 2016 General Assembly on April 9, 2016, in San Francisco.