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Resident Spotlight: Dr. Lushen Naidoo

Compiled by Dr. Moein Sadrkhani

Dr. Lushen Naidoo is currently an endodontics resident at University of Southern California. He recently shared his journey to endo residency.

The Paper Point: Thank you for accepting our interview request and sharing your unique and interesting story. Lushen, your dad was a medical doctor; so what made you choose dentistry?

Dr. Lushen Naidoo: Good question. I knew from an early age that I enjoyed learning about the human body. That was also aided by being exposed to an environment that promoted healthcare. My dad had a medical practice at one stage that was close to our home. I enjoyed visiting him there regularly. I also exposed myself to the various fields in healthcare, and dentistry seemed like a great fit. Once in it, I realized that I enjoyed it and thrived in this environment.

The Paper Point: Tell us more about dentistry in South Africa and how you became a prosthodontist there?

Dr. Naidoo: Whilst in South Africa, I got to experience a wide spectrum of oral health diseases. There is access to high quality private oral health care for those who can afford it. However, many South African rely on the public sector which is generally under-resourced. I got to experience working in the public sector and learnt how to apply best practice principles in order to provide optimal care for my patients. However, I was fortunate enough to assist rural communities and as my passion for the field grew and I got more experience, I realized how useful fundamental information about the stomatognathic system was in relation to the everyday clinical practice. It was this yearning to want to learn more about occlusion, implantology and oral biology that inspired me to pursue prosthodontics.

The Paper Point: I see you were involved in dental associations and teaching in South Africa — tell us more about that.

Dr. Naidoo: I always saw myself as someone who wanted to be involved directly in assisting with dental matters both from an administrative and academic perspective. The experience I gained from being on dental associations allowed me to realize that the people that are in those positions work tirelessly in order to improve the quality of oral health provided to communities. One of the challenges that I faced was increasing public awareness of best oral health care practices and the benefits thereof. I could go on about this, because I am still passionate about that message, but maybe some other time and a different forum….

I became an accidental teacher. Whilst specializing in prosthodontics, it was mandatory to teach dental students. This was something that immediately resonated with me. I love to talk and for those who me, they will attest to that. I enjoyed the process of transference of knowledge in both directions. Interestingly, my learning experience and training benefited from teaching dental students. A mentor of mine once said to me. “If you cannot explain something in simple terms then you do not truly understand it”. It is something that I remind myself of often.

The Paper Point: You mentioned you were practicing as a prosthodontist and also performing root canals, how was and what made you to continue your path to reach here and be an endodontics resident?

Dr. Naidoo: So, the milieu in South Africa was such that endodontics is not a recognized specialty. So, as a prosthodontist I was exposed to non-surgical endodontic treatment modalities. However, these were not at the level of a specialist. Whilst teaching part-time at the University, there was a need to teach endodontics to dental students. That, together with a long standing enthusiasm for endodontics, allowed me to expand my capabilities. Having gone through a residency program previously (in prosthodontics), I realized that nothing would substitute formalized training. In order to receive that training, I would need to leave the country. I explored several programs and am extremely humbled that I was accepted at the University of Southern California. We all sacrifice a lot when we come back to be students, but I felt that the sacrifice was warranted in my case. I like to live life without regret. The question that clinched it for me was exactly that, would I wake up one day and regret not pursuing this path? Well, the rest is history…

The Paper Point: I see you worked and managed a great deal in oral rehabilitation department, can you explain more what kind of program this was?

Dr. Naidoo: So, the Department of Oral Rehabilitation housed the divisions of prosthodontics and operative dentistry. That scenario was extremely beneficial as it allowed for calibration and collaboration of faculty members. The feedback from the dental students was generally positive having those fields of dentistry in one department. It was personally rewarding for me because I got to practice prosthodontics and endodontics as well.

The Paper Point: From being the manager and making protocols now you are a resident, how big a change was this? And how is it working for you?

Dr. Naidoo: Good question. Actually, I am really very fortunate to have that type of experience. I believe that I am in a position to understand the role of our faculty and how tirelessly they work to make us better clinicians and members of society. Ultimately, I know that I am here to learn and feel very humbled to have this opportunity.

The Paper Point: How is the residency USC? Is it tougher of what you had in mind?

Dr. Naidoo: Actually, it is exceeding my expectations. Practicing somewhere different is accompanied with a learning curve, but I am approaching it with positive intent. The days are demanding, but in all honesty, I do not expect anything less.

The Paper Point: What do you in your free time?

Dr. Naidoo: Whilst growing up, I was extremely active and played almost any sport that included a bat and ball. I still play table tennis, and I am than an avid supporter of cricket. I grew up watching movies from Hollywood, and still love watching movies. Now, glad to be here where it all happens. I try to explore as much of LA whenever I can. Over the years, I have traveled a lot and have been to several countries.

The Paper Point: Wish you all the best and good luck with your residency,  any final words for our readers?

Dr. Naidoo: My journey has not been an easy one into residency. But, one that I will glad go through again to be given the opportunity that I have currently. I am honored and proud to a Trojan, so all that is left to say is fight on!

About the author: Dr. Moein Sadrkhani is a member of AAE’s Resident and New Practitioner Committee and a UCLA Endodontics resident, Class of 2020.