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Poornima Mensinkai: Dentistry Is A Blend of Art and Science

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Author: GSBS | Category: Final Words... | Translational Science (Ph.D.) | May 17, 2017

1) Your name, program, mentor name.

My name is Poornima Mensinkai, I am a Ph.D. student in the Translational Science program, my mentor is Dr. Thomas Oates, Department of Periodontics, UT Dentistry.

2) When did you realize you were passionate about science?

Ever since my childhood, I have enjoyed working with my hands, whether as an eight year old gluing together a broken doll or as an adolescent assembling a bookshelf. I thrived on the challenges of precise and meticulous tasks. Throughout high school, I was intrigued by art and science, given a chance I always looked forward to being an artist but I chose science as my career field because of the merits I had obtained during higher secondary school. Shaping clay was my favorite hobby.  I always wanted to blend the magic of fingers with logic of brain, so choose dentistry as my profession, a blend of art and science.

3) Please tell me about yourself, why did you pick UT Health Science Center, and your program.

During the process of finding a launchpad for my career in the field of research, I came across The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. I was overwhelmed with the amount of research being conducted at UT Health San Antonio. An extremely distinguished faculty, a milieu replete with academic activity, and a graduate program which blends high quality course work and research facilities at the cutting edge of every sub-field are the factors which have motivated me to choose The University of Texas Health Science Center. 

While pursuing my master’s degree, I realized how much a researcher makes an indelible impression through his or her work. My deep and abiding passion for dentistry inspired me to choose a field integrating clinical sciences with basic sciences. It was a great privilege to be able to secure admission and pursue my doctorate degree in Translational Science at The University of Texas Health Science Center. 

I felt this choice I made will help me to achieve my goals by preparing me to fulfill my obligation to myself, to the society and to the dental profession. This is a multidisciplinary form of science that bridges recalcitrant gaps that sometimes exist between fundamental science and applied science. This program has deep and diverse curriculum that draws on biostatistics, clinical research methods, and laboratory and population-based sciences. I felt I can use this opportunity to blend the magic of living sciences, underlying working of cells, recent advances in technology to help human kind.

4) Tell me about your research. Why are you passionate about your research topic? How did you first become interested in it?

My primary area of research focuses on oral and systemic health interactions with a current emphasis on diabetes. Chronic diseases such as diabetes often have oral sequelae that may lead to compromises in the function, and in the oral cavity, function may importantly modulate dietary interventions critical to the overall management of diabetes. 

Poor glycemic control and hyperglycemia have been directly associated with an increased risk of co-morbidities in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, including compromised dermal wound healing and immune responses. 

My research was designed to explore the effects of type 2 diabetes and hyperglycemia on localized bone healing for patients receiving dental implants.

5) What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?

My research project promotes the development of my career through the emphasis on a translational approach in evaluating diabetic patients through a clinically relevant result. This study along with several other similar clinical trials identifies the need for researchers to develop a generalizable theory based knowledge to substantially support the treatment of diabetic patients with dental implants. Interventional studies like mine that challenge our limitations and question our findings in recent literature are important. Answering these questions will promote the formulation of new evidence – based clinical guidelines.

Implant therapy may be an important contributor to patient’s overall health if long-term good glycemic control is maintained. In the absence of good glycemic control, dental implant therapy will remain an important option as we better understand the critical mechanisms leading to compromises in bone metabolism and can accommodate the clinical protocols to mitigate the biologic complications. We as translational science researchers should understand the need such interventions offer that can improve quality of life to make lives better.

6) What was your best memory during graduate school or what did you learn?

My best memory during this graduate school was taking up courses that were so challenging for my personality. Cultural proficiency, leadership and organizational behavior were so educative. I loved being part of a group and lead a team very often. 

Over that learning phase, I realized people care what you have to say. In classes, your participation is sincerely welcomed and required. You do not have to always be right – in fact, being wrong sometimes is good. You will always be learning more and advancing your ideas. From this experience I have realized the importance of being a part of discussion, I will make sure to express my thoughts to improve my information!!

7)  What do you like to do outside of graduate school?

For me, time is more valuable than money. I make sure I utilize every minute of the day. I am a passionate dancer. I pursue Indian classical dance lessons see that as a hobby to sharpen my saw. I served as the First Lady for the India Association of San Antonio in 2016 and continue to devote my time with my husband towards community service. 

I serve as scout leader for my kid’s boys and girls scout activities. I enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and trekking whenever weather permits. If not, I engage myself in crafting and sewing outfits for my daughter!!

8) What’s next?

I want to support and conduct research, explore the area of my interest that is dentistry. The experience that I have gained through the years has put me in an excellent position to constantly improve as a highly productive member of academic community. I have plans to conduct a research project which will work towards certain disease in existing population. I am positive in succeeding in my future endeavors.

Apart from challenging technical skills I believe, I am a team player with sound communication skills, project management skills and multitasking abilities. My overall goal is to be multidisciplinary academic leader who will develop innovative research careers that will apply combinations of basic, clinical, and population sciences to the current problems of health.

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