Third-year resident Akl becomes first to receive Prosthodontics scholarship
Mohammed Akl, DDS, MS, is the first recipient of the Graduate Prosthodontic Research Scholarship, instituted by Director of the Division of Prosthodontics Alvin Wee, DDS, PhD, MPH, Director of Advanced Education in Prosthodontics Frank Zheng, BDS, PhD, FACP, and Associate Professor Wook-Jin Seong, DDS, MS, PhD. The scholarship provides $1,000 to a resident whose research relates to nutrition, gnatho dynamics, occlusion or relevant prosthodontic topics.
Because a Master of Science in Dentistry, including a focus in research and a master’s thesis, is not required for the Certificate in Prosthodontics, the department hoped creating a scholarship would encourage learners to pursue research. For Akl, this makes perfect sense.
“I am certain that this scholarship will incentivize and encourage residents to put thought and effort into their research projects,” he said. “After all, it not only helps them to improve as researchers, but it also benefits the prosthodontic community when high-quality research is published.”
Originally from Lebanon, Akl lived in Dubai for more than 20 years, where he completed his DDS degree and practiced before moving to Minnesota to specialize in prosthodontics. “Surviving my very first Minnesota winter is one of my greatest accomplishments to date,” he said.
That’s saying a lot, considering he is the only third-year prosthodontics resident to have successfully defended a thesis this year, and has published two papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Akl’s research focuses on esthetic dentistry and digital augmented prosthodontics, a nod to his previous work in graphic design. “Digital design teaches you the importance of color, symmetry, harmony and how to successfully influence the feelings of the observer,” he said.
“I have always loved esthetic dentistry because it requires a thorough understanding of the science behind a beautiful and harmonious smile, but it also requires that artistic component and insight that makes a smile go from simply ‘nice’ to absolutely gorgeous,” he continued. Digital dentistry allows him to “use technology to enhance and improve patient care within restorative dentistry.”
“I enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out how to transform things from the conventional or analog workflow to a streamlined digital one that provides the same results, if not better, with significantly reduced time and effort,” he explained.
More specifically, Akl examines the validation of color measuring instruments, popular mathematical tooth proportions and the use of non-dental software to design and treat smiles for what he considers “esthetically demanding cases.” The scholarship funds will allow him to continue this research and inspire him to keep up his hard work.
“Receiving this scholarship is truly humbling and a great honor, because it shows that the work I have put in has not gone unnoticed,” he explained. “This has motivated me to continue working on my research, and get the work published in peer-reviewed journals.”
And it will help future generations, too: not only will his work impact how we use technology in dentistry, but Akl hopes to pursue a career in academia and research.
“I want to dedicate my career to teaching and mentoring the younger generation of dentists in prosthodontics, and help drive them toward excellence,” he said. “I also plan to continue working on innovating techniques and publishing papers within the field of digital dentistry.”