EIOH Resident Profile: Dr. Shalom Benzquen

Dec. 15, 2023

Meet Dr. Shalom Benzaquen. He is enrolled in EIOH's dual certificate program in Prosthodontics and in Periodontics. Upon completion, the Ottawa, Canada native will also have a master's degree in Dental Sciences.  

professional portrait of Dr. Benzaquen
Dr. Shalom Benzaquen is training to become both a periodontist and prosthodontist at EIOH.

Describe yourself in three words.

Friendly, hard-working, adaptable.

When did you know you wanted to be a dentist?

I was fortunate to have some early positive experiences with dentistry including with my family dentist, who always made visiting the dentist an enjoyable experience for me. This undoubtedly influenced my path and affinity towards the dental field. My experience having been successfully treated for a significant canine impaction by my dual-trained periodontist-orthodontist helped me solidify this desire during my high school years. The considerable combination of aesthetic and surgical concerns relating to this issue that I faced has ultimately guided me along my pathway through dentistry.

Were you thinking about a dual specialty during dental school? 

The potential of undertaking a dual specialty in periodontology and prosthodontics was something I had considered and discussed with faculty during my undergraduate dental education. Although I knew I wanted to pursue a deeper understanding of prosthodontics and the art of treatment planning, I had also wanted to gain further experience managing patients with complex medical histories and expand my surgical capacities by undertaking a general practice residency. I had always had an affinity for the surgical aspects of dentistry but also enjoyed the aesthetic and prosthetic aspects as part of a patient’s rehabilitation. It was the close relationship between the Eastman Prosthodontics and Periodontology Departments early during my prosthodontics training that led me to the realization that the complex rehabilitative treatments that we offer patients require not only an understanding of the prosthetic possibilities and limitations, but also an understanding of complex surgical and biological considerations to improve the patient’s quality of life. The combination of these two highly innovative and rapidly evolving fields I believe is the ideal fusion to enhance my training and provide me with the foundation and skills I need to be successful in treating patients with complex needs.

What would you say drew you to the program?

The close-knit, collaborative environment between the two programs is a significant benefit to the training. The knowledge and support from faculty, as well as the quality of the educational experience is unmatched. This is evidenced from the graduates of our respective programs.

I have been blessed to be surrounded by a distinguished group of faculty and top-notch clinicians. I am grateful for the mentorship and support from Dr. Carlo Ercoli, Dr. Konstantinos Chochlidakis, Dr. Alexandra Tsigarida, and Dr. Jack Caton who have guided me throughout this process. Dr. Ercoli (being one of a few dual specialists in the country) also early-on demonstrated to me how a deep understanding of both fields contributes to achieving clinical excellence for our patients. It is a true honor to be a part of two programs with distinguished histories including all the pioneering research that has been accomplished throughout the years.

What is that one thing you learned in dental school that you continue today? 

Work hard, keep your head down, and focus on being the best you can be. If you strive for excellence, you will achieve your goals.

Who is your biggest role model?

My parents. They immigrated to North America and provided me with the opportunities which allowed me to reach where I am today. They also instilled in me the importance of never taking anything for granted, working hard, and appreciating what you have in life.

You are having a bad day – what do you do to feel better?

I try to find something fun and relaxing to do afterwards. Spending some time with friends and taking my mind away from the residency environment can help take the edge off.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Be true to yourself.

Why did you pick EIOH?

Three dentists/alumni holding the Eastman Institute for Oral Health flag
Drs. Izchak Barzilay, Carlo Ercoli, and Shalom Benzaquen in Uganda

A significant part of this decision was my experience on a humanitarian trip I attended along with Dr. Izchak Barzilay, Dr. Carlo Ercoli, and other Eastman alumni. They exemplified the familial atmosphere of the alumni group or “Eastman Family,” and displayed utmost care for patients in this physically challenging environment. Undoubtedly, I was attracted to the quality of the program and prestigious reputation of the university, dental institution, as well as the distinguished faculty, researchers, and history of the school.  Eastman Institute for Oral Health also has an international reach with close connections to various Eastman institutions, including University College London (UCL), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), and Sapienza University of Rome (Rome). The opportunity to enroll in the unique dual-certificate program in Prosthodontics and Periodontics was a significant factor in my attraction to the university. The proximity to home and ease of living in a city such as Rochester were additional benefits. 

What you love about Rochester area?

I enjoy the quiet atmosphere of my neighborhood, the warmer weather (compared to where I am from), and of course, Wegmans.

Best part of program so far?

The best part of the program so far would be the camaraderie, my co-residents, and the close-knit alumni and faculty group. The best time would be at the conferences and meetings where we get to spend time together at different cities around the country.

Most embarrassing moment?

My most embarrassing moment was during my clinical encounter with my first patient on my first day in the prosthodontics clinic, struggling to get acquainted with the new environment, while having limited knowledge of the software and how the systems/clinic operated. I also definitely underestimated the difficulty with taking impressions on some of my first patients.

Favorite thing about EIOH?

The community atmosphere and faculty support are unique. The faculty we are fortunate to have been always willing to give their valuable time to their residents and treat us very much like family.

Favorite place in Rochester? 

The unlimited locations of natural beauty in the region.

Do you enjoy teaching and can you see yourself in academics? 

Given some previous exposure to this aspect, I do enjoy the teaching environment as it may allow me to impart some of the knowledge and experience that I have attained to those who are early in their careers, so that they can become better clinicians. In a sense, I see teaching as a means of paying forward the efforts and time invested in me by my mentors. I envision teaching in a dental school or residency program being a significant part of my future career.

In what way has your EIOH experience allowed you to grow professionally?

The high-quality dental education, professional connections, and positive learning environment has helped me grow as a clinician. Additionally, the faculty support throughout the program and being surrounded by a diverse group of the best and brightest in various specialties as well as my own have been instrumental in my learning experience. I have been afforded a tremendous opportunity to gain clinical insight in this environment, and I aim to put that knowledge into practice at the highest level.

Hobbies or talents?

My friends seem to think I have a good voice. It seems the patients also notice my humming from time to time as well.