How Faculty Development Awards Helped Launch His Career

Nov. 20, 2023

Success doesn’t happen in a day. The one who doesn’t fail is the one who has not tried. If you want to grow, you must be willing to be open to feedback. Surround yourself with the best mentors and colleagues and constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone.

These are a few mantras that Dr. Dimitrios Michelogiannakis (Ortho ’17, MS ’17) lives by.

A man in a lab coat points at a computer screen, explaining something to the person next to him
Dr. Dimitri works with resident Dr. Stacy Rosenberg

“I have gotten thorough—sometimes brutal—and objective criticism from colleagues, mentors, expert reviewers, and committees related to grants or award programs I’ve applied for,” the associate professor and EIOH Orthodontics program director said. “And I’ve used every word to improve my projects and myself in my journey as an academician.”

As one of the youngest to be appointed an EIOH program director, Dr. Dimitri’s (how residents refer to him) efforts continue to pay off.  He was awarded the Orthodontic Faculty Development Fellowship by the American Association of Orthodontists Foundation in 2020 and 2022. He was also given the full-time Faculty Fellowship Award by the American Association of Orthodontists in 2022.

“The funding for these awards varies, but can range up to $60,000 depending on the needs and goals of the proposal,” he explained. “The proposals for these types of awards include research components as well as the faculty’s plan to hone their academic, teaching, educational and clinical skills.”

Dr. Dimitrios suggests that these types of programs are wonderful opportunities especially for junior faculty to help them start their academic journey, and grow through the academic ranks.

A man in a suit smiles as he gives a Powerpoint presentation to a room of people sitting at tables.
Dr. Dimitri presented at the 2023 Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists, North Atlantic Component Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal

It’s no secret the profession needs dental faculty in all specialties, and there is funding available to help junior faculty learn the necessary skills in research,

teaching and administration. They are offered by the majority of specialty organizations, and other organizations like the American Dental Education Association.

While Dr. Dimitri always knew he wanted to pursue academics, he realizes many begin to consider it later, or during residency.

“The ortho program at EIOH exposed me to academic orthodontics, research, and complex craniofacial clinical cases as well as a team of faculty with a lifelong commitment to patient care and teaching,” he said. “It is truly an inspiring environment.”

Dr. Dimitri used these awards in order to pursue research that he enjoys and to develop innovative clinical and translational research studies. He encourages junior faculty to be proactive and take advantage of these significant development opportunities.  

Ortho residents Dr. Maria Kouskouki (l) and Dr. Eftixia Rizov with Dr. Dimitri

Q. How does one get started?
A. Don’t be afraid or discouraged to apply. You have to start from somewhere. Develop a research topic that excites you! You may want to start with a smaller scale laboratory or retrospective clinical study. Gather preliminary data which may help you further develop larger scale projects such as prospective clinical research.

It’s very important to have a clear development plan in order to convince the association that you are worth investing in. And, you may need to try more than once.

I was unsuccessful twice for two different applications. But the feedback I received helped me tremendously. It pushed me to further develop my research projects and pursue additional academic opportunities such as a PhD program that I am currently enrolled in. These developments helped me be successful in the award applications the following years.

Q. What are the benefits of being recognized with these awards?
They can give you recognition within your field, help you balance the cost of pursuing academic training and research, and provide you with academic credibility which may facilitate future extramural grant applications. I strongly recommend junior faculty members (instructor or assistant professor) to look into these opportunities; some have time limits.

For me, pursuing academic opportunities such as research projects, grants/awards, educational and clinical training programs and collaborations all exposed me to a high level of professional criticism from peers, expert reviewer panels, and more experienced academics in my field. With each effort I learned something new and valuable.

Three men in ties stand together
Dr. Spoon (l) and Dr. Bellohusen, EIOH alumni and part-time faculty, served as Dr. Dimitri's sponsors for Angle Membership.

If you want to keep growing you must surround yourself with the best and constantly push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Q. Any tips for making an application stand out?
Take the time to be clear and concise. Try not to be fancy. I’ve learned that a big part of success is when people really understand what you are saying.

Q. Describe the application process.
. You’ll need to be very detailed in your development plan and research. People on the committee must be able to trust it and evaluate it. Good recommendations are also needed. Follow application rules keenly and gather the necessary documents. The first time you do it may feel a little overwhelming, but it’s well worth it.

Getting to Know Dr. Dimitri

Q. How does it feel to be the youngest program director?
A. I believe age is irrelevant. I have always tried to invest my fullest in my career to be the best version of myself that is possible. My dream has always been to constantly grow, learning a bit more every day. The program director position came to me when I was at a good stage in my career, and with a lot of support from my mentors. I am filled with energy and good momentum to give the most I can to our Institution.

Q. What is your greatest strength and weakness?
. I am proactive, and not afraid to try and make changes that I think are good for the program. I am willing to push limits as much as I can. I want my department to be at the forefront of clinical care and research. On the other hand, I don’t have a lot of patience. Sometimes I want to do everything at once, but I’m learning.

large group at restaurant dinner table looking at camera
Enjoying dinner with current and previous officers of the American Dental Education Association Section on Orthodontics.

Q. Have you ever made a mistake at work?
I’ve made too many mistakes to remember a specific one. In my opinion, the one who doesn’t try is one who doesn’t make mistakes. Not doing things in a perfect way is not a mistake. In Greek, we say “The enemy of doing good is doing perfect.” This doesn’t mean we must accept making mistakes. Errors are inevitable in life. The important thing is to learn from them and be adaptive.

Q. What is the focus of your research?
Mainly on the clinical outcomes of orthodontic treatment and particularly regarding novel clinical techniques such as clear aligner therapy. I have also examined various local and systemic factors that might affect or hinder the outcome of orthodontic therapy. Currently, obesity, medications, and the interrelations between orthodontics and periodontics are amongst my favorite research fields.

Q. Advice for a future orthodontist?
Never compromise the quality of work you provide. Sometimes patients might only focus on the alignment of a few front teeth and could be happy with that. Do not forget the principles of orthodontics; the biology of teeth, and the importance of achieving good occlusion and function. If you go with a private office and grow as a businessperson, remember not to compromise the quality of care.

A woman stands next to an infant who is in a high chair
Dr. Dimitri was born at Strong Memorial Hospital while his mother, Maria Menenakou, DDS, PhD, MBA (Pedo '89), was a Pediatric Dentistry resident at Eastman.

Secondly, I encourage young people to consider academics, be it part-time or full-time. It is very fulfilling with huge opportunities. Besides treating patients, you’re able to grow, teach young professionals and impact them professionally and personally. You also stay up to date on advances in the field, conduct research and travel the world.

Q. Why did you choose Eastman?

A. My mother completed her Pediatric Dentistry residency here, and I was born in Strong Memorial Hospital. This is a family legacy for me to choose Eastman 😊

Q. How do you handle work-related stress?
I like working out every day after work to relax my mind. Some days, I completely shut down my phone to detoxify from social media. I also enjoy tennis, yoga, swimming, watching TV series and chess.

The couple dressed up looking at camera
Dr. Dimitri with his wife, Dr. Elli Anna Kotsailidi (Perio '19, MS '19)

Q. What is your leadership style?
I try to inspire people and align my goals with theirs. Open-mindedness and willingness to meet people in the middle is also important. Combine intellect and passion to strike a balance, excite others, and motivate them. Setting an example for others and having open, sincere, and practical interactions with people.

Q. Who is your role model?
. I don't possess a particular one. I have a lot of respect and admiration for my wife and my mother. I generally respect people who excel at anything they do, including athletes, musicians and those who do volunteer work. I have great respect for people, especially more experienced academicians, who devote a significant portion of their lives to becoming the best versions of themselves.