Never ever give up. While Winston Churchill is often credited for coining the phrase, there have been countless parents, coaches, teachers, mentors and dream seekers who have thought it, said it, and even screamed it.
Mayank Kakkar is one of them. Giving up on becoming a resident at Eastman Institute for Oral Health was never an option for him.
After he finished his training as a dentist in India, where he spent many hours volunteering at a school for children with special needs, he applied at Eastman but was not accepted.
“I knew I wasn’t really prepared, but I wanted to get familiar with the admission process,” said Kakkar, who was also interested in gaining a broader perspective of the U.S. healthcare system.
“My career goal has always been to practice as a dentist with a special interest in patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” he explained. “I spent the next couple years working toward a master’s in healthcare administration to better understand the business and leadership aspects of the healthcare system in the U.S.”
During those two years studying at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, part of the Texas Medical Center in Houston, he applied again at Eastman Institute for Oral Health—twice—but was turned down both times.
“After multiple rejections, it was getting hard for me but I am a firm believer in continuous improvement,” he said, and then quoted a line from Rocky, his favorite movie: ‘It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward.’”
So why didn’t he just pursue other programs?
“I wanted to wait because I would never get the exposure I was looking for at any other place,” he explained. “Since I was interviewed, I met many Eastman residents who said that they gained so much from this program in terms of advanced procedures and variety of patients. This program covers the combination of teaching, research, patient care, performance, and community service, which, for me, made it a clear cut choice.”
Other aspects appealed to Mayank as well, like the two-year AEGD program for international students, the program’s reasonable tuition, the changing seasons, and all the benefits of living in a small town like Rochester.
Meanwhile, Mayank kept moving forward to improve his skill set by studying for his dental board exam, volunteering in the community, pursuing research and other educational opportunities, as well as shadowing at three different dental offices in Houston.
Mayank was able to become involved with many organizations, like the Greater Houston Dental Society, AIDS Foundation, American Association of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, International Association for Dental Students, Healthcare Financial Management Association, American College of Healthcare Executive, and many others.
He was named Emerging Leader of the Year in 2017 and Outstanding Leader of the Year in 2018 by the University of Houston-Clearlake.
Mayank met Steven Perlman, DDS, MScD, global clinical director and founder, Special Olympics Special Smiles and a professor at Boston University School of Dental Medicine in 2017 at the Texas Dental Association meeting in San Antonio, where he talked about dental management for patients with special needs.
“I was very inspired by his lecture and wanted to learn more and get more involved,” he said. Mayank later reached out to Dr. Perlman, who invited him to attend the AADMD conference which happened to be in Houston that year. Mayank presented a poster, titled “Addressing Oral Health with Intellectual Disability and Dementia,” a topic he’s researched and presented at other conferences.
Since that experience, Mayank wanted to get more involved with AADMD and he did just that. He became part of the National Student/ Resident Board (for 2018-2019 committee) and served as a Research Chair. He was recently appointed to serve on the National Student/Resident Board 2019-2020 as a Journal Committee/ Research Chair.
“Dr. Perlman has really inspired and motivated me a lot,” Mayank stated.
Would the fourth time be a charm? Once again, Mayank applied to Eastman Institute for Oral Health in the 2018 cycle.
On March 6, World Dentist Day, he learned he was accepted into the three-year Advanced Education for General Dentistry program, which includes the first year as a fellow in the newly created Complex Care Center fellowship. Eastman Dental at UR Medicine’s Complex Care Center treats patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other medically complex, child-onset conditions. Soon, he’ll learn how to treat patients in the operating room, a rotation he’ll experience weekly for two months.
“Dr. Kakkar is energetic, intelligent and a very responsible resident with great consistency in diagnostic skills,” said Dr. Adela Planerova, director of Dental Care at the Complex Care Center. “He is very passionate about his patients and driven to deliver the best care for each of them.”
Dr. Planerova said Mayank’s performance is generally above that of other residents with similar training, and he's been able to deliver dental treatment to more challenging patients with great success.
“I absolutely love working with this population,” said Mayank, who confirmed the Eastman experience was well worth the wait. “I’m very inspired by Dr. Planerova, and enjoy getting more experience working with the IDD population. It’s all very challenging, but I really love it!”