by Garry Myers, D.D.S. 
VCU Endodontic Graduate Program Director
R. Neil Dodds Professor in Endodontics
Back to some sense of normalcy – a run to the lunch carts, with masks on of course!
left to right: Indy Sappal, Jeremy Hargrove and Brian Hone.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, the year 2020 quickly transitioned into one unlike any other in recent memory – the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the rapid impact that the coronavirus had on teaching institutions around the country our graduate endodontic program quickly adjusted on several fronts. 

Endodontic Lit Review.

A new world

All didactic coursework was moved into a virtual classroom beginning in mid-March for our endodontic residents. Literature reviews, case presentation seminars and various topic lectures took on a whole new feel through use of Zoom. As the School of Dentistry’s closure droned on, our residents had the opportunity to listen to a series of lectures assembled by endodontics program directors around the country. We also grabbed the opportunity to listen to a series of virtual lectures about root resorption from notable international speakers such as Jens Andreasen, Lars Andersson, Paul Abbott and others. We managed to engage in some virtual fun by participating in two virtual escape rooms (through the VCU recreation department) along with a couple of virtual happy hours.

A resident virtual Happy Hour with our new incoming residents!
What a shift in attitudes from lit review.

Providing emergency care

While the dental school building did physically close down completely for a few months, the endodontic residents stepped up on the patient management front and were incorporated into a VCU Dental School emergency call rotation (with the perio and AEGD residents) to manage dental emergencies through telephone triage and management techniques. True emergencies were referred to the OMFS clinic within the VCU Medical Center where definitive treatment was rendered when necessary. So, the patients from our school (past and present) were managed quickly, safely and efficiently through the COVID-19 dental school closure. With the arrival of June and the relaxation of the Governor’s “Stay-at-Home” order, direct patient care was gradually resumed with our endodontic residents leading the way with direct patient care of the many patients then populating our waitlists for appointments. From March well into July the endodontic residents gained some unique experiences working through the global COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

The Endo Class of 2020 at a graduation dinner at The Boathouse. Left to right: Erik Foisy, Madison Saunders, Sarah Alkanderi and Ray Pandez.

As our residents transitioned back into their clinical schedules it was just two weeks later that my fifth class of residents completed their two years at VCU and were ready to spread their wings and move into the private practice work force. Our 2020 endodontic graduates: Ray Pandez, D.D.S., and Erik Foisy, D.M.D., both headed out west with Ray joining a practice in Santa Rosa, California, and Erik joining a practice in Phoenix, Arizona. Madison Saunders, D.D.S. (D.D.S. ‘17/D) stayed much closer to Richmond settling into an existing practice in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sarah Alkanderi was originally slated to stay on at VCU for an additional year as an endodontic fellow, however she is now expecting her second child and with the unknown variables of the COVID-19 pandemic she made the decision to stay at home for the health of herself and her baby. Hopefully, we will see her back at VCU in 2021! Obviously, with the departure of four graduating residents that can only mean that four new individuals have arrived for our program. Our new first year residents are Abdullah Alawadhi, D.D.S. (D.D.S. ‘15/D), Brian Hone, D.D.S. (D.D.S.‘13/D), Christina Martin, D.M.D., and Nathan Sprenger, D.D.S. These four new faces have brought an abundance of enthusiasm and energy to complement our “new” 2nd year residents – Lulu Alyahya, B.D.S., Ben Brown, D.M.D., Jeremy Hargrove, D.M.D., and our new Chief Resident, Indy Sappal, D.D.S. 

As the years continue to roll by, our list of endodontic alumni grows and with it come many new accomplishments. Last year Eshwar Arasu, D.D.S. (M.S.‘17/D) became a Diplomate of the American Board of Endodontics and just recently McKay Packer, D.D.S. (D.D.S. ‘16/D) also joined these ranks as a Diplomate of the ABE. Reaching the pinnacle of board certification is truly a great individual accomplishment and it reflects very positively on the program at VCU. Congrats to these two and I look forward to more of our graduates joining Eshwar and McKay as Diplomates. 

Endo residents and faculty in February (pre-COVID).
Left to right, front row: Lolwa Alyahya, Sarah Alkanderi, Clara Spatafore, Abdullah Alawadhi.
Left to right, back row: Ray Pandez, Sameer Jain, Garry Myers, Erik Foisy, Madison Saunders, Jeremy Hargrove and Indy Sappal (not pictured: Ben Brown).

Our new year is off to a fast start and we hope that circumstances will allow us the opportunity to engage with our alumni face to face in the near future. In the meantime, please feel free to drop us a short note or email to let us know how you are doing. You, our VCU endodontic alumni, have established the rock-solid foundation that has allowed us to continue to build upon the legacy that this program so richly deserves. Keep in touch!

Categories Endodontics