Dr. Christine C. Ancajas joined the UNLV School of Dental Medicine before it opened its doors during 2002 and has recruited more than 1,000 total students for its 14 graduating classes. The school’s associate dean for admissions and student affairs, Ancajas also oversees the dental readiness of the more than 3,200 soldiers in the Nevada Army National Guard.
A time in your life when you were daring
I have two daring moments that stand out for me. The first was moving to help start the dental school in Las Vegas. Northwestern Dental School had announced it was closing at the same time this opportunity arose. I had to decide if I wanted to take a chance on moving to Nevada to help start a new school or move back home to California, be closer to family and practice full time. The second (time I was daring) was signing up to be a soldier in the U.S. Army.
You’re a soldier?
Yes. I am a lieutenant colonel and the state dental officer in the Nevada Army National Guard. I have been in the guard for 11 years and hope to stay in for as long as they’ll have me.
Is this what you thought you’d do when you grew up?
Yes and no. I knew I wanted to be a dentist since the fifth grade, but didn’t think that academia would be a significant part of my career, nor that I would be serving my country as a soldier.
Inspiration to get into your field
Like so many others in my field, my personal experiences as a young patient inspired me to consider and pursue dentistry. The most influential person was my orthodontist. I was born without upper canines and eventually developed an impacted front tooth. Consequently, other kids made fun of me and bullied me for not having all of my teeth. In addition to being kind, my orthodontist restored my smile, which helped me regain my self-esteem. The opportunity and ability to transform lives guided me to become a dentist.
The biggest misconception about your field
The biggest misconception is that suicide rates are high among dentists. Dental professionals are at no greater risk of committing suicide than other professionals. Each career has various contributing factors and stressful environments that can lead to depression. What can make a difference is how we approach situations and respond when faced with adversity.
Your greatest day on campus
The greatest day took place during 2006 when we celebrated the graduation of the school’s first dental class. As we worked to establish the school, we endured a few false starts, backlash from the board and community, and changes in the curriculum and facilities — all of which were ameliorated by the event.
Advice you would give your younger self
While a student, don’t live like a dentist so that once you’re a dentist, you won’t have to live like a student. I share this with current students, too. And the two suggestions I offer are to curtail shopping excursions and keep credit card debt to a minimum.
An object in your office and what it represents to you
I have a framed picture from my alma mater that states: “A dentist is part artist, part architect, part physicist, part surgeon and, of course, part therapist and friend.” It represents the multifaceted profession which I am proud to have joined, and for which I continue to recruit new members.
Your biggest pet peeve
My biggest pet peeve at work is speaking with prospective students who decide to chew gum during the interview. Equally aggravating is the word “whatnot.”
A gear recommendation
Loupes! Talk about a close-up. All the imperfections on a person’s teeth are greatly magnified and jump out right at you.
When you were a child, what you wanted to be when you grew up
As a child, I wanted to be either a banker, because I loved playing with money and a cash register; a teacher, because I loved giving and grading tests; or a dentist (before I met my orthodontist), because the tools they used fascinated me.
The last show you binge-watched
Grey’s Anatomy. I enjoy most medical shows for the medical storylines, the life-and-death decisions made, the surgeries performed, and the fact that actors can spew out medical terminology with ease.
Your guilty pleasure
Anything sweet — candy, chocolate, cake, cookies, and ice cream!