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New Face: Amy Tongsiri

If this Dental School faculty member had to choose another line of work, she would opt for chocolatier. Shhh! Don't tell the dentist.

People  |  Jul 10, 2017  |  By Kevin Dunegan
Amy Tongsiri

UNLV Dental School faculty member Amy Tongsiri. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Las Vegas native and UNLV alumna Amy Tongsiri, '08 DMD, enjoys her new instructor role at the School of Dental Medicine, and appreciates how much she continues to learn from the university’s diverse populations of students, staff, and faculty.

Why UNLV?

UNLV is my home and I am a Rebel at heart. I've enjoyed great success because of UNLV, and I wanted to be a part of the university so I can help others reach and exceed their potential.

What about UNLV strikes you as different from other places you have worked or where you went to school?

One of UNLV’s differences that I appreciate is the diverse culture among students, faculty, and staff. I love the variety. Every day, I am interacting with people who have different backgrounds, experiences, skill levels, and cultural traditions. Even though I am an instructor now, I am continually learning from these remarkable people.

Where did you grow up?

I am a Las Vegas native. I graduated from Palo Verde High School.

What inspired you to get into your field?

I used to fear going to the dentist, and I met many others who felt the same way. It was that fear that inspired me to join the profession. Dentists do amazing work for their patients, and I wanted to change that fearful perception. I love helping people, and in this role I am able to help someone get out of pain and provide them with a new smile.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

Balancing work and family life is the biggest challenge as a dentist. After spending so much time during your education years and striving to reach the top of your career, you realize that the time to begin your family is ticking away. I'm so grateful I was able to start my family sooner rather than later. Of course, some days I still struggle with time; there’s never enough.

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been daring?

After graduating from dental school, I moved to Charleston, West Virginia, to begin my first job as a dentist. I spent a year there on my own and had to adjust to many things including paying bills, working longer hours, and a living in a different climate. I had some of the best and worst times of my life during that year, but it was an experience I will never forget.

Finish this sentence, "If I couldn't work in my current field, I would like to ..."

“ . . . be a chocolatier! That just sounds amazing.

Tell us about someone you admire and why.

There are so many people I admire, all of whom have shaped a part of me. Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg is one of the people at the top of the list. Her book about women in the workforce helped me realize that other people felt as I did about balancing career and family life. It shaped my long-term outlook.

Is there an object in your office that has significance for you? If so, what is it and why it is significant?

One of my friends painted a picture for me when I opened my private practice. It shows three kids with different laughing smiles. It embodies my idea of what visiting the dentist should be — a  happy, fun experience with lots of smiles and laughs.

Any tips for success?

I have a three-step tip for success: Don’t’ let the past define who you are, learn from your mistakes, and move forward. We have all made mistakes, but it's what you learn from them and how you move forward that contribute to your successes in life.

Pastimes or hobbies?

My hobbies include any activity I can do with my kids. They're learning how to swim now, so we are in the backyard every weekend. I love doing anything outdoors with them, whether we’re swimming, going on walks, or playing at the park.