Personal Statement


This personal statement outlines my professional qualifications, experience in multidimensional leadership.


I have a lifelong passion for academia, teaching, and patient care. Following my dental education at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, I accepted an Assistant Professor position in Orthodontics at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994, with responsibilities that included teaching, administration, clinical practices, and research. After 26 years at UCLA as a professor and 16 years as a chair, I transitioned to the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The adjunct professorship at Forsyth provided me with the flexibility to develop my knowledge and skill sets in the dental industry and biotechnology while still taking care of my family during major illnesses.

Along with my experiences in the industry, I still maintain a very active role in academia. I currently have NIH funding and continue to publish top-tier papers with my team. What I enjoy most is teaching and interacting with residents, treating multidisciplinary craniofacial cases with my colleagues, and the important responsibilities that come with academia.

I have a real calling for building programs, departments, and centers of excellence. My time in the industry and the venture fund aspect of my endeavors allowed me to analyze and approach things from a different perspective.

The following is a summary of my key experiences and achievements relevant to academics and global outreach

Examples of Academic Leadership Roles:

I was appointed Chair of the Section of Orthodontics at UCLA in 2003 and became the Thomas R. Bales Endowed Chair in 2004. In 2011, I became the Chair of the entire Division of Associated Clinical Specialties at the UCLA School of Dentistry, including the sections of Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Endodontics. This division was the largest among all other divisions within the School of Dentistry, including over four essential clinical specialty chairs, over 25 full-time faculty, 40 staff, and 60 residents. I administered and coordinated diverse clinical specialties across my division, the dental school, and the hospital. We successfully reversed annual deficits to positive revenue by establishing profit-sharing centers in the division.

My responsibilities at the UCLA School of Dentistry further increased in 2014, when I became the founding Chair of the Division of Growth and Development and was responsible for restructuring in the School of Dentistry to create this new division. Naturally, there was strong resistance and reservations regarding this restructuring. To meet this challenge, I established solid alliances. I built strong collaborative teams across the school to support a new division that would absorb salaries for full-time equivalent faculty and staff as well as space and other financial resources from existing academic units. To create the Division of Growth and Development, I also built extensive, large-scale cooperative partnerships and collaborative teams with departments and divisions outside of the dental school in departments such as pediatric medicine, plastic and reconstructive surgery, medicine, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, head and neck surgery, and human genetics.

As the Division Chair for Clinical Specialties and later on, for the Division of Growth and Development, I have had successful experiences in working with the school administration in conducting SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and SMART (goals that are specific, meaningful, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) analyses, strategic planning, restructuring and resource reallocations, and team building. I have led several fundraising campaigns to establish centers of excellence, recruit the right team for the center/project team building, and support these projects as a significant role in my academic, administrative career. We have established successful centers of excellence, such as the Thomas R Bales’ Endowed Orthodontic Clinic and the Craniofacial Orthodontic Center and renovated the Pediatric Dental Clinic. Beyond building these clinical centers of excellence, I also played a major role in building the UCLA Dental Research Institute and establishing an endowed chair for the Research Institute through successful philanthropic efforts.

I have more than ten years of experience as a clinical division chair covering multiple specialties and over 16 years of experience as a section chair in orthodontics, working with program chairs and directors in my division. Our programs underwent three accreditation processes by the USA Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) throughout this period without any concerns or recommendations. As accreditation is one of the most critical processes for any dental school, my extensive experience in leading four clinical specialties to pass the accreditation process successfully is a crucial asset that I can bring to successfully navigate this complex and comprehensive transition.

Examples of Multidisciplinary Collaborative Research Leadership Experience:

As a clinical scientist, I have conducted original research that has received more than 12,000 citations and has been published in several leading journals (over 150 peer-reviewed journals). My Google Scholar h-Index is over 62. My research has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), such as multiple R01, SBIR, CAP, and K awards (as a mentor), and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. We have received well over USD 25M competitive grants.

I promoted multidisciplinary “bench to clinic” translational research to cross boundaries across clinical divisions and schools (Bioengineering in School of Engineering and School of Medicine) involving clinicians and basic science researchers. Our successful NASA International Space Station (ISS) collaboration project was the first ever live return of drug-treated rodents from the ISS. As one of the principal investigators, I managed logistics and communications across 12 core teams from multiple academic institutions, governmental agencies, and private sectors involving 150 researchers. For UCLA alone, the project involved over 15 graduate and postdoctoral researchers, six professors, and three graduate schools (Dentistry, Medicine, and Engineering). This project led our team to be awarded the 2018 ISS Innovation Award for Biology and Medicine for Development of NELL-1 Bone-Growth Systemic Therapy from the American Astronautical Society.

Concurrently, we are in the process of bringing NELL-1 a step closer to tangible clinical applications. For example, NELL-1 is approved for multi-center clinical trials in Australia for spinal fusion surgery. Furthermore, my multidisciplinary collaborations on scarless wound healing research have also been highly productive. Specifically, one of my current projects is investigating the molecular regulation of scarless fetal-type repair. My research team has identified a relevant peptide drug (Fibromodulin derivatives) in this domain and is bringing this discovery to FDA trials. We have obtained several NIH SBIRs NIH SBIR Commercialization Readiness Pilot grants. We have finished an FDA Phase 1/2a trial for surgery-induced scar reduction with promising efficacy results and are currently undergoing a Phase 2 dose/regimen study. Besides contributing to the core sciences as a principal founder and CEO, I have been in close communication with clinicians, FDA regulatory experts, Contract Research Organizations (CRO), and cGMP Contract Manufacturing Organizations (CMO) on behalf of this exciting project.

I also served as an international PI for major international collaborative research grants such as the National University of Singapore.

As a leader in these collaborative research projects, I was instrumental in gaining consensus and aligning goals across different professionals in diverse fields. These various experiences have provided me with the necessary and transferable skill sets for successful entrepreneurship and academic leadership.

Lastly, I served as an international PI for three major international collaborative research grants. The first is for a gift and guest professor appointment with Peking University, China, focusing on perivascular stem cells, funded by the International Sciences and Technology Cooperation Program of China. The second one is with Zhejiang University, China, in the provincial “Thousand Talents Program” as a visiting professor. The third is for a grant with the National University of Singapore that focuses on NELL-1, funded by the National Medical Research Council of Singapore.

Examples of Industry Leadership and Experience:

I am committed to innovation. As a result, I have founded three biotech companies (listed in my CV), collaborating with other faculty members and leading industry professionals. As a founder and a technology investor, I have jumped out of my familiar comfort zone in academia to better understand and learn the leadership and management skills required in the industry, as well as FDA drug and medical device regulations and rules. In these three companies, we brought scientific discoveries based on our years of research into applicable and translatable technologies and successfully raised significant funding from the private and government sectors. We have assembled teams of excellence to go through the FDA approval process and increased the value of our technologies with the goal of eventual commercialization. I believe these leadership experiences are transferrable back to academia, and my skillsets in the industry will assist the school in securing private, corporate, and governmental support to advance the school’s mission.

In addition, I served as the principal advisor for CareCaptial Private Equity Fund, an investment and operating group focusing on global dentistry and oral health, managing over USD 8B in assets. It is one of the largest global dental PE funds. I assisted the growth of the PE fund from $200M in assets to over $8B in assets. As a principal advisor, I advised the investment group on the valuation of dental-related companies and assets for acquisition and investment. I provided them with expert opinions on the future dental market. I also helped them with the strategic acquisition of hospitals, dental service organizations (DSO), and dental device companies. Please refer to my CV for detail on “Key Industrial Experience.”

I believe that the comprehensive skill set and experience from the industrial sector that I acquired, particularly during the past three years, can be fully transferable to my role as a dean and encourage “outside the box” thinking relevant to clinical practices, which is quite rare among established academicians. It will benefit the education of our students, the career advancement of faculty, and the growth of our school with successful fundraising campaigns and industry partnerships.

Examples of Teaching and Mentoring in Graduate and Post-Doctoral Level Education:

I mentored multiple residents in the post-graduate orthodontics training program at the UCLA School of Dentistry. I have mentored over 39 MS students, 7 Ph.D. students, and over 16 postdoctoral fellows. I would like to highlight some of the most significant accomplishments and achievements of my current and former mentees, who are all clinical scientists, all of whom I am tremendously proud of. Three of them received K08 awards, and two received R01 awards. Three became associate professors (UCLA and Johns Hopkins), while two of my other mentees became assistant professors (U Penn, U Michigan).

Many of my students have won various prestigious awards in dentistry and medicine: Excellence in Research Award at the 2010 American College of Surgeons, Clinical Congress (Janette Zara, 2010); AADR/Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Hatton Awards Competition (Ron Siu, 2011); Young Investigator Award, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (Jia Shen, 2011); Surgical Forum/Excellence in Research Award, American College of Surgeons (Aaron James, 2011 & 2013); International Investigator Award, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (Aaron James, 2013); First Place Outstanding Medical Student Award, Annual Academic Surgical Congress (Gregory Asatrian, 2014); Second Place Award in AADR Hatton Award competition (Jin Hee Kwak, 2014), First Place Award in IADR Hatton Competition and Second Place Award in AADR Hatton Award competition (Jiayu Shi, 2019).

Worth mentioning, I was one of the key faculty in the conception and development of the Innovative Digital Dentistry Systems, or iDDS, at UCLA – a digital transformation in dental education and oral health care through creativity, innovation, and research. With Dr. Benjamin Wu as the principal director, I was also the first individual to raise significant funds and in-kind donations for the program. We designed the first digital dental curriculum for predoctoral students. We acquired and implemented best-in-class digital architecture across the dental school to access and integrate an array of health information through all clinical disciplines. Re-investing in dental education is one of my key priorities.

Examples of Social Responsibility and Global Community Leadership:

I am the Executive Director and the founding Board members of the International Orthodontic Foundation, a non-profit orthodontic education and research foundation established in 2022. The goal of this foundation is to provide educational and outreach programs to the global orthodontic community with an annual budget over $3M USD. I am responsible for fundraising from industrial sectors and philanthropists with a 3-year commitment from CareCapital – the world’s largest PE fund specialized in dentistry. I have assembled a committee consisting of 19 global leaders in orthodontics (2 deans and nine department chairs from the USA, Europe, and Asia). We award scholarships and grants totaling over $700,000 per year—an amount equivalent to the American Association of Orthodontist Foundation (the official foundation of the American Association of Orthodontists) but without restrictions on citizenship. We also sponsor and host international symposiums and make these lectures accessible online to benefit doctors. During 2022, we held the first IOF global symposium, and sponsored the Moorrees memorial symposium at Forsyth, Cambridge, MA. We also partner with the Chinese Orthodontic Society for the international distinguished speaker session 2022. In 2023, we held the second IOF global symposium in Hong Kong. The symposium included 26 innovative presentations and 2 panel discussions brimming with thought-provoking insights into the field. The expertise attracted an extraordinary number of over 200,000 online views from over 100 regions worldwide and nearly 300 in-person attendees. All these events are available on IOF’s website for free and can be watched by people around the globe for free. Currently, IOF has over 11,000 registered members from over 110 countries.

Examples of Community Outreach and Public Service:

In addition to research, teaching, mentoring, and professional activities have also dedicated my time to community outreach and public service. Specifically, I serve as a mentor for the NIH-sponsored summer undergraduate student research training program. The primary goal of this summer research program is to mentor and assist underprivileged students transitioning from community colleges to UCLA.

I also serve as the volunteer liaison of UCLA Operation Mend, orchestrating the communication and execution arms of its operations at the School of Dentistry to provide state-of-the-art, pro bono dental care from the school’s senior faculty for wounded servicemen and women. Operation Mend is a groundbreaking program that serves United States military members who have been wounded during service in Iraq and Afghanistan and service members who suffer from severe facial and other medical injuries by providing them access to the nation’s top health care. UCLA Operation Mend provides comprehensive medical and mental health support for the wounded and their families.

Most importantly, as the Division Chair of Growth and Development in charge of pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, we have built one of the nation’s most comprehensive outreach patient clinics and programs. Our craniofacial orthodontic clinic serves over 3000 patient visits per year.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:

As I have described in my DEI statement in detail, I believe that a pivotal role of any dean is to have zero tolerance for discrimination and unfair treatment. A dean helps to proactively maintain a safe, friendly, and positive environment and culture. We will build a culture of diversity, inclusion, and social equity that will make our school and connected community far stronger and better than ever.

My Strengths as a Leader:

I would focus on the: 1) development of groundbreaking educational and clinical programs that are internationally recognized for excellence and innovation, 2) expansion of our research programs, 3) application of our rich intellectual property to transform oral and systemic health care, 4) creation of impactful local and global community service programs that apply our considerable resources 5) enhancement of financial stability through entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and 6) development of a culture that welcomes excellence with enthusiasm and cohesiveness.

I offer a unique combination of institutional knowledge, a track record of innovations, and proven leadership skills. I have demonstrated the ability to leverage strengths and foster cooperation within academic organizations and organizations beyond academic institutions. My financial and industrial experiences can also be precious and transferable to the deanship. Most importantly, I have experience understanding the importance of EDI and have demonstrated solid integrity and character against pressure in challenging situations. I would love to grow and thrive with our students, faculty, staff, the school, and the university community.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

I am committed to take an unwavering stand with concrete actions to have “zero tolerance” towards racism and gender harassment. We will build a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion that will make our community far stronger and better than before.

When I first entered UCLA School of Dentistry in 1994, I was the first Asian junior faculty to be in the tenure-track position in the school’s entire history. I was also the only tenure-track faculty ever recruited without any start-up funds or laboratory space. In 2001, I was the second Asian who became fully tenured at the UCLA School of Dentistry. When I first took over as the chair of orthodontics, over 90 percent of the residents identified as white males. The program had not accepted an African American or Middle Eastern individual for over 40 years. Nineteen years later, in 2020, we had over 70 percent of our residents from diverse backgrounds, over 60 percent were female, and all were selected from a pool of the most competitive candidates. Full-time faculty from our section and division changed from one female to 60 percent female faculty. We have established a fair and transparent admission process that provides equal opportunity for students of all genders, cultures, and ethnicities. I have zero tolerance for racial discrimination or sexual harassment regardless of the parties involved. I possess an unwavering motivation to protect equality and diversity in academia. Creating a safe space where education and innovation flourish is of utmost importance. I can fully attest that our program has become much more robust and better since introducing more diversity and equality.

In addition to research, teaching, mentoring, and other professional activities, I have also dedicated my time to community outreach and public service. Specifically, I serve as a mentor for the NIH-sponsored summer undergraduate student research training program. The primary goal of this summer research program is to mentor and assist under-privileged students transitioning from a community college to UCLA. I have found this experience especially rewarding and thoroughly enjoy working with these youth by guiding them through an exceedingly formative period of their lives.

I also served as the volunteer liaison of UCLA Operation Mend, orchestrating the communication and execution arms of its operations at the School of Dentistry to provide state-of-the-art, pro bono dental care from the school’s senior faculty for wounded servicemen and women. Operation Mend is a groundbreaking program that serves United States military members who have been wounded during service in Iraq and Afghanistan and service members who suffer from severe facial and other medical injuries by providing access to the nation’s top plastic and reconstructive surgeons. Furthermore, UCLA Operation Mend provides comprehensive medical, dental, and mental health support for the wounded and their families.

Most importantly, as the Division Chair of Growth and Development in charge of pediatric dentistry and orthodontics, we have built one of the nation’s most comprehensive outreach patient clinics and programs. Our craniofacial orthodontic clinic serves over 3000 patients per year. Our Venice Clinic community operation is also a model example for other dental schools. I have volunteered in the UCLA Craniofacial Clinic at the UCLA Medical Center for the past 26 years. I have served as a non-paid California Children Services Consultant for over two decades.

One of my most significant accomplishments is the establishment of the International Orthodontic Foundation, a non-profit charity foundation established in 2022. I am one of the key founding members and the Executive Director. The mission of IOF is the improvement of patient care by providing comprehensive quality training and education, innovative and clinical research grants, as well as an international network where professionals in orthodontics and related fields can collaborate as lifelong learning partners. We outreach to regions that do not have similar education development resources as North America. Currently, IOFis one of the largest non-profit international dental organizations with over 10,000 registered members from over 80 countries.

I hope my personal experiences in encountering racial prejudice, my track record in combating the EDI related problems by positively transforming the structure and culture of my division, and my outreach efforts in the community have demonstrated my life-long commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. I will work closely with the academic community as a part of our mission to uphold diversity, equity, and inclusion.” [Download]