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Graduate finds confidence in orthodontics

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
Erin Brophy Conard has every reason to smile.
The 25-year-old Lexington resident is among 52 College of Dental Medicine (CDM) graduates receiving their degrees May 16. She is one of only two graduates who’ve chosen orthodontics as their dental specialty. This fall, Conard will join two other postgraduate students in  the specialized orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics residency program at MUSC.
Less than seven years ago, Conard was visiting Samuel Marsh, DDS, a veteran Columbia pediatric dentist and wondered if dentistry would be in her future. She questioned Marsh during the course of her first semester at Clemson University and returned to shadow him at his dental practice during Christmas break.
From that moment, she was hooked.
“I was so excited I was focused on getting to dental school as soon as possible,” recalls Conard. Within three years, she graduated with dual degrees in psychiatry and biology in 2004, and began dental school at MUSC.
She was introduced to orthodontics in her second year taking a class taught by Ron Bell, DDS, professor and director of the dental school’s graduate orthodontics program, and Luis Leite, DMD, chairman and associate professor of pediatric dentistry and orthodontics.
“It was one of the best dental classes available to students and I thought it was awesome,” said Conard, who also wore braces in her elementary school years. “Orthodontics is a combination of mechanics, engineering and physics. I chose orthodontics because the end result can be so rewarding for the patient, practitioner or anyone on the receiving end of a laugh or smile.”
One of the profession’s oldest dental specialties, orthodontics focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of dental and facial irregularities. Dentists gain advanced training and skills in this specialty to manage and guide tooth movement and facial development for orthodontic patients. MUSC’s orthodontics program was established in 2005 and is among 67 accredited orthodontics programs in the United States and Canada. The 34-month program offers a clinical and didactic curriculum in advanced child, adolescent and adult orthodontic care and teaches the latest concepts in orthodontic treatment
Louis Andria, DDS, is an adjunct associate professor who teaches Cephalometric Literature Review elective courses (orthodontic  literature reviews) for third-and fourth-year dental students. Conard joined Andria’s class midway through her third year, coordinating special arrangements on material and review.
“Erin’s focus, intellectual curiosity and commitment to this class were a delightful discovery,” said Andria, a 30-year veteran in teaching dentistry and orthodontics. “She managed to combine two semesters of work into one, and she asked intelligent, thought-provoking questions relevant to the material. These are all qualities essential to the making of a good orthodontist.”
To supplement her work, Conard collaborated with fellow dental graduate Juan Faja-Ferendez, DMD, on an orthodontics research project and presented their results analyzing a cephalometric study at the 2008 American Dental Research Meeting in Texas. Their findings complemented earlier craniofacial research conducted by noted orthodontist Robert M. Ricketts, DDS.
In addition to her research and clinical experiences, Conard completed a three-day orthodontics externship at Virginia Commonwealth University. On graduation day, she’ll be joined by husband, Mark, a third-year dental student; her mom, sisters, plus other family and friends from the Upstate and beyond.
“All my life, I’ve been driven by a curiosity to learn,” Conard said. “For me, that worked in dentistry and more specifically, in orthodontics. The residents are very talented  and the patients definitely want to be there. I’m just grateful to have come this far in my dental education and look forward to continuing with more advanced training at MUSC.”

Friday, May 16, 2008
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