Our newest doctor, Dr. Angela McNeight, was honored as a national finalist for 2016 Eugene L. Gottlieb JCO Student of the Year, presented by American Orthodontics, while she was in her residency at the University of Florida. She has also recently been chosen for the Southern Association of Orthodontists Leadership Program and selected as an Emerging Leader by the American Association of Orthodontists. Here’s some excerpts from her interview with the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics. The full write-up is available at – https://www.facebook.com/JournalofClinicalOrthodontics/posts/10157389433777355:0
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, a small beach community on the East Coast. My family moved to this area, called the Space Coast, in 1965 when my grandfather took a job as a young aerospace engineer on the Gemini and Apollo programs at Kennedy Space Center. Growing up with an engineer and a dental hygienist as parents, it was only fitting that I pursued orthodontics so I could become a combination of both!
I have a big Italian family; I am the oldest of three children, and there are 13 grandchildren. We get together often and love to travel. I have been fortunate to travel to 46 states and 28 countries, most recently spending two weeks in Australia with my sister, who was doing a semester abroad there. I love working out with my friends, exploring farmers’ markets, and trying out local restaurants. I enjoy being able to give back to my community through volunteering at local dental clinics, traveling to Central America on dental mission trips, and participating in the Florida Dental Association Mission of Mercy event in Jacksonville. These experiences, combined with my family values of integrity and empathy, form the core of my mindset as a clinician who patients can connect with and trust.
Why are you pursuing a career in orthodontics?
My passion for the field began during my first orthodontic course in the dental-school curriculum. The mechanics and biology of tooth movement, coupled with the astonishing facial changes, amazed me. Never having had orthodontic treatment myself, the world of braces, wires, and aligners was very new and exciting. After the course ended, I wanted to learn more; therefore, I created the Orthodontic Interest Group at UF for students to gain greater in-depth knowledge of orthodontics outside the classroom. With the help of faculty and an executive board, our new student organization hosted an event each month that included literature reviews, case presentations, seminars with local orthodontists, and a wire-bending tutorial. The group still meets and is a thriving official dental-student organization, helping sculpt aspiring orthodontic residents.
Can you describe the path that led you to UF?
As a Florida native, I wanted to attend both dental school and orthodontic residency at the UF College of Dentistry in Gainesville, since it has always been my goal to practice within the state. I knew the UF College of Dentistry was dedicated to exceptional patient care, community-service endeavors, and encouraging student leadership. After completing my undergraduate work at Emory University in Atlanta, I had my heart set on cheering on the Gators in the Swamp! I was even fortunate enough to be elected to serve on the College of Dentistry admissions committee and as class Vice President for the four years of dental school, helping others achieve dreams similar to my own.
What, so far, has been your most rewarding orthodontic experience?
The aspect I most enjoy about residency is treating many craniofacial cases through the UF Craniofacial Center. Our strong craniofacial program was one of the main reasons I wanted to attend residency at UF. Patients come from all over the state to be treated by our team of specialists, and it has taught me the power of teamwork and the quiet power of an open ear and a kind heart. I find treating patients with cleft lip and palate, Pierre Robin syndrome, Crouzon syndrome, and dental anomalies very rewarding. I enjoy it so much that I asked to volunteer as a family camp counselor for the craniofacial center so I could continue to foster the relationships I have with my patients and their families. I most enjoy seeing the change in patients’ confidence, maturity, and personalities that are a direct result of orthodontics, and I have found that sharing in these experiences with these patients and their families is the reason I do what I do.
What do you think orthodontics will look like in 10 years?
With constantly changing technology and improved research methods, the science of orthodontics is evolving at a rapid pace. As technology advances and more long-term longitudinal studies are completed, contemporary practitioners need to be cognizant of emerging literature to best treat their patients. It is up to the individual practitioner to create his or her own evidence-based approach by critically reviewing studies associated with new devices and technology, and subsequently treating patients accordingly. Sharing ideas and knowledge will become more prevalent through online forums, interactive conference settings, and Web-based study clubs. Patients will become more knowledgeable about treatment options, wanting “Hollywood smiles” in a predetermined number of months. Putting time and effort into patient education must be of paramount importance to future practitioners in order to make patients aware of all treatment options. I also know that Invisalign clear aligner therapy will continue to increase in popularity and predictability, and it will be vital for orthodontists to continue to keep up with the latest advances in this technology. Last, but not least, I think there will be a lot more female orthodontists 10 years down the road!