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MY HOBBY – ANIMAL INSTINCTS

DENTIST, ACADEMIC, MENTOR, BEAUTY QUEEN: DR. TINA BRANDON ABBATANGELO DOES IT ALL.

IF THERE WERE a Lucy Hobbs Award for Widest Variety of Interests, Dr. Tina Brandon Abbatangelo would take it hands-down. She’s the director of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She’s an animal dentist who learned her chops from the father of that field. And she was named Ms. Nevada 2016. Impressed yet?

Long interested in animal care, Dr. Brandon Abbatangelo decided to explore it further after a dental exam given years ago to her new puppy, Lola. Not long after, serendipity brought her into the orbit of that specialty’s leading practitioner.

“I met Dr. Peter Emily at an animal dental forum in 2008,” Dr. Brandon Abbatangelo says. “The following weekend, I worked on a few chimpanzees, a lion and a couple of tigers at a sanctuary in California. I was hooked.”

Nowadays, the Las Vegas resident undertakes two mission trips annually with the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation. The challenges of caring for large creatures are, well, as large as they are. “I’m only a small fraction of this enormous equation,” she says. “Fourhanded dentistry becomes eight-handed when we have four endodontic treatments being done simultaneously.”

Three years ago, having been in private practice for nearly two decades, Dr. Brandon Abbatangelo began to mentor dental students at the five-chair clinic on UNLV’s main campus, work that led to her current administrative position at the school, the only four-year accredited dental program in Nevada. Her other recent preoccupation: her yearlong reign as Ms. Nevada, a competition open to women over age 26. “I wore my crown and sash with pride,” she says, linking that honor to her classroom work. “I also take pride in my role training students and instilling strong ethics and integrity. Women are leading the way in dentistry.”

“I met Dr. Peter Emily at an animal dental forum in 2008. I soon worked on a few chimpanzees, a lion and a couple of tigers at a sanctuary in California. I was hooked.”

This talented woman of such varied pursuits — a hot-yoga enthusiast, she says she’d have been a chef were it not for dentistry’s irresistible pull — works to raise awareness of the dental needs of our four-legged friends. She’s collaborating with the American Dental Association on including such a message in an upcoming children’s book: “My goal is to plant the seed early on the importance of dentistry for everyone in the household.” And she means everyone. “From Grandma to your cat,” she says, “we all need dental care.”