Temple Hospital pediatric resident Pujitha Siddani on childhood tooth trauma, the importance of resilience for new immigrants and a beautiful Indian beach town that will forever be home.

Because of a childhood incident that left a lasting impact on me. At age 10, while riding bumper cars at an amusement park, I experienced a traumatic injury to a front tooth. The care and expertise displayed by the dentist who saved my tooth not only alleviated my fears but inspired me to pursue a career in dentistry. It was a transformative experience.

Where in India are you from?
I grew up in the beautiful beach town of Visakhapatnam in South India. My parents are both physicians, so I was naturally inclined toward health care from an early age. The vibrant atmosphere of Visakhapatnam, with its sandy shores and cultural richness, contributed to a unique and enriching childhood. The influence of my parents’ profession not only sparked my interest in health care but also instilled in me a passion for making a positive impact on people’s lives.

Did you study dentistry in India before moving to the U.S.?
Yes, I completed dental school in India, and after graduation, I briefly worked as a general dentist. Dental education in India not only provided a strong foundation in clinical practices but also instilled in me a comprehensive understanding of oral health. In 2015, I decided to expand my expertise by pursuing a master’s in public health in the United States. This transition marked a significant turning point, allowing me to delve into the broader aspects of health care and public health initiatives. The journey has enabled me to combine my dental background with a focus on public health to contribute meaningfully to community well-being.

Dental education in India not only provided a strong foundation in clinical practices but also instilled in me a comprehensive understanding of oral health.

You moved to California to attend UCLA. Did you have family or friends there at the time?
I moved alone and found myself navigating the challenges and excitement of living in the U.S. as an international student. Adapting to a new culture, understanding the education system and establishing a support network were pivotal aspects of my initial experience. Being on my own allowed me to embrace independence and resilience. Navigating the nuances of daily life, from understanding local customs to adjus­ting to the academic environment, was both a learning curve and an enriching experience.

Tell us about your typical workday at Temple University Hospital.
As a second-year pediatric dental resident, my days revolve around collaborative patient care. A typical day is divided into morning and afternoon sessions. During the morning, when assigned to sedations, my focus is on oral conscious sedation cases. This involves providing crucial care to ensure the comfort and safety of young patients undergoing sedation procedures. If not assigned to sedations, I spend the day seeing patients for various treatment or exam appointments.

What are your post-residency plans?
As a pediatric dentist, I want to contribute to the oral health and well-being of underserved populations,
leveraging both my clinical expertise and background in public health. I envision engaging with communities to address oral health disparities and promote preventive care. I also aspire to take on a role as a clinical educator, sharing my knowledge and experiences with the next generation of dental professionals. I hope to impart not only clinical skills but also the importance of community-based, patient-centered care.

PUJITHA SIDDANI is a second-year pediatric resident at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. She was a 2020 graduate of UCLA School of Dentistry.