Periodontics alumnus takes a chance, blazes a trail
Published: January 31, 2022 by UTHealth Houston Development Communications
Growing up in Egypt, Raouf J. Hanna, DDS, never envisioned the career he now leads. In addition to pioneering multiple dental implant inventions that help restore the smiles of patients, he owns a large dental practice and trains the next generation of periodontics specialists at UTHealth Houston School of Dentistry. In 1998, just before finishing dental school in Cairo, Egypt, a chance trip to see his uncle in Houston set him on this life-altering path.
“While I was there, I decided to visit the School of Dentistry to see what it was like and learn about any programs for international students,” said Hanna. “I didn’t know much about the United States, but I knew that completing a graduate program at the School of Dentistry could unlock incredible opportunities.”
Hanna discovered the Department of Periodontics and Dental Hygiene offered opportunities for international students through the Advanced Education Program in Periodontics. During his visit, he attended classes and shadowed students and faculty in the clinic. The experience intrigued him.
After returning to Cairo and graduating from dental school, Hanna applied to the Advanced Education Program in Periodontics and earned an interview. While interviews were normally conducted in person, the school allowed him to interview via phone to avoid the steep travel costs. However, Hanna’s family did not have an international phone line.
“I phoned in to the interview from a public pay phone,” he said. “I knew the program only accepted about three students each year, and I needed to do anything I could to gain acceptance.”
About three weeks later, Hanna received an acceptance letter in the mail.
“It took me by surprise,” he said. “I knew my chances were slim, and I was already planning my career in Cairo. Instead, I started packing my bags to move to Houston.”
During his time at the School of Dentistry, Hanna found support in the program’s faculty members and his classmates, who helped him navigate the visa process and complete his United States board certifications to practice dentistry in the United States.
“I was a long way from my family in Egypt, but everyone at the School of Dentistry treated me with kindness and made me feel like I was home,” he said. “My experience there changed my life, and I will always be grateful for it.”
Hanna graduated with a certificate in periodontics and a Master of Science degree in 2003. Shortly after graduating, he joined the faculty of the School of Dentistry in the Department of Periodontics and Dental Hygiene. In 2005, he became director of the undergraduate periodontics program, helping to educate the students following in his footsteps.
He also started his private practice, Hanna Dental Implant Center, which has provided dental implants to more than 20,000 patients across two Houston locations. Additionally, Hanna has left his mark on the dental implant field by developing efficient procedures that make implants more financially accessible to patients.
After stepping down as director of the periodontics program in 2010, Hanna has continued to help train the next generation of oral health leaders by volunteering as a part-time Clinical Associate Professor.
In 2021, Hanna decided to support students at the school in another big way by making a generous commitment to establish the Raouf Hanna, DDS, MS, Professorship in the Department of Periodontics and Dental Hygiene. The endowment will provide funding in perpetuity for the faculty holder to enrich educational programs in the department and advance innovative research projects that improve periodontal care. Furthermore, Hanna’s commitment was doubled by the UTHealth Houston Champions initiative, a program that matches qualified endowed gifts made by university family members, including alumni, faculty, and staff.
“When I was a student at the School of Dentistry, I received a grant that enabled me to attend an important national conference in periodontology that I otherwise couldn’t afford,” recalled Hanna. “It’s important to me to help give students every chance for success, the same way I was helped.”
Just as Hanna blazed his own trail to a successful career, the Raouf Hanna, DDS, MS, Professorship will unlock new opportunities that allow students and faculty to carve their own paths.
“Dr. Hanna has set a wonderful example for all of our students and alumni follow,” said John A. Valenza, DDS, Dean of the School of Dentistry. “In addition to leadership as an educator and clinician, his endowment will light the way for our students and faculty, helping to improve the oral health of the patients we serve.”