Connecting the Dots in the Past for the Future
"YOU CAN’T CONNECT THE DOTS LOOKING FORWARD; YOU CAN ONLY CONNECT THEM LOOKING BACKWARDS. SO, YOU HAVE TO TRUST THAT THE DOTS WILL SOMEHOW connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
This Steve Jobs quote is a mindset that Dr. Jason Yu has adopted during his career, and he tries to approach each opportunity with the same zeal as Mr. Jobs. Dr. Yu is new to UCLA, he officially joined the section of oral and maxillofacial surgery as an assistant clinical professor in January 2020. The dental school welcomes his extensive background and training in oral and plastic surgery.
“For me, facial reconstructive surgery is an area that crosses both form and function,” Dr. Yu said. “I’ve always been fascinated by oral surgery and being able to help those who have had oral cancer, trauma, or a congenital disfigurement is the most rewarding.”
Originally from Canada, Dr. Yu was first introduced to oral surgery while spending time at his father’s endodontics practice. A patient had a tooth abscess and the process of removing it was fascinating. It was then that he decided to become an oral surgeon. Upon completing two years of undergraduate work, he went to the Boston University School of Dental Medicine to complete his DMD degree.
From there, Dr. Yu spent the next 11 years at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a medical degree and several postgraduate certificates in general surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and plastic and reconstructive surgery. He then headed to New York and Boston where he completed fellowships in microsurgery and plastic and oral surgery, respectively.
“There would be times where there was a rotation that I wasn’t as interested in, but it was the knowledge that I gained in those moments that have become valuable to me now,” Dr. Yu said. “Where I’ve been in the past has helped me get to where I’m at now… in the words of Jobs, ‘So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’”
Moving to a new city and starting a new job during a pandemic has had its challenges, but he tried to take advantage of his time at home. As a new father, Dr. Yu was able to spend time with his newborn during the initial months of the pandemic. It’s also been a humbling experience. He’s a lot more empathetic towards his patients who are also dealing with the stressors of life.
When asked where he sees oral surgery as a field going, Dr. Yu said, “the advancements with imaging and tissue engineering are changing how we do surgery. I don’t know if this will happen in my lifetime, but we could probably reconstruct a jaw with 3D-printed tissue and bone. We’re getting closer and closer to that being a reality and it’s incredible.”
For now, he’s looking forward to the immediate changes in oral surgery that come with new leadership. “There has already been a lot of comradery and opportunities for collaboration,” Dr. Yu said. “The hiring of Dr. Ozaki showed progressive ideas from the leadership and I’m excited to see where we can take oral surgery at UCLA.”
In the first year of my deanship, I found myself surrounded by faculty, students, staff, and fellow academic leaders wanting to introduce me to the beauty of this campus, this city, and this outstanding dental school – UCLA Dentistry. I have been warmly welcomed by the entire community to what has now become my home.
Making Saliva a Serious Business
“Most people are surprised when I tell them that saliva can reveal as much, if not more, than blood or urine can. We have made it our mission to make saliva testing a clinical reality to detect for serious diseases. And we’re getting very, very close.”
Decoding Oral Health: Diana Wang, Class of 2017
“I believe there’s a little bit of pathologist in all of us,” said Diana Wang, Class of 2017. “Patients always want to know why something happened to them, and pathology helps answer those difficult questions.”