Dr. Anh Le Earns 2023 Alumnus of the Year Award

Dr. Anh Le
One of the nation’s most respected oral and maxillofacial surgeons, Dr. Anh Le has also conducted transformative research on using gingival (gum) stem cells to repair face, mouth, and nerve damage.
May 20, 2023

The UCLA School of Dentistry is honored to announce Anh Le, D.D.S. ’92, Ph.D./O.M.F.S. ‘98 as its 2023 Alumnus of the Year.

Dr. Le currently serves as the Norman Vine Endowed Professor and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) / Pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, a position she has held since 2012. One of the nation’s most respected oral and maxillofacial surgeons, Dr. Le has also conducted transformative research on using gingival (gum) stem cells to repair face, mouth, and nerve damage.

“Dr. Anh Le is a most-deserving recipient of the UCLA School of Dentistry’s Alumnus of the Year for 2023,” said Dean Paul H. Krebsbach. “Her contributions to the profession of dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and science are substantive. She represents UCLA at one of the country’s top institutions for oral health care, and we should all be proud that Dr. Le’s dental education began here.”

Dr. Le’s leadership skills were recognized early, as she was elected Woman of the Year in Dentistry by her UCLA peers as a fourth-year D.D.S. student in 1992. She then entered the School’s rigorous six-year program combining an OMFS residency with a Ph.D. in Oral Biology, during which she also conducted clinical research through a National Institute of Dental Research/National Institute of Health K08 grant.

Leaving Westwood for tenure-track positions at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science (2000-04) and the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC (2005-2012), Dr. Le has never strayed far from her Bruin roots. She returned to serve as an assistant professor-in-residence in the School’s Division of Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences during the 2002-03 academic year and has collaborated with numerous UCLA faculty members on peer-reviewed journal articles.

Among a wide range of dental professional communities and affiliations, Dr. Le serves as an active member of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Foundation, and the National Institute of Health Study Section ­– a role that enables her to mentor UCLA Dentistry’s OMSF residents and junior faculty.

She is a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and a fellow in the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program for Women. Dr. Le has led several initiatives to develop strategies to promote and sustain academic excellence through diversity.

"I entered the dual Ph.D. and OMFS certificate program as the first candidate on a scholarship established by Dean Henry Cherrick in 1992,” Dr. Le said. “The program was crafted with the visionary leadership of faculty members in both Oral Biology and OMFS to provide training for future academic surgeons. Although the vision of combining clinical practice and research is shared by many, few schools or educators have invested or committed to generating a training program for this purpose the way UCLA Dentistry has.

“Dr. Charles Bertolami, who was chair of OMFS, Dr. Earl Freymiller, and Dr. Diana Messadi are credited for their pioneering role in this academic endeavor. Under their mentorship, I was able to fully commit to both roles as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and Ph.D. student and successfully secure the K08 award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, setting the foundation for an academic career in dentistry,” she added.

Dr. Messadi, chair of the Section of Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, and Orofacial Pain, submitted Dr. Le’s Alumnus of the Year nomination with a letter of support from Dr. Freymiller, the Bob and Marion Wilson Endowed Chair and Director of UCLA’s OMS Residency Program.

“Dr. Le’s academic career has exemplified a successful integration of teaching, clinical practice, and research to advance patient health care. Her unique strengths lay in her dual training as both clinician and scientist,” Dr. Messadi said. “She is also committed to advancing our professional dental community by serving on numerous grant review committees, as a regular reviewer and member of the editorial board for several high-impact journals, and as a past president of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Research Group.”

Dr. Le earned her B.A. in biochemistry and cell biology at UC San Diego in 1982. She is the second eldest of seven children in a family that immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. She is married to Dr. Han Nguyen – a physician at Kaiser Permanente – and has two adult sons, one of whom is pursuing a career in dentistry. Her interests include music, photography, traveling, and cooking. 

Click here for more information on the Alumnus of the Year Award and a list of past winners.