A CEBUANO dentist recently graduated with a doctoral degree (PhD) in Prosthodontics, the first one to do so in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Doctor Junhel Dalanon studied at the Tokushima University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Japan for four years and graduated on September 9, 2021.
The 40-year-old dentist also sits as the chairman of the Philippine Dental Association (PDA) Cebu.
Prosthodontics is the area of dentistry that focuses on dental prostheses, or the dental appliance that replaces a missing tooth or covers up tooth defects.
He told SunStar Cebu that four years of staying away from home and loved ones have already paid off.
Dalanon said hard work, perseverance and faith in God are the keys to his success.
He published 20 journal articles in his four-year doctorate journey in Japan.
His graduate school only required students to publish two published journal articles.
Dalanon said one of the biggest challenges he faced was the lack of experience in doing laboratory experiments compared to other foreign students.
He observed that Indonesian, Japanese and Indian students already know how to use pipettes and centrifuge machines, while other students' backgrounds in basic sciences gave them an edge in creating or planning experiments.
The relative advances in technology in their respective countries also allowed them to use advanced technology even before they embarked on their PhD program, Dalanon noted.
"In the Philippines, I haven't done RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction), HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), Western Blotting, Elisa (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), and other biochemical tests that are required in my PhD program. We are very much far behind in our education and it shows in the recent TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and Pisa (Program for International Student Assessment) results," Dalanon said.
Despite this great challenge, Dalanon held on to his motivations to push through his PhD journey. He said he wanted to earn the degree to impart the knowledge to budding students in Cebu.
He hoped that the next batch of Filipinos who dream of becoming prosthodontists one day will have easier access to these instruments to be accepted in foreign universities like Tokushima.
"I thrive in competition. If I fail to get a concept the first time, I'll be the first person back in the lab the next day to practice and practice. If one published paper is required for graduation, I would make 20 different studies in different modalities. I was a science high scholar and I'd be putting the taxpayers' money to waste if I won't excel or exceed my own expectations," Dalanon said.
Dalanon said he belonged to an average-working family since his mother was a teacher and his father was a seafarer. He cited that there was a time when his mother’s business partner ran off with their money for a failed business endeavor. His being as a high school scholar at the Cebu City National Science High School helped ease the monetary problems.
Dalanon had experienced living from place to place just to make ends meet.
"I guess that made me stronger, living in a secured village in Minglanilla allowed me to study better and improve my academic skills. Part of my childhood was spent living in Hipodromo. This allowed me to be stronger socially and it opened my eyes to how families who are not that well-off live," Dalanon said.
Dalanon shared that he wanted to follow his father's footsteps and be a seafarer like most sons do, but his parents wanted him to achieve more since he would be wasting his intelligence if he pursued his dreams.
He even intentionally tried to fail his science high school entrance examination since he wanted to study at the Don Bosco Technical College and prepare for Nautical Science or Marine Engineering.
He later haggled with what his parents wanted him to do and decided to take up dentistry since his aunt is also a dentist. After dentistry, Dalanon thought of taking up nursing to go abroad and pursue his dream of traveling.
However, Colgate Philippines recruited him to work after graduation and he was juggling a preceptor's course in orthodontics and TMJ management back then and decided to take up a certificate program in education.
He passed the licensure examination for teachers (LET) and took up a diploma program in special education and a master's program in teaching, qualifying him for an exchange program in the United States of America. He returned to finish his doctorate in education.
“My mother did not give up when she was down. Instead, she opened a small school using our house and eventually created campuses in Minglanilla, San Fernando and Sogod. This is what brought my interests to basic education,” Dalanon said.
Dalanon wants to focus on outreach programs in coordination with the PDA-Cebu Chapter, International Association of Human Caring (USA), Kanagawa Alliance of Dental Volunteers Overseas (Japan), Taichung Dental Association (Taiwan) and the municipalities of Consolacion and Pinamungajan, among others.
A four-year running program tagged "Pustiso sa Pasko" provides dentures to the less fortunate is one of those programs.
He also finished a Certificate in Maxillary Sinus Elevation at Harvard School of Dental Medicine in 2020, finished the Certificate in Dental Implantology at MIS Philippines in 2016 and completed EdD in Educational Management in 2015 and MA in Teaching major in Special Education in 2010, both at the Southwestern University Phinma
He studied and finished a Diploma in Special Education in 2009, a Certificate in Professional Education in 2008, a Certificate in Orthodontics and TMD Management Center for Advanced Dental Studies in 2006, and a Doctor of Dental Medicine in 2005, all at the Southwestern University Phinma. (MVE)