Ana Karina Mascarenhas never expected to become a dentist. Growing up in Goa, India her favorite subject in school was math.
“I loved math,” said Mascarenhas. “Math, for me, was relaxing. When I wanted to de-stress, I would do math.”
After taking public entrance exams in India, she was eligible to pursue a career in dentistry, medicine or engineering. She told her father she planned to study engineering but, at that time, he didn’t think India was ready for female engineers.
“When I wanted to apply, in the history of the school, there had only been seven women that studied engineering,” said Mascarenhas.
She decided on Goa Dental School, where she received her bachelors’ degree in dental surgery. After graduating, Mascarenhas worked as a private practitioner and professor in Goa for five years.
In 1991, she decided to move to the U.S. and continue her education at the University of Michigan where she received her master’s and doctorate degrees in public health.
Mascarenhas was soon offered a position at Ohio State University but chose to become the graduate program director at Boston University.
During her nine years at Boston University, Mascarenhas helped create and develop projects that contributed to the dentistry field. She was the project director of the Robert Wood Johnson Community Based-Dental Education Program that aimed to recruit disadvantaged students to the dental profession. This gained her national recognition from the Health Resources and Service Administration, which awarded a grant to extend her project to other parts of the country.
In 2010, Mascarenhas was offered the position of associate dean of research and chief of primary care at NSU. Today, she still holds the associate dean position and is also the chief of research developmental sciences.
Upon arriving at NSU, Mascarenhas enjoyed the small size of the institution and all the possibilities of creating new projects and programs for the dental school.
“I loved that it was a small private school. That was one of the reasons I came to NSU. It was growing and had a strong vision for the future that I thought I could help create,” said Mascarenhas.
One of the programs Mascarenhas has created sets out to admit international students from the Middle East into the College of Dental Medicine. Mascarenhas has collaborated with the Saudi Cultural Mission to help recruit more international students. Currently, 11 dental students have been recruited by this program.
She has also helped start the graduate program in operative dentistry in which students can study sophisticated and complex dental techniques.
For students interested in entering the dental field, Mascarenhas said a person can do a lot with a dental degree.
“In dentistry, there is a lot of opportunity and it kind of becomes what you make it. So if a student is interested in this field, they should explore the wide breadth of what the field has to offer,” said Mascarenhas.