USU Dental Alumni Earn Distinguished Board Certifications

Maj. (Dr.) Eric Hu, Maj. (Dr.) Jose Burgos, and Maj. (Dr.) Kristel Burgos, three USU Postgraduate Dental College alumni, earned specialty board certifications in their dental fields.

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Tanya Mullin, left, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Dental Officer assigned to Medical Department onboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), and Hospitalman Dimya Heppard, right, from Atlanta, assigned to the ship, perform routine dental cleaning appointment for Interior Communications Electrician Seaman David Boat, from Huntsville, Arkansas, on the floating accommodation facility, in Newport News, Virginia, Aug. 25, 2021. John C. Stennis is in Newport News Shipyard working alongside NNS, NAVSEA and contractors conducting Refueling and Complex Overhaul as part of the mission to deliver the warship back in the fight, on time and on budget, to resume its duty of defending the United States. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Tillie)
A Dental Officer and Hospitalman perform a routine dental cleaning appointment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass
Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Tillie)

April 27th, 2023 by Vivian Mason    

Three USU Postgraduate Dental College (PDC) alumni at the Fort Hood two-year Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD-2) (Comprehensive Dentistry) residency program successfully earned specialty board certifications in their dental fields: Maj. (Dr.) Eric Hu, prosthodontics, USU PDC class of 2019; Maj. (Dr.) Jose Burgos, and Maj. (Dr.) Kristel Burgos, both endodontics, USU PDC class of 2020.

Board certification signifies the pinnacle of achievement in dentistry. It’s the process by which dentists demonstrate through written, oral, and practical examinations a mastery of the basic knowledge and skills that define an area of dental specialization. There are currently twelve dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. Each specialty has its own unique and challenging board certification process. 

“Our residency program and other board-certified prosthodontists that I work with really helped prepare me well by going over cases, asking questions, etc. Prosthodontic boards are challenging,” notes Hu, an assistant professor of prosthodontics and an AEGD-2 mentor. Hu also earned Diplomate status from the American Board of Prosthodontists and is now recognized as a Fellow in the American College of Prosthodontists. This is the highest recognition of achievement awarded by his specialty.

Hu admits that the prosthodontic board certification is complex and consists of a written part, as well as the presentation of three oral case examinations. He had to supply his own cases. The oral examinations required him to diagnose those patient cases; produce treatment plans; provide treatment; document each case with photos, radiographs, and models; and then defend treatment decisions before a team of two board examiners. These cases demonstrated lengthy, full-mouth rehabilitations that involved restoring at least fourteen natural teeth, four implants, and removable partial and complete dentures. 

Each case took about a year to complete. “The hard part,” Hu explains, “was finding the right patients that met those criteria and having them be at your duty station long enough to finish treatment.” 

Left to right: Maj. (Dr.) Eric Hu, prosthodontics, USU PDC class of 2019; Maj. (Dr.) Jose Burgos, and Maj. (Dr.) Kristel Burgos, both endodontics, USU PDC class of 2020. [Photos courtesy of Maj. (Dr.) Eric Hu]
Left to right: Maj. (Dr.) Eric Hu, prosthodontics, USU PDC class of 2019; Maj. (Dr.) Jose Burgos, and Maj.
(Dr.) Kristel Burgos, both endodontics, USU PDC class of 2020. [Photos courtesy of Maj. (Dr.) Eric Hu]

“Throughout my career,” says Hu, “I’ve really enjoyed one-on-one patient interaction and that almost instant satisfaction you get from treating patients. I enjoyed changing patients’ lives by restoring patient smiles and their ability to eat, relieving their pain, and improving their oral health. That’s why I chose dentistry and specialized in prosthodontics.” 

He adds, “I want to do what I can for our patients….our soldiers, especially after seeing so many of them go through years and years of trauma, stress, and loss. Many have teeth that are damaged, worn down, or missing. My goal is to restore them back to normal function so they’re able to smile again. I also want to help my residents improve their dental skills to do the same for their patients.” 

Like Hu, husband and wife endodontists, Jose and Kristel Burgos, also earned Diplomate status, but from the American Board of Endodontics. 

“Board certification is the pinnacle of our profession,” says Jose. “It was always my goal to become board certified, and it’s an honor to now be a Diplomate. I feel very proud of that title because it represents many years of hard work and commitment to my profession and our patients.”

Board certification demonstrates the highest level of knowledge, training, and clinical skills in endodontics. The endodontic board certification process requires endodontists to demonstrate their expertise through written, oral, and case history documentation. Endodontic documentation requires applicants to diagnose, treat, and present one-year follow-up radiographs on five surgical and nonsurgical root canals, a challenging task with military patients. 

“Within the endodontics specialty,” Kristel explains, “you demonstrate how committed you are to improving your educational and clinical knowledge by striving to complete board certification. In a teaching environment, particularly in the military, board certification might be a requirement of that position. I enjoy teaching, and being board certified has contributed to providing a higher level education to my students.”

Overall, successful completion of the board certification process is a prestigious recognition of extensive knowledge in dental care that only a select handful in the profession ever achieve. Board certification recognizes this great ability, knowledge, and accomplishment.

Both Jose and Kristel believe that endodontics can be extremely rewarding, both professionally and personally. 

“Endodontics can be very challenging. But, at the same time, it’s extremely rewarding. I enjoy many aspects of my specialty, but most of all taking patients out of pain. Patients are extremely grateful after our treatments,” says Jose. “As a bonus, I have found that mentoring other doctors in my specialty is also something I enjoy.”

Kristel notes that her approach to endodontics is typically systemic, listening to the patient and investigating through questioning and analysis, while Jose says he always practices evidence-based dentistry.

“With this approach,” Jose says, “we make treatment decisions based on currently available research, the patient’s preferences, and our own clinical experience. This is the same approach that I teach our residents to practice by because it gives the best, most predictable results.”

Another challenge is dealing with the complex anatomy of teeth, which can make root canal procedures difficult and time-consuming. In addition, endodontists must constantly keep up with new technology and techniques to provide the best possible care for patients.

Only about 30% of prosthodontists and endodontists nationwide are board-certified in their specialty, representing approximately 1.5% of dentists in the United States. 

Jose Burgos and Kristel Burgos will be officially pinned at the American Association of Endodontists Annual Meeting in May 2023. 

Hu will be pinned at the American College of Prosthodontists Annual Session in October 2023.