Tasca becomes first holder of Robert J. Isaacson Professorship in Orthodontics

Amy Tasca, DDS, PhD, became the first holder of the Dr. Robert J. Isaacson Professorship in Orthodontics in July. She will serve as the endowed professor for a three-year term.

Established by a $1 million gift from his wife, Delores, the Isaacson Professorship and fund honors Faculty Emeritus Robert Isaacson, DDS, MS, PhD, who died in September 2018 at the age of 86. The fund was established in 2019 to celebrate Isaacson’s dedication to the field of orthodontics and continue his legacy of influencing and shaping dentists.

The Professorship, part of the School of Dentistry’s Driven. campaign, aims to recruit, support, and retain outstanding full-time orthodontic faculty, who spend the majority of their time in clinical team settings and have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to research applicable to orthodontics.

"Dr. Tasca was selected as the first holder of the Isaacson Professorship because she represents the future of orthodontic education at the University of Minnesota,” said Brent Larson, DDS, MS, director of the Division of Orthodontics. “She has demonstrated unique talents as a teacher, clinician, and researcher, and the additional resources will encourage continued growth as a leader and role model in our discipline."

Amy Tasca, DDS, PhDTasca becomes the first person to hold the position after nine years at the School of Dentistry: first, completing her PhD and orthodontic residency, then as a faculty member since 2018. She was surprised and honored to receive the professorship

“When I think about a named professorship, I don’t think about someone like myself,” she said. “I am honored that my colleagues thought highly enough of me that they felt I would be a great candidate to fill that role.”

Finding herself as an endowed professor in orthodontics was not part of Tasca’s plan; she had her heart set on becoming an oral surgeon until a major health crisis hit in her late twenties and caused her to rethink her career path. She saw how she could create a fulfilling, lifelong career in orthodontics, and never looked back.

“I think sometimes when you’re stubborn and have your mind set, it takes a life-altering intervention to find out what you are supposed to be doing,” she explained. “I share that lesson with my residents: sometimes, what you think you’re meant to be doing isn’t what is meant to be. Other things will happen, and it will all work out.”

Tasca finds that lesson hits home with her students, for whom things may have come easily for most of their lives. “I try to remind them that it’s just a matter of time, and they will figure it out.”

Tasca fits the bill for the endowed professorship perfectly, as she dedicates herself to clinical training and research mentorship. In the clinics, she mentors graduate residents and works in the cleft and craniofacial clinic. “My role there is to give them a different perspective,” she explained; the young women who make up the majority of the residency program do not often see themselves in their instructors, but they do with her. “That is the greatest role I serve: showing them that if you work hard and be present where you are, you can balance a family and life and work.”

Her favorite part of the clinical work, and her teaching, is building relationships. “All of your experiences make you a better clinician,” she said. “I am very focused on my patients, and building relationships with them is something I hope to demonstrate to my residents.” She also loves “seeing the residents grow and develop those ‘aha’ moments, where they just get it.”

When Tasca spends time on research, she is either studying bone biology with Kim Mansky, PhD, mentoring PhD students, or working with master’s students on projects that have a measured impact on clinical work and on the community. This allows her to keep a hand in research, while building relationships and watching students grow in their ability as researchers.

It makes sense that the majority of Tasca’s time involves students: they, and her colleagues, are her favorite part of the job. “I really enjoy working with my colleagues,” she said. “I started building relationships when I was a PhD student and continue to foster most of them to this day.” And when it comes to her students, “seeing them come in not knowing much, then leaving knowing they will be successful, is the most rewarding part of what I do.”

Tasca is excited for the ways she will continue doing what she does best, with a new title. “I take great honor in it, and understand the responsibility to use these next three years well, as I have the opportunity to do some really great things.”

Brent Larson, DDS, MS, and Amy Tasca, DDS, PhD
Brent Larson, DDS, MS, and Amy Tasca, DDS, PhD