Seidenfaden’s talents are ‘gift to a population in need’
Written by Haley Herfurth
May 30, 2019 Print Email
seidenfaden EOTM stream
Chris Seidenfaden, dental prosthetist in the Division of Prosthodontics
In the 24 years Chris Seidenfaden has worked in the Division of Prosthodontics, one memory in particular from his earliest days stands out to him.
A young boy, sick with a disease contracted from a blood transfusion, had lost all his teeth as a result. The patient was being bullied mercilessly at school, and it was Seidenfaden’s job as a dental prosthetist to take measurements, make impressions, build models and, ultimately, craft a set of small dentures for the patient. Seidenfaden calls the process of presenting the teeth set to the boy and his family “the most heartwarming thing I’ve ever done.”
“The mother was in tears, the grandmother was in tears,” Seidenfaden said. “The little boy gave me the biggest hug I’ve received from anyone.”
Seidenfaden’s loyalty to patients has not waned throughout the past two decades, his colleagues say; he is always ready to provide detailed explanations, compassionate support and a helping hand.
“Chris has always shown exceptional customer service,” said Vickie Dewberry Tubbs, a dental assistant in the School of Dentistry. “He’s always there to answer questions for our patients, and he makes them feel comfortable and at ease.”
“UAB gave me the ability to learn as much as I could learn. I’ve always been encouraged to learn more and do more. You’re not limited here at UAB unless you limit yourself.”
His years working with patients who require maxillofacial reconstruction — the repair and rebuilding of the jaw and face — have taught him to treat everyone with empathy and kindness, he says. The same goes for the students; his role training dental students in prosthodontics and working with dual-appointed clinical faculty has taught him a special kind of compassion as well.
“Students are under a lot of stress,” Seidenfaden said. “They incur a lot of debt to come to school. It’s similar with faculty — they have the responsibility of seeing their patients and teaching, and everyone has the same stressors that we all have, with family life and writing academic papers. I feel that when we take a team approach, everyone shares the load and we can be compassionate with one another.”
One former student, Michael Kase, DMD, has known Seidenfaden since completing his residency in prosthodontics eight years ago. Now an assistant professor and maxillofacial prosthodontist in UAB’s Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Kase puts it simply: “Chris is the reason I am here.”
“As a first-year resident, you’re essentially a dental student but with a lot more expectations,” Kase said. “People look to you for answers, but when you first start, you might not know them yet. Chris never once made me feel dumb for this and always went out of his way to help me.”
“In his facial reconstructions, Chris works chair-side with cancer and trauma patients to restore quality of life through his prosthetic noses, eyes, ears and other facial structures. Only a handful of individuals in the southeastern United States can provide such services.”
Not only is Seidenfaden a kind and understanding tutor, Kase said, but he also commands what Kase refers to as “technical wizardry,” from simple denture techniques to complex multipiece maxillofacial prosthetics. Daniel Givan, DMD, Ph.D., associate chair of the Department of Restorative Sciences, says Seidenfaden uses these skills to make a true difference in the lives of his patients.
“In his facial reconstructions, Chris works chair-side with cancer and trauma patients to restore quality of life through his prosthetic noses, eyes, ears and other facial structures. Only a handful of individuals in the southeastern United States can provide such services,” Givan said. “To mask disfigurements and provide function for basic living is a gift to a population in desperate need.”
Seidenfaden said UAB has given him many opportunities to grow in the decades he has worked in the School of Dentistry, providing him just the amount of structure he says he, as a former military service-member who came to UAB at age 30, needed in order to be successful. As both the school and profession have undergone changes — both in the field and within the building — he has always striven to remain positive, he said.
Each month, UAB recognizes an outstanding employee for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the university’s success. If you know of a great employee, you can learn how to nominate them for this recognition at uab.edu/humanresources.
“I’ve always gone into things with a willingness to learn and better myself,” he continued.
That dedication has paid off; Seidenfaden says he has always been encouraged by his co-workers and supervisors to set new goals for himself; he’s even co-authored several papers with his academic colleagues. He says he doesn’t know anyplace else except UAB that would make that possible.
“UAB gave me the ability to learn as much as I could learn,” he continued. “I’ve always been encouraged to learn more and do more. You’re not limited here at UAB unless you limit yourself.”
Seidenfaden coaches middle school basketball and football at JCCHS.