Interview: Dr. Mayra Vasques, School of Dentistry at University of Sao Paulo

Dr. Mayra Vasques is a Ph.D. Fellow at School of Dentistry at the University of Sao Paulo, where she leads a project in 3D printing focused on offering the digital technology as one solution for the patient with orofacial pain and dental patients with functional limitation. She is deeply involved in creating a positive ecosystem and accessibility for digital technology and 3Dprinting for patients and dentists adapting it to an emergent market reality (Brazil). Dr. Vasques will be a speaker at #3DHEALS2018
Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Mayra: It was in 2014, I started a Ph.D. project in 3D printing occlusal splints. My focus was mainly the clinical aspects and I was not familiar with the 3D technology, actually, I was counting that I would find someone that had the experience and the interest in this area, what did not happen..
First time I saw a 3D printer working my mind was blown away and I realized all the potential it had and that I had to dominate it all to really develop me and my project and improve the healthcare of my patients. I knew that I had to make that happen.
Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey/company/career/research in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?
Mayra: I spent part of my time teaching dentists how to deliver a great occlusal splint for bruxism and temporomandibular dysfunction treatments but I was limited by time and space, so I started wondering how I could use technology to concentrate this knowledge and automate the process as much as possible. At the same time, there was an opportunity to start a Ph.D. study at the University of Sao Paulo and one of my advisors told me to think about working with 3D technology because this must be the future in dentistry. So I decided to mix these ideas and in 2015 I started my Ph.D. project of 3D printing occlusal splint. Since then, I´m developing a blind clinical trial (evaluating splint´s fit, biological responses of oral tissues, patients comfort and compliance and time spent to fabricate and adjust the splints). The project grew up and there are branches of the project being developed with other related subjects focused on patients with functional limitations.
Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.
Mayra: I was inspired firstly by one of my advisors and by my curiosity. Through this path, as each difficult emerged, I was impacted by a bunch of people in the internet community. This showed me the power of the collaborative work when people get together because they understand that it develops themselves and the community faster. Had it not, I was probably in big trouble during this project, because as it is a new technology the knowledge is not established, and sharing what you know is the best knowledge improvement option. In my environment, it was not usual. The knowledge transmission was basically from an institution to the people, so 3D printing showed me in practice how it is to think outside the box.
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Mayra: To work with 3D tech is a world of possibilities, for me and for the patients. I have to make it happen and be part of this revolution. At the best and the worst moments I always think about it.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Mayra: During this path, the biggest challenges were the support. Things definitely changed in the last 4 years, but I had to face a lot of distrust and resources limitations. I was recommended to give up countless times. At some point, my family decided to support me and invest in my dream. I owe much of the project success to them.
Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Mayra: For me, the biggest challenge in 3D printing nowadays are the biocompatible materials. Despite its huge development in the last years- it needs to be extensively tested and improved for long-term use in humans, considering that the goal is to overcome the established materials considering biological and mechanical aspects.
Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?

  • To be able and have the opportunity to spread the 3D printing knowledge in my community;
  • To have more time with family and friends;
  • To keep me healthy (body and mind) and productive.

Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Mayra: The advice would be “knowledge is never too much, keep learning about everything you can” and “ignore people that try to eliminate your confidence and convince you can´t do something”.
Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?
Mayra: 3D printing is already changing the world, be a part of it!
Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Mayra: The best AND the worst investment I made was my 3D printer. All the experience that I had to understand and dominate all process of 3D printing was really hard work! The printers are being improved more and more but the process still experimental, the good on it is that the users are part of this development. It takes our time and lots of sleep hours, but it’s worth it.
Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Mayra: I put all my energy in the last 4 years on my Ph.D. thesis and at some point, supported by my family, I decided to travel from Brazil to the US just to buy a 3D printer to avoid the risk of project cancelation. There was a huge risk of facing some problem during the importation process and, after that, there was a risk to have a printer in a place that there was no support (from producer company or other experts). I risked my project, my credibility, and my money, but I knew that was the only way for me to achieve my goals, I had to take the risk.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Mayra: This is a classical answer but what I love most is to travel, to be with all the world’s possibilities at your feet, enjoying the new.
Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?
Mayra: “They did not know it was impossible, so they did it!” – Mark Twain. This quote means for me that there´s no limit for you if your mind doesn’t realize it.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)
Mayra: For me, 3DHEALS means a 3D solution in healthcare

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