Professor Dr. Rozita Hassan


Prof. Dr Rozita Hassan

Universiti Sains Malaysia


Prof. Dr Rozita, on behalf of MDSA, thank you for accepting our invitation to be our special guest today for ‘Interview with the Expert’. Can you tell us about where you come from and how you become the Professor and Consultant Orthodontist of Orthodontic Unit in USM?

First of all, I’d like to thank MDSA for having me as the guest for this publication. I’m honoured.

Well, I’m a Kelantanese myself. My father was a government servant so we were always moving around when I was young. However at the age of 10, we came back and stayed in Kota Bharu.

I was accepted into a boarding school with my UPSR results, which I studied at for five years. Then, with my SPM results, I managed to secure a place in Foundation of Science, University of Malaya (UM Asasi Sains). After the 2-year-programme, I joined Bachelor of Dental Surgery, University of Malaya which was a 4-year-programme back then.

Upon graduation, which was during the year of 1993, I had to serve the government as a JPA scholar. We had hospital attachment during the first year, treating traumatised patients due to accident injuries and all. After that, we got posted to district hospitals, where we were required to be involved in community services like giving educational talks to the public and giving free treatments to school children, apart from treating outpatients.

Five years later, I realised that I wanted more. Hence, I tried to obtain a scholarship to support my postgraduate studies but our country was suffering from economic recession during that period of time, which was between the year of 1997 to 1998. Then, in 1999, Dental School of University Science Malaysia (PPSG of USM) had this calling for us to become the trainee lecturer. So I joined them, and was among the pioneer batch of lecturers along with Professor Adam, Professor Ramizu and others.

After 6 months of teaching, I furthered my studies in University of Malaya for another 4 years in Masters of Orthodontics. By then I realised that orthodontics is not just about straightening one’s teeth, but it serves in correcting other problems such as cleft lip and palate, obstructive sleep apnea snoring, and mild occlusion. At the year of 2004, I sat for the test of Royal College of Edinburgh and was accepted into the World Federation of Orthodontics of the United States.

So, that’s the story of how I become the Professor and Consultant Orthodontic Unit in USM.

One of your specialties is regarding Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Can you tell us briefly about what it is and why are you interested in this field.

In the United States, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has caused a high number of motor vehicles accident. Patients affected by OSA suffer from sleep deprivation as their sleeps are disturbed on and off at night, some even wake up every five minutes. Hence, they feel very sleepy during the day and doze off when they are driving, which leads to accidents.

In Malaysia, this area has yet to be established. Patients who snore don’t usually visit us as they are not aware of the problem. However, we have a special department in Hospital of USM where we will get referrals from private clinics so that we can effectively tackle OSA in the community.

I am interested in this field as I want to improve the quality of sleep of the people and hence their quality of life. Patients will get more energetic after being treated, and can be more focused on work because of their good sleeps at night. OSA occurs more in middle-aged patients, and I suppose they would want a more active lifestyle themselves too.

You have published a few books about the occlusal traits of aborigines in Peninsular Malaysia. What pinned your interest in this aspect and could you please share any challenges faced?

Since 2000, the government has been trying to upgrade the socioeconomic aspects of the aborigines. They want to catch the features of the aborigines that are not exposed to the modern world yet, an example being their curly hair.

I was involved in this field when I was doing my postgraduate research. My supervisor, Professor Rahimah had given me a collection of the data done by the researchers before this. The researchers were from University of Malaya, collaborating with the National Museum and University of Adelaide. We want to know if there is a difference between the teeth of we, modern people and the aborigines’. Some of the aborigines are still nomadic and their diet is raw meat. Because of their diet, we discover that there are more lateral excursions. Besides, there are some other interesting features among themselves like more class III malocclusions, more attritions, less crowding and minimum spacing.

Challenges occurred when the cross-sectional study was done. It was logistics wise as the researchers had to access the aborigines’ living place in the forest by helicopters or four-wheeled drives. They also had to contact the chief of the tribe beforehand so that he can gather all his tribes to cooperate in the study.

How will you encourage more students to be involved in research activities?

Economic crisis is happening now. We must act to tackle it by coming out with our own resources instead of depending on other countries’. A good example will be China, where it produces its own goods for its own use as well as exports. We must look up to that and move forward so that we get more people involved in innovative and research activities. By then, we will get to produce our own materials, instruments and gadgets for our own use and be independent of other countries.

What advice would you give to the current batch of dental students?

My advice will be to stay focused. Know what you want in life and be clear of your path, whether you want to be a researcher, a clinician or both. Work on it, make your way to your dreams and in the process where you face any obstacles or hardships, embrace and appreciate them as they make up part of your experience too. The saying goes, ”life is not a destiny, but a journey”. And remember to contribute to your country in any way you can using your dental training of five years. I have faith in all of you and I wish you the best of luck in the years to come.


Thank you.