After overcoming hardship, orthodontist gives back to support residents, honor family

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Grace Merritt

3 min read

Ali Ghatri’s life was turned upside down at age 15 when his father, a colonel in the Iranian army, was arrested during the Islamic Revolution.

“We lost everything due to the political circumstances back then,” Ghatri says. “When he came out of prison five years later, he had to start from zero and rebuild his life for his family.”

The arrest also meant that Ghatri had to leave the country to go to college. As a family member of someone connected to the previous Iranian regime, Ghatri was barred from going to any universities in Iran.

When he arrived at UConn for his orthodontic residency, he was welcomed with open arms and financial aid, something he has never forgotten.

“They did not look at me as a foreigner. They looked at me as somebody who deserves a chance,” he says. “Without all that help, I might not have gotten to where I am right now.”

As a result, Ghatri recently decided to give back to UConn Health to honor the resilience of his parents and the support he found at UConn Health. The Ghatri Family Fund for Orthodontic Resident Research will provide funds to orthodontic residents for research and travel to conferences to present their findings.

Ghatri, 59, went on to start a highly successful pediatric dentistry and orthodontics business called Let’s Smile Dental in the Washington, D.C. area. But he remembers the financial challenges he faced when he was in school.      

“The residents there now are where I was 30 years ago: in a situation where money was scarce,” he says. “I was working and going to school all throughout college, dental school, and orthodontic school. I want to give a little bit at least, so they feel that somebody appreciates them and is helping them achieve what they want to while they are at school.

Providing help for travel expenses

The gift will provide critical assistance to residents to help them pay for traveling to meetings or conferences, says Flavio Uribe, chair and program director of UConn Health’s Division of Orthodontics.

“Dr. Ali Ghatri has been a strong supporter of UConn’s orthodontics program over the last two decades,” Uribe says. “With his gift honoring the legacy of his family, the Division of Orthodontics will be able to support resident research and travel, which is paramount to maintaining the status of our program as one of the top residency programs in the nation and the world.”

Steven M. Lepowsky, dean of the School of Dental Medicine, is grateful for Ghatri’s support.

“The Division of Orthodontics has been at the forefront of research and innovation in craniofacial orthopedics, clinical orthodontics, biomechanics, and bone biology for decades,” Lepowsky says. “Dr. Ghatri’s generosity and support will ensure that the residency program will be able to continue this legacy by providing residents with continued opportunities in research and discovery.”

A sports-loving outdoorsman

Ghatri and his wife, Parisa, live in Great Falls, Virginia, and have two children, Navid, 32, and Sufie, 26. When he’s not in the office, he likes to be outside playing soccer or tennis, mountain biking, skiing, and sometimes even auto racing.

“I enjoy going to a local racetrack and pushing myself to the limit. It’s exhilarating,” he says.

He hopes that his gift helps residents now and inspires them to think about giving back in the future.

“My hope is that this money helps them go to these meetings, and get exposed to more education and ideas,” Ghatri says. “I’m hoping they can go on to create the lovely life that they deserve, and they can help other residents 30 years down the road.”


Support the Ghatri Family Fund for Orthodontic Resident Research 

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