A periodontics scholarship will help Dr. Michael Silva transform lives

Apr 14, 2023
Dr. Michael Silva smiling. He is in the dental training clinic, with a row of dental chairs in cubicles.
Photo by Matt Volpe

Dr. Michael Silva (DDS 2021) loves his field of study. He’s in his second year of a postgraduate periodontics specialization at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry and can’t wait to launch a career helping people.

“We treat gum disease and a big component of our work is also surgery,” he says. “Our goal is to try to save teeth. But if teeth are lost, we also help patients get back to a fully functional state: the ability to chew, feeling better about how their mouth looks. And that’s what I love most.”

We help patients get back to a fully functional state, and that’s what I love most.

Silva receives support from the Dr. Michael Oliver Memorial Scholarship—named after a fellow periodontist who felt the same way about his work.

We help patients get back to a fully functional state, and that’s what I love most.

“Michael also took pride in being able to help people keep their teeth and have less pain,” says Donna Corcoran, Oliver’s widow and a retired audiologist. To honour that passion and his career helping others, Oliver left a gift in his will to help support students.

For Dr. Michael Oliver, periodontics meant caring for others

As a young man in the 1960s, Dr. Michael Oliver (BSc 1966 UC) was inspired to follow his father into dentistry. After qualifying as a dentist and also earning an MD at McGill University, he worked for nearly 20 years as a clinical instructor at U of T. He loved teaching.

Dr. Michael Oliver smiling.

Dr. Michael Oliver

“Continuing education was important for him,” says Corcoran. “He liked to stay current himself, he liked to pass on what he knew—and he felt he learned things when he taught. He lived life to the full—he loved sailing, fishing and travel.”

Dr. Michael Oliver smiling.

Dr. Michael Oliver

Tragically, Oliver died suddenly in a car crash in 2003, aged 59. He left a bequest for dental students at U of T—something the couple had discussed when making their wills.

“He had selected a couple of charities to give to,” Corcoran says, “and I suggested he also pick something that was more personal to him, like students. He thought it was a good idea! Michael really cared about people. He always called his surgical patients the morning after their surgery to ensure that they were doing well. Many condolence cards that I received talked about his kindness.”

For Dr. Michael Silva, scholarship support is a powerful encouragement

An Ottawa native, Silva began studying biochemistry and biotechnology, knowing he wanted to go into health care but not sure which field. “But then a dentist married into my family,” he says, “and he showed me what a wonderful career dentistry could be in terms of helping people. Ever since then, I dedicated myself to trying to treat dental diseases.”

“I have to fund all my schooling myself,” he says, “so I put the scholarship directly towards my tuition. Because I got into the specialty program directly, I didn’t have a chance to go and practice as a dentist first. It is definitely stressful—there are some sacrifices you have to make to continue in school for an additional three years. An award that relieves some of that financial stress is amazing.”

If I could come back and be a clinical instructor, I would love to do that. I’m motivated to help people.

Silva hopes to open his own practice and perhaps follow in Oliver’s footsteps through teaching. “If I could come back and be a clinical instructor, I would love to do that,” he says. “I’m motivated to help people.”

If I could come back and be a clinical instructor, I would love to do that. I’m motivated to help people.

“Knowing that there are people that are willing to give money, out of the kindness of their heart, towards helping me go to school, that’s amazing,” Silva says. And knowing that it’s coming from someone who was in the same field encourages me to potentially, in the future, contribute to some donations as well.”

“It’s good to know that the award has gone to someone that has needed it,” says Corcoran. “It’s a comfort, as a family member, to know that with a scholarship you can both remember the person that you have lost, and continue contributing to, in Michael’s case, a profession that was important to him. It’s a win-win.”

If you would like to find out more about how to donate through your will, please visit the gift planning website or reach out to Michelle Osborne at michelle.osborne@utoronto.ca.

Visit uoft.me/giftplanning