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Dentistry and diversity: a student dentist's view

Blog Author Zahra Haque

Blog Date 25/09/2017

​​​Why dentistry?

Having always wanting to go into a medical related field, little did I know it would be dentistry at the time!

Smiling is a universal form of communication understood by all regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or social background. This can be negatively affected by unhealthy teeth and gums, which is where my fascination for dentistry stemmed from. 

Dentistry is a unique profession merging pain management and also confidence building by improving facial aesthetics, as well as promoting the maintenance of good oral health. 

Being exposed to my dentist during frequent orthodontic visits further cemented my interest in this specialised, science-based, practical and skilful profession. As I increased my knowledge through further reading, my interest grew and this is where I’ve ended up!

 

My journey so far

Attending The Tiffin Girls’ School for the past seven years taught me discipline and instilled in me early on a passion to achieve the very best in all that I did. 

We were strongly encouraged to take up sciences and mathematics, which many of us did. I loved science, particularly biology which led to my desire to study dentistry. 

Once I was convinced that this was the career for me I realized I would have to work very hard both academically and vocationally to achieve my ambition. 

I knew I had to gain lots of work experience not only because it was a requirement for dental school but because it would give me invaluable insight and first-hand experience of how dentists benefit a diverse part of the community.

 

Diversity: what it means to me

I have always had a particular interest in diversity, and I’ve tried hard to help assist people of different backgrounds to become active and inclusive members of the community. I’ve volunteered at a special school to assist special needs children, supported the elderly and sick in hospital and helped to feed the homeless. 

Living in London, I have always been exposed to a diverse range of people and seen the impact volunteering can have on the whole community.

I knew that these experiences would well prepare me for a career in dentistry. Apart from seeing the importance of gaining patent trust and cooperation for successful treatment and having good manual dexterity skills, I realised that dentists have to interact with a highly diverse group of patients, and to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect. I think it is practical to say that all groups should be represented in the profession to be able to understand and empathise with their needs.

 

The Miranda Brawn Leadership Scholarship

Through my extra-curricular interests in diversity, I was very fortunate and privileged to take part in, and win, one of the Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Scholarships​ which includes mentoring sessions and funding. 

Working with the scholarship’s founder and CEO, Miranda Brawn, has made me aware that although diversity in the workplace is improving, and some ethnic backgrounds, such as Asians are well represented in fields like dentistry, those of BME and other ethnic minorities are still under-represented. 

 

What needs to change in dentistry?

We think there is still a lot more that can be done to help ensure dentistry is a well-represented profession, and I have come up with some ideas on how we can increase diversity in dentistry:

  1. Let’s start the conversation about diversity and how we can improve it. We need to be more open to change.

  2. Miranda Brawn has said that “along with the efforts to educate, communicate, change culture, and stereotypes, diversity needs to be on the board and management’s agenda on a daily basis, driven by targets with accountability.” 

  3. Transparency is helpful as a motivation tool to meet targets and drive change.

  4. Diversity training for staff should be provided.

  5. We need to keep in mind that diversity is more than about race, and aim to recruit from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, genders, etc.

I hope my journey will inspire others to improve diversity in the dental profession, as people of varying backgrounds working together make a more productive and profitable workforce. 

Everyone can play their part by getting involved and volunteering for groups beyond their immediate environment to give back to the community and benefiting society at large.

I’m looking forward to rising to the challenge, are you with me? 

Zahra Haque

First year dental student


 

Does dentistry attract a diverse workforce?

We are planning to look further into how the profession can work together to widen access to dentistry​We are always keen to hear your thoughts on this topic and your experiences tooplease get in touch