in My Dental Student Life
By Nabeel Ibrahim Published on 03/04/2019

I'm ENAZ ABDULLA and this is My Dental Student Life

Enaz Abdulla (Eena) is in her final year of Dental school. She is currently VP External at a Senior Clinicians Organization and a Dean's Lister in her 2nd semester of Dental school. Enaz shares her story and lessons she learned along the way in this inspiring interview. It was a pleasure for me to interview Enaz for My Dental Student Life.
Nabeel Ibrahim Avatar
Nabeel Ibrahim

Published on: 03/04/2019

Fourth Year Philippines Manila Central University Enaz Abdulla
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Manila Central University

Current Year

Dental Specialty Interested in
Periodontics/Digital Dentistry

One word that describes Dentistry

Favorite Dental instrument
Gracey Curettes

First off, tell us about yourself & your reason to choose Dentistry.

I started my path to become a Dentist a lot later than most of the students who choose to pursue Dental/Medical careers. 

My story began when I finished my Higher Secondary Education from CHSE in 2010 and immediately started looking for academic opportunities. 

However, this was also the peak time of students applying for Scholarships/Loans and the chance of getting one was a lot more difficult. 

The truth was that, I was not interested in the Medical or Dental field at the beginning of my search. I remember applying for a Tourism degree once which was just because I wanted to go for my Higher Education (back then this seemed like an easier option to get away with, I guess). 

Every time I was rejected, my desperation grew even more. 

After a while of "being out there", I applied for a job opportunity at IGMH as a Clinical Assistant in 2011. In the meantime, I continued to search for more academic opportunities. 

As soon as I started to work as a Clinical Assistant I began to enjoy the experience. I admired the Doctor-Patient relationship but my heart was not set on becoming a Medical Doctor. 

After few months of working at IGMH I was transferred to the Thalassemia Center for the same position. This was a temporary contract of only 2 months. 

I continued to enjoy my work and had excellent relationships with the patients and the staff. Few of the staff there were Thalassemia patients themselves. I deeply enjoyed every minute of my time there. Seeing a life-long struggle from a different perspective was an eye-opening experience. 

Few days into my work at the Thalassemia Center,I was offered to work (unpaid) alongside a scientist from Austria (a Social Anthropologist), who was interested to conduct Research work regarding the condition of the Thalassemia community. 

I was asked to translate locally written documents regarding her work into English. We spent a few weeks together discussing her work and her own achievements.

I was immensely grateful for this opportunity as this was my first time experiencing the benefit of Research work. 

I went back to IGMH after completing the contract duration and continued to work there for 3 years. 

By 2013, I remember feeling a sense of despair, seeing everyone else pursuing their goals. It was a difficult time for me to accept my own fate. 

By this time, my heart was set on pursuing a field related to Medicine (perhaps this might have been a reflection of my past experiences in the field). Yet, Dentistry was never on the list of choices. 

I applied for the student loan offered at that time and my first choice was Medicine. I remember thinking, "I am not going to settle for anything less than this". 

When I got the opportunity to study, I was unstoppable. I did not waste any time and started to talk to agents, and emailed every Medical university within the financial limit offered by the loan. 

My first choice was a Medical College in Nepal, because it was accepted by the Medical/Dental Council of the Maldives. Plus, Nepal was and still is well known by the Maldivian Doctors. 

However, I was disappointed upon seeing the condition of the college. Of course, I had high expectations for the well-known College life. 

I saw myself talking to my friends in the green fields of the Campus. Sipping coffee and discussing lecture notes in-between (thanks to the pseudo-reality I believed after watching too many teen movies).

But it was not only the condition of the environment that made me change my mind, it was also the realization that I was doing this for the sake of a degree. 

So, I came back to Maldives disheartened by my own poor choices. 

My family convinced me to pursue my studies in a field similar when I shared the experience. 

I got in touch with an agent who was in the Philippines. I was told about Manila Central University with a vacancy in the field of Dentistry. 

My loan was on hold and I was wasting my time when I could have started earlier. So, I applied to the University and came to the Philippines to study Dentistry. 

The rest soon became history! 

I loved every bit of it. As I started to study the subjects, I enjoyed reading and making my own notes. 

Most importantly, I saw myself actually doing this as a career path.

What would you say to someone who wants to get into Dentistry because of the perceived earning potential?

To be honest, I never saw myself in this field solely because of the earning potential. 

Indeed it is true that one will be able to make a decent living out of the field. Nevertheless, at the end of the day it is ALWAYS about improving the oral health condition of the patients. 

You could charge as high as you wanted to, but if the quality of the care you give to the patients is not up to its optimal, then there is no point of doing it. 

The main goal of giving the treatment is to restore the functional/aesthetic concerns for the patient. 

Most of the patients come to the Dental clinic because of aesthetic reasons or the tolerance of the pain had reached its peak. 

One should be able to dismiss the patient after eliminating the factors contributing to the chief complaint.

Therefore, if you start your journey as a Dentist in order to improve the overall health of the patient, the earning potential would follow automatically. 

For me, the financial upside to this is only a little part of what one is capable of doing as a Dentist. 

In other words, conveying quality over quantity was quintessential.

What is the number one Dental myth you have heard?

Dental procedures are painful. 

One of the main goals of treatment planning in Dentistry is to give pain-free treatments. 

It may always not be possible owing to a lot of contributing factors according to the nature of the procedures and patient factors. 

However, a successful Dental procedure is one that is free of pain (either primary or secondary).

How did you feel when you witnessed your first Dental procedure?

Similar to all Dental student experiences, I also had to undergo training in the simulation lab before I was allowed to work on a patient. 

We were not shown any procedures on a live patient before we experienced our own first Dental procedure. I simply put my training in the simulation lab to the procedure. 

My first Dental procedure was full of doubt and anxiety, and yet it was quite exhilarating. It was the simplest procedure in the training which was Oral Prophylaxis (I had a patient with severe calcular deposit). In layman’s terms this was simply cleaning the tartar on the teeth. 

It took me 3 hours and I was not able to do my best. Usually patients with severe calcular deposit will also have inflammation in the gums and cleaning would be a challenge if done thoroughly. 

However, the experience was a learning peak in my training.

How is a day in Dental school like?

I am currently in my 4th year of the course. 

We are also required to complete a year of pre-dental course( Associate in Arts) before progressing to the main course. 

After 2 years of extensive studies in basic Medical and Dental subjects, the course would progress to the clinical phase. This is where the students would be required to complete a number of Dental procedures on patients with Dental issues. 

There are 4 clinical semesters in the 3rd and 4th year combined. Clinic 1 and 2 will be during the 3rd year and clinic 3 and 4 will be in the 4th and final year of the course. 

My schedule in the first year of pre-Dentistry was very light and well, easy. 

The 2 years that followed was a different experience where a lot of late nights were put into studying. The schedule was compressed in some semesters and I had to finish the required syllabus in the given time. 

It is common to have exams everyday from the start. And in order to get a good grade at the end of the semester, we should be able to pass the exams that were to be conducted everyday. This meant studying late nights and pulling all-nighters. 

Now that I am in the clinical phase of the course, it is even more challenging. Lecture classes are scheduled from 7 am to 12 am or 1 pm to 5 pm. Either way, half of the day is given to fulfill our clinical requirements.

The students are required to find their own patients and finish all the procedures within the semester. Failure to do so would mean a delay in the course. The number of requirements increases with every semester (usually 25-30 patients with the required procedure).

My day starts at 5 am, or 5:30 am depending the amount of sleep I would get during the night. I start my day with the Dawn prayer and ALWAYS with a coffee! 

By 6:30 am I would be out the door. I am fortunate enough to live in a good apartment near the University. 

After classes I hurry to grab lunch before preparing my instruments by sterilizing them at the sterilization unit. I usually do this a day earlier so I would have enough time to prepare the Dental chair side. The chair side should be ready with everything I would need during the procedure. 

At the beginning of the clinics I kept a to-do list but as time passed I came to know what I would require for every procedure. I run through the materials, instruments, lecture notes for the procedure and mentally prepare myself before I do it. 

However, this is not the case when I have limited time. Usually patients will fail to show up on time, forcing me to rush through the procedures. 

This results in a lot of pressure and drains my mental energy throughout the procedure . I have made a lot of mistakes along the way because I was just not ready. 

Cut-off time is 11:30 am or 4:30 pm. I am always rushing throughout the day during the clinics and to be honest, the lecture times are a way of "rest" from the clinic hours. 

After the procedure I clean the Dental chair side, wash my instruments, and organize them for the next day. 

We are required to finish the procedures by 5 pm. After I organize my things it is usually 6 pm, and if I do not have any pending practical work with any procedure I head home by then. 

There is a prayer room inside the college allocated for Muslim students and I am so grateful for this. Even with the busy schedule of the clinics, I spare 10 minutes to accomplish the prayers of the day. 

As Dental procedures involve a lot of planning prior to it (such as stone cast preparations, false teeth setting on the cast for patients with no teeth), students stay back after clinic hours to finish their cases inside a room allocated for practical work. 

If I have such pending work, I stay back until 7 or 8 pm, or head back with the materials to finish it at home.

After that, I take a shower and sit outside the balcony sipping tea. I try to do this everyday in order to relax and to dissolve the stress of the day. 

I then head to the table where I do the practical cases required for the day or for the week. Prolonging these would delay me in clinics. 

We are required to work on our own for all the cases and show things such as the stone casts, complete denture fabrications, dental prosthesis designs, temporary crowns and mouth models for approval and are graded accordingly. 

The grades would then be added to the overall clinical grade at the end of the semester. Hence, working hands-on with every case should be done in order to pass the semester. 

Since there are exams (we have major exams every month), I try to study for few hours every night. 

However most of the days I end up falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the night to continue revising. 

To describe myself as exhausted is only the tip of the iceberg.

Which textbook would you recommend to every Dental student?

Phillip's Science of Dental Materials.

How do you keep track of what you need to do in a day?

I have a planner for my daily tasks and I note down tasks on my to-do list for the day. I usually keep a separate planner for my Clinical requirements to see my progress throughout the semester. 

This way, I remain organized in my priorities of Lectures and Clinics.

Many people fear Dentists. As a Dental student, what advice would you give to such people?

Dental fear is usually associated with the perception of pain that is accompanied with the fear of the unknown. This might be a result of a previous unpleasant experience related to a Dental procedure/ condition. 

As a Dental student, I would suggest to visit the Dentist before a condition arises. Similar to having regular Medical check ups, it is also important to visit the Dentist to know the condition of the oral cavity/mouth. 

This will ensure that before a condition progresses, it is taken care of by the Dentist. And thus of course, eliminating pain before you experience it.

As a future Dentist, what do you think can be done to improve Dentistry?

The current condition of the Dental field in the Maldives is poor due to the lack of technology and Dental laboratories. 

Although experienced Dentists are currently available in Maldives, they do not have the opportunity to exercise their maximum capacity. 

Since Dentistry deals mostly with instruments and technology, this also needs adequate funding from the government and willingness to do so. 

It is also important to create awareness within the community about Oral health education and conduct interventional programs through research work in order to improve the public perception of Oral heath status.

Finally, what is the one tip/advice you want to give to our readers?

Do things outside of your comfort zone. 

The My Dental Student Life series was created for the sole purpose of helping Dental students and aspiring doctors on their journey to become a successful Maldivian Healthcare Professional. Have a suggestion, idea or question? Email us.

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