A recent Facebook post reminded me that I moved back to Toronto seventeen years ago….which means I started my prosthodontic residency in Pittsburgh twenty years ago. I started going through some pictures of my graduation to remind me of what mindset I was like at that stage in my life. I found this one picture which captured two of my co residents and one of my mentors Dr. Azarbal in the the background.
I was smiling because I couldn’t wait to get out of school. I had enough of residency life…After ten years of post secondary education, I am ready to move on with my life.
But I really didn’t know where to start. I needed a job to start paying my student loans. But I didn’t know where to get a job. Who would want to hire me? And maybe because of my physical attributes, no matter where I go, or if I have already told them that I am a prosthodontist, people still thought I was a graduate student…or a general dentist. After awhile, I stopped going to any tradeshows because people always thought I was a dental assistant or a dental hygienist.
With the lack of confidence and guidance at the beginning of my career and along with signs of the impostor syndrome, I didn’t bother going out to introduce myself as a prosthodontist in the community. For awhile, I hid from the community and ended up purchasing a dental practice. The dental practice was a great opportunity for me. I got busy and I was financially stable. And I got busy with my family…Life was good.
Then deep down I knew I didn’t maximize my potential. I knew I have a lot of knowledge I can share with my colleagues. It would be a waste not to share.
So I got out of my comfort zone, I started writing a blog, pushing myself doing things I don’t normally do…I frequently invited myself to study clubs even if they are not interested in me….
Now, after awhile, opportunities started coming….one after another…I started seeing more interesting cases…cases that I was trained to do…I started getting more opportunities to represent myself as a prosthodontist…people started considering me a key opinion leader.
I had a lot of reservation writing this post. But I also know there are a lot of young dental specialists who needed a bit of guidance….because social media always shows the best version of people and never shares the ugly side or the struggles people have.
So if I were to go back to tell myself on graduation day, these are the things I want to tell myself:
1/You spent enough time learning in a protected environment. Now you need to start applying what you know and see what works and what doesn’t work.
2/Don’t be afraid of failure. You have to keep trying no matter what happens. Some days you feel like a winner….Some days you feel like a loser….Don’t worry…everyone feels the same
3/Believe in yourself. If you don’t, no one will. No one knows your worth more than yourself.
4/Just because you spent three years in graduate school, it doesn’t mean you know everything. Be humble….There are things you know more than others….and there are things you need time to experience. Experience cannot be developed overnight.
5/If you don’t see any opportunity, create your own opportunity. Life is not fair. Deal with it.
6/With the amount of knowledge you have gained, you owe to yourself to do some good.
Everyone will need to create their own path that makes sense. For me, my goal is to help dentists understand prosthodontics a bit better than they know before. Be the teacher and the mentor for my colleagues as they figure out the dentistry to help their patients. I hope this post can give some of the young specialists the confidence to carve their own path and to make the best out of their career. Thanks for reading!