From the age of 6, I was known to bandage my dolls and “play teacher” with them. By age 9, I had my First Aid badge as a junior Girl Guide or “Brownie”. By age 12 my skills were extended to bandaging my wounded kittens and my dog whilst advancing my skills as a First Aid Officer in high school. I guess the stage was set…. My ambition was to become a surgeon, to stitch and fix and watch kittens, dogs and people get better!
Then came the long and unexpected move to Australia as my family fled the shores of a troubled country torn apart by its ethnic conflict. With a 9 month abridged course in the HSC at TAFE, my HSC mark gained me entry to Dentistry at the University of Sydney. I knew there would some-day be an opportunity for me to pursue my dream as a “stitcher”, as my cousin who started as a Dentist in Sri Lanka, had gone on to specialise as an Oral Surgeon in England. Despite my left handed handicap and being often told that “Dentistry was not for left-handers” in a university setting in the 1980’s that did not cater for left handedness, I soldiered on, determined to prove to my instructors and lecturers that lefties could also do the job. I could not understand why such discrimination should prevail in a world where I was told, 10% of the population was left handed!
From being challenged to overcoming a handicap, to learning to be ambidextrous…. Dentistry was a challenge that I grew to conquer. As the varied nature of dental treatments and the necessary skills unfolded in my path of learning, I soon realised that not only could I stitch and suture but that I could make a difference to the quality of care, people experienced. My empathy for people’s suffering and seeing people feel better and leave my care relieved of their pain, gave me great satisfaction.
In time to come, as I set up my own practice in Cabarita and expanded my knowledge and skills through my continuous pursuit of post graduate education, I found great joy in bringing together my love for science and medicine, health and beauty, art and technology. Dentistry helped me not only relieve pain and suffering but also helped me enhance people’s appearance, self-perception and self -esteem. There is no greater joy than watching a patient peer into a mirror timidly and to watch the joy of seeing a fixed tooth, an improved smile and the joy of comfort and confidence!
From the little toddlers that hop into my chair for a ride, to the preschooler that is tickled by a play with “my toys” (my instruments), to the curious teenager that would love a debate on sugar and teeth, to the timid and nervous adult that is “petrified of dentists”, to the frail elderly that struggle to retain the last bit of their own teeth and dignity, there is a place for everyone, in my chair. As a Dentist I am a clinician, a surgeon, an educator, a care giver, a comforter and listener, an enhancer of self-esteem, one who can make a difference in the lives of others. There is no greater joy to me than all of this. I am blessed and privileged to be in this profession.