Diversity has been a 'hot topic' of late, with frequent debates occurring both on TV and radio. As a dentist hailing from an ethnic minority, I was encouraged to share my own experience after reading a recent BDA blog on the issue.
For individuals from African and Caribbean backgrounds specifically like myself, there are few role models to seek support and advice from. I considered dentistry after completing a BSc in Biomedical Sciences and deciding against a career in medicine.
Medicine is highly populated with black students, highlighted to me particularly as an undergraduate dental student attending an Afro-Caribbean society event at Bart's Medical and Dental School Student Union. The overwhelming majority of attendees were medical undergraduates, with only five dental undergraduates across all the year groups.
I believe that dentistry, like several historic professions, remains as much a game of who you know, as well as what you know. Thanks to the congeniality of a dentist local to me who allowed me to shadow for several weeks I gained some valuable knowledge about the profession. I also benefitted from my parent's knowledge and experience with higher education.
Despite this, I found it very difficult to obtain further insight beyond my initial time shadowing, and believe a lack of necessary contacts was the reason for this. If we consider the socio-economic challenges faced by children of heritage to myself, who additionally lack adequate educational support and guidance, it is unsurprising that poor representation exists.
Further to this, under-representation can convey the image that dentistry is not a viable career for them. These are challenges faced before students even apply to dental schools.
Additionally, it is my belief that uneven representation places similar unconscious opinions and biases from individuals in the profession and from patients, with the belief that it is somehow a profession not suited to Afro-Caribbean individuals, or women in particular.
I have throughout my career encountered a variety of responses from surprise to disbelief at my position as a dentist, sometimes having to assert my qualifications.
Lastly, I recognise that it is not enough for me and dentists within the Afro-Caribbean community to just be aware of the issues, but that we also hold an important role in contributing to the solution, and I personally accept my responsibility to do so.
Furthermore, within the profession, I would welcome a discussion on how we work together to make dentistry a more attract proposition for a more diverse range of people - if you have any comments or would like to share your experiences too, please get in touch.
Get your voice heard
The BDA's Young Dentists Committee is offering you a chance to discuss your views and share your experience. If you'd like to write an article for our next e-newsletter, please email us.
We'd also love to hear your thoughts on our blogs: please give feedback by tweeting @TheBDA, using the hashtag #youngdentists