By DN Staffer
Dr. Syed Muhammad Faizan did his Bachelors in Dental Surgery from Fatima Jinnah Dental College, Karachi, is the founder of Pak Dental Community (PDC) as well as its Foundation. He is currently teaching in the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery department at Bahria University Medical & Dental College, Karachi, besides doing his practice in the evening. He has also founded the Vanguard School of Oral Implantology in Karachi. This is how, he believes, the standard of Implant Dentistry in Pakistan will be uplifted to International Standards not just for the General Dentists, but also for the patients.
Following are the excerpts of the his interview with Dental News.
DN: Tell us little bit about your background, especially what made you choose Dentistry as your profession?
Syed Muhammad Fazizan (SMF): My father served in the Navy for about 40 years and my mother is a practicing doctor. I have an elder brother who is an ACCA and my younger brother will, Insha Allah, become a dentist in the next couple of months. Due to my father’s postings I studied at eight different schools and travelled a lot. I come from a family of high achievers in almost every field there is, so seldom did it make any difference to me about the position I had in my class. Too much pressure was already present at home. But I think it was great. It taught me to strive for the best through hard work.
I have a lot of doctors in my family and that inspired me to become a doctor myself. But until A levels I had Computer Science and had not planned to join the medical field. Two months before the final exams and for no apparent reason, whatsoever, I dropped Computer Science and took up Biology. What is meant to happen does happen, I guess.
I’ve always loved making people smile. There could not have been a better profession than dentistry to achieve my deep desire to do so. A job of giving people a better smile sounded to me as the best thing in the world, a great combination of art and science at work
DN: Who inspired you to go abroad for your post-graduation in Implantology and how was it different from Pakistan?
SMF:It was not just people who inspired me, but the opportunity and circumstances, as well.
Dr. Saqib Rashid, Dr. Hasan Mehdi, Dr. Irfan Qureshi were, among many others, and would remain source of inspiration for me. Not only did I find the much-hyped subject of Oral Implantology highly interesting but the time was ripe to think outside the box. If you think as an entrepreneur, which I tell everyone to be, you will realize that you need to target the area that has a vacuum.
I realized that at that moment there was no MSc in Oral Implantology in Karachi so went on to learn from the best, the Germans. It was substantially different. Germans have been placing Implants for over 40 years now. Through the years they’ve developed a strict and comprehensive protocol for Oral Rehabilitation by Dental Implants. They are now proving what they did 30 years ago as obsolete and moving on to newer and more effective ways of treatment sometimes contrary to what has been published in books by themselves. They also have a vigilant health body that ensures patient’s and dentist’s safety.
Only a handful of Pakistanis were placing Implants till as recent as 5-10 years ago. The last few years have seen incredible growth in the popularity and acceptance of Dental Implants. However, due to lack of well-trained dentists and lack of supervision and vigilance, we see more failures, as well.
DN: How important is it to go abroad for post-graduation?
SMF:I believe one must continue to strive for the best. Having a passion for something is one aspect of post-graduation, but in the present competitive world, it’s a must to go for higher education, especially from abroad. It is not just about acquiring up to-date knowledge of the subject from the best, but also about making you a well rounded and confident person who has a global perspective and personal relations. The improved teaching methodologies, equipment, systems and protocols are there but with that you also realize where the world is, what its moving towards and where you are and what you need to do. There is a change of people, places and circumstances around you that changes your thought process. It opens doors to opportunities which you might have great difficulty getting if you stay in the comfort zone of your home.
DN: What can you tell us about PDC (Pakistan Dental Community) and how it all began?
SMF:The idea came during my house job. As a fresh graduate, there was almost complete confusion of what I should do next and what path leads to it. Should I go abroad? If yes, then were. Which subject should I pursue for my post graduation? How much finances would be required? These were some of the questions that I had difficulty getting answers to although I knew a lot about dentists.
I realized that if I can face these problems so others might also. After I cleared US Dental Board’s exams, I made a Facebook page by the name of Pakistan Dental Community and like-minded people from different batches joined in and we started giving free career counseling tips on how to clear different local and international boards’ exams.
During housejob we also realized that Dentistry had become a business unlike any other and there was no charity for dental awareness and treatment of the underprivileged. I talked to all Heads of Departments, starting from Dr. Saqib Rashid and Dr. Hasan Mehdi about the idea and they were very supportive and so the PDC came into being.
During the same year, a friend of mine Dr. Ambreen Thobani and I got a research accepted for presentation at FDI in Hong Kong. There we realized we weren’t the only ones from Karachi, but from Pakistan. I promised myself that will change and formed a Research Wing of PDC with the mission of training people how to conduct researches and how to get them published. Every year after that we have increased the number of researches presented internationally under the vision of our General Secretary Dr. Hasan Mehdi and the work of our Joint Secretary, Dr. Saima Butt. In 2015, 20 research papers were presented at FDI-2015 in Bangkok, Thailand by people belonging to different cities of Pakistan.
What we also realized that a lot of people with passion and talent could not study further because of financial limitations so we started conducting Continuing Education programmes on cost to cost basis. The instructors taught for free which was amazing of them.
Then we decided that it was time that we got PDC registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) and take it to the next level and, Alhumdulillah, we did it.
DN: What were some of the key objectives of PDC? There is a perception that it is a parallel body to PDA, is it correct?
SMF: Of course, it gives an impression as if PDC is a parallel body to PDA and I am glad that you posed have me this question. But, as a matter of fact, there is a stark difference between the two.
“The PDA is an official dental organisation of Pakistan whereas PDC is not and it doesn’t want to be.
One of the main objectives of PDC is to support PDA in attaining its objectives and in filling the gaps in services provided by the government and private/organisations working in the field. I think we all should aim to strengthen the national institutions because only by doing so our country could move forward.
“In fact, the mission of PDC is simple but two-fold i.e. to bring Pakistan’s dental profession at par with international standards and use the applications for the betterment of humanity.
“It was formed as an organization with the aim of providing a platform for the dentists of the country to interact, collaborate and promote different aspects of dentistry which will not only help in the betterment of society, but also strengthen the bond among Pakistan’s dental fraternity. Presently it has grown to become a platform for dentists and dental students of Pakistan with over 3,000 members.
“The PDC aims to encourage research culture among dentists and dental students by offering them research and development opportunities in an international setting; promote and facilitate Continuing Dental Education; promote oral health education and improve dental awareness of the public; maintain a close liaison with `Pak Dental Community Foundation (PDC Foundation)’’ and assist it in achieving its objective of providing free dental services to the underprivileged segment of our society.”
DN: Will you please share with us the aims and objectives of PDC Foundation?
SMF: PDC Foundation is the philanthropic arm of PDC and a programme, exclusively for the awareness and treatment of dental-related diseases for the underprivileged members of our society.
With an army of selfless volunteers from around the country, to date 40-plus `Outreach programmes’ have been conducted in eight different cities of Pakistan and we plan to go nationwide, InshaAllah.
Among other cities, we have a self-sustaining team in Hyderabad which is headed by Dr Shaji Ahmed. Similarly, PDC Islamabad is led by Dr Rafia Lahooti, PDC Lahore by Dr Hammad Rizvi, PDC Swat by Dr Haq Nawaz. All programmes are conducted by engaging local students/dentists of that city as volunteers.
DN: What would you say is your dental philosophy?
SMF:To deliver the best that I possibly can do to the patients even if that means cutting down on profits. I need to be satisfied with the work that I do and I know for sure that I won’t be if I know that I could’ve done better.
DN: What are your goals relating to dentistry?
SMF: Apart from continuing PDC’s mission of uplifting Dentistry in Pakistan to international standards at the level of the masses, I’m extremely excited to announce the commencement of programs at Vanguard School of Oral Implantology (VSOI).The idea behind it is to uplift the quality of Implant Dentistry in Pakistan and at the same time make it affordable for everyone to acquire up to date knowledge of the subject.
You will find VSOI to be at the leading edge of Oral Implantology through education, research and clinical applications.
DN: Who were some of your influences that you looked up to in the field of Dentistry?
SMF:All my teachers have made me what I am today so I express my gratitude to all of them. But, the people who made a constant positive impact on my life include Dr Saqib Rashid, Dr Hasan Mehdi, Dr Sameer Qureshi, Dr Abu Bakar, Dr Irfan Qureshi, Dr Noor Wahab, Dr Asghar Mehdi.
DN: What are your strengths and weaknesses when we talk about Dentistry?
SMF:Good Communication, Interpersonal Skills and Handwork are some of my strengths.
Weaknesses: Much has to be done in a short span of time.
DN: Where do you see the future of dentistry?
SMF: Dentistry has changed dramatically through years and continues to do so. The world has witnessed great advances in the field of dentistry during past few decades. The future is already here. From simple X-rays to treatments plans and execution in 3D, the profession has come a long way.
Yet, despite the remarkable achievements in many countries, including Pakistan, have not been able to revel in the benefits of scientific advances and development in health sciences that have improved the quality of life. Our national resources and financial capacity or material are still not sufficient to ensure access and availability of standard health care for the mass population. There is a dire need to shape a self-sustaining system so that the advances can be utilized to improve oral and general health of the masses.
DN: When you reflect on your career, is there anything that you would change?
SMF: Not really. Everything happens, happens for a good reason. If you succeed in something you gain experience. If you don’t, you learn. All the people you meet, whether good or bad, teach you something and that’s what makes you who you are. I wouldn’t want to change anything as right now I am exactly where I want to be. I love what I do and there is nothing more satisfying than that.
DN: What advice do you have to the newer generation of dentists?
SMF: a) Always be honest to the profession. Honest to yourself and to your patients. There is no difference between us and a guy selling French fries at the side of a road. He specializes in making good fries and we pay him for it. He doesn’t really do a service to humanity. We specialize in fixing teeth and get paid for it. No difference. Let’s not make it a business. We were made doctors for a reason and making money wasn’t that reason. We’ve lost the nobility in the profession, but not the pride and the honor associated with it. Try to bring that back; b) perseverance and hard work is the key to success in anything that you want to do and c) never to stop learning and sharing knowledge.