by DN STAFFER
“Nobility comes with selflessness and compassion, when you serve without expecting return.”
Dr Syed Muhammad Faizan graduated from Fatima Jinnah Dental College (FJDC), Karachi. He did Master of Science (MSc.) in Oral Implantology from J W Goethe University of Frankfurt, Germany. He is also founder of Pak Dental Community (PDC). For his efforts in education, research and clinical expertise, Dr Faizan was awarded the Fellowship of International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) in 2017 and also recieved a Diplomate Status recently by ICOI. The award is the highest honor the professional society of ICOI can bestow on an individual involved in the subject of Oral Implantology. Dr Faizan is the Chief Exceutive Officer (CEO) of Vanguard Dental Clinics. He is also currently teaching at Bahria University Medical and Dental College (BUMDC), Karachi. He runs a vlog channel ‘Dentist with a camera’ on YouTube and Facebook. The page has a collective subscribers of 2.92k where he regularly uploads dental related content. With his utmost hardwork, Dr Faizan has made his mark at very young age- ‘a Youth Icon for Dental Community’
Recently Dental News invited him to talk about his journey as a practitioner and life experiences in dental fraternity for our readers. Excerpts from his interview are as under:
- Dental News: Was dentistry your first choice? What attracted you to this career?
Dr Faizan: Dentistry was not my first choice. I wanted to become a cardiologist. I come from a family which is full of doctors. My mother is also a doctor. I soon realized that if I had become a doctor, then I would have been one, just like many doctors already present in my family. So I opted to do something in medicine, but different from what everyone else was doing. I am the first dentist of the family. What attracted me to the field is that I like making people smile, and I have been told that I am slightly better at it. Making people smile and creating people’s smiles seemed like a perfect combination, and that is why I love dentistry.
“What attracted me to the field is that I like making people smile, and I have been told that I am slightly better at it. Making people smile and creating people’s smiles seemed like a perfect combination, and that is why I love dentistry.”
- Dental News: Tell us about your specialty. What made you go for it?
Dr Faizan: Regulated dentistry is relatively new in Pakistan, due to which most practices here are based on trial-and-error rather than on procedural methods…probably because Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and other regulatory bodies are not as effective, and Sindh Healthcare Commission just came into being. Underqualified people have been doing all kinds of specialized treatments. So there are bare to no consequences to malpractice; mishaps are conveniently blamed on fate.
“A person practicing implant dentistry for 50 years but without a degree, still does not have the validation that someone with a proper degree have. If you have the knowledge that nobody else does, then you can become an institution yourself.”
When I planned to pursue further education in dentistry, I took several courses and attended many conferences. Implant was the talk of dental town in Pakistan, when I graduated, I thought of taking that on. I soon realized that in our country, even plain BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) graduates were fixing implants, in fact quacks that did not even have a degree were doing it as well. Many asked me why then I feel the need to do MSc in this subject. The fact that there were close to no specialists in Implantology in Pakistan, was precisely my reason to go for it. That is how you beat the curve. A person practicing implant dentistry for 50 years but without a degree, still does not have the validation that someone with a proper degree have. If you have the knowledge that nobody else does, then you can become an institution yourself.
- Dental News: For pursuing higher education, would you recommend studying locally or from abroad?
Dr Faizan: I would recommend going abroad. Why? Because they have been doing it for over a century, whereas, in Pakistan we have only just started with post-graduation programs. So, naturally they are much better and more standardized at it than us; the education and practice is more protocol-based in the west, and their code of ethics is more developed. So, I would advise you to go abroad and study dentistry if you can, in any capacity. If you can pursue MSc, great. If you cannot afford that, do short courses. But you need to step outside this box called Pakistan (sic) so that you can receive the exposure and become a well-rounded person.
- Dental News: Your take on the pros and cons of MSc Clinical (Overseas), MDS(Masters of Dental Surgery), Pakistan and FCPS(Fellow of College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan), on global and local levels.
Dr Faizan: If you’ve got the money, do MSc from abroad. If not, FCPS is still the better option in Pakistan. Love it or hate it, but that is the preferred qualification. But, if you can do MDS from a recognized college, where the MDS program is recognized by PMDC, do MDS instead of FCPS. Why? Because in FCPS you do not get dedicated educators and instructors, you have to manage a large part of the training on your own. If you pass, you pass. If you fail, you fail, which [the latter] is more common. MDS program offers you a classroom setting. You attend lectures along with your classmates throughout the semester and take an exam at the end of it.
Globally, none of your local degrees are recognized. Relax. If you want to practice in the UK, you have to clear ORE (Overseas Registration Exam). If you want to practice in the USA, you will have to do your entire dental degree again. If you want to work in Canada, you would either have to give their board exams or repeat two years of dental education there. So whatever your higher education choice is in Pakistan, will not matter abroad.
“I read a quote which changed my whole perspective. That quote said: “When you are growing up, you forget to realize a very important fact, which is that your parents are growing old too”. It hit me hard.”
- Dental News: Why did you choose to take the US licensing exam?
Dr Faizan: Like every other graduate, I wanted to go abroad. I took National Board dental Examination (NBDE), because I wanted to move to states. So one day, when I was back in Pakistan after clearing Part 1 (of NBDE), I read a quote on Facebook, which changed my whole perspective. That quote said: “When you are growing up, you forget to realize a very important fact, which is that your parents are growing old too”. It hit me hard. I realized that for me to earn a million dollars 5000 miles away from home and is not my definition of happiness. I decided that I will not be moving to the USA; patriotism played a role here, too. My dad who is in the navy would say that if the educated lot would flee to other places, who will fix and maintain this country. It sure is more difficult here, but it is satisfying. So, I told my family that I am not shifting to States, but I did go to clear NBDE part 2, after which I returned to Pakistan, and here I am.
- Any guidelines for the young aspiring dentists?
Dr Faizan: When I graduated my father told me that medicine/dentistry is the only profession where you do not only get [chance] to earn money but also prayers from the patients, so strive for dua, money will follow. In every profession, the top line is always empty. You have to be the best of the best. But then again, work ethically and in a manner that ultimately benefits the patient and does not just fills your pocket. That is my message: bring back nobility to the profession. Work for free some times.
- What were the aims and objectives of starting PDC? Tell us about PDC’s achievements, how has it progressed so far?
Dr Faizan: All our lives we have heard and come to believe that medicine/dentistry is a noble profession. Nobility comes with selflessness and compassion, when you serve without expecting return. For instance, you go out and spread awareness among masses regarding oral care and hygiene so as to keep them safe from ailments from the mouth.
I remember a time from my house job days. Once a patient came to us in Oral Diagnosis Department with a cavity [who couldn’t afford the prescribed treatment]. Right after this incidence, a pharma rep (Pharmaceutical sales representatives) entered…he had some free medicine samples to offer. In that moment, I thought how these free samples can help the needy patients, but there are no dentistry-specific welfare organizations. And that is where the idea clicked… After receiving support and encouragement, I established Pakistan’s first non-profit organization exclusively for the awareness and treatment of dental problems of financially and economically underprivileged people…All I had to do was be the administrator, and provide a little bit of push and inspiration. We [PDC] talked to different pharmaceutical companies. They supplied all the toothpaste and medicine for free. All we had to do was link them to the people that needed the free things. We did a lot of outreach camps on a large scale. We went to different cities and villages. We started from Karachi, and then expanded to Hyderabad, Gwadar, and Swat, among other places. We did up to 85 outreach programs in about 4 years. We reached out to thousands of people and that makes me happy.
The second aim of PDC deals with dental research. In 2012, I went to the FDI (The World Dental Congress) in Hong Kong to present a paper. There were people from all over the world… [Delegation from Pakistan had only two members] Just two people were representing a population of 220 million… In fact, it was sad. When I met with other people from Pakistan, I realized that they were all participating individually instead of under one banner, so no one could really record how many of us were there.
“That is my message: bring back nobility to the profession. Work for free some times.”
Inspired by the incident, we formed the research wing of PDC. We conducted researches, we assisted people in conducting researches and [help them in] publishing with their own name… Back in 2102, at an event in Dubai, the organizer got on stage and announced that highest attendance from any single country was from Pakistan. That was really nice.
Lastly, we have the education [wing]. After graduation, most dentists only know the basic skills and even those lack finesse, [because] advanced skills remain missing. Most of them want to polish their clinical skills, they want to pursue courses, which is known as continuing dental education (CDE). That can cost them even more… What PDC did was that we got some teachers and experts on board and started conducting workshops at negligible costs. We would only charge participants for the rent of the venue, which would only amount to 500-600rs/head. The aim was to teach masses of dental graduates, because if the dentists know better, their patients would ultimately benefit.