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Interview with Dr. Abid Hidayat


📷 Smile Team Toronto

Journalist: Yumnah Jafri


Yumnah Jafri: Welcome to SciSection. My name is Yumnah Jafri and I am the journalist for the SciSection radio show, broadcasted on CFMU 93.3 FM Radio station. We are here today with Dr. Hidayat. Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today.


Dr. Abid Hidayat: No problem. You're very welcome.


Yumnah: We can start off by just a general question. Who are you?


Dr. Hidayat: My name is Dr. Abid Hidayat and I am the owner of the Smile Team. You can find more information on smileteamtoronto.ca. And I own a general practice dental clinic in Scarborough.


Yumnah: Where did you get your education from? Your undergrad? Maybe your master’s?


Dr. Hidayat: I went to McMaster for a four-year undergrad in Life sciences, majoring in biology and psychology. And then I went to University of Toronto for four years for dentistry.


Yumnah: And did you always want to be a dentist?


Dr. Hidayat: I started looking into dentistry in my second year of undergrad as a potential option. I knew that I wanted a job in healthcare, but I didn't know what part of healthcare I wanted to be a part of. So in second year, I was trying to decide between medicine and dentistry, or being an optometrist, and I decided on dentistry after I started volunteering with a dentist in Hamilton.


Yumnah: That's so great to hear. I know a lot of other undergrad students have the same kind of questions and concerns. Just in general, I'm sure being in your position today as the owner of The Smile Team did not happen easily. So could you tell us about some of the challenges you may have faced while applying to dental schools or during your undergrad?


Dr. Hidayat: I went from high school with a really high average and I got into Mac on a scholarship. I maintained that scholarship throughout my four years of undergrad at Mac. It was definitely very, very challenging. I remember in first year I took a computer sciences course and I didn't do so well which affected my first-year GPA. And then I tried to navigate what courses I wanted, what I was good at, but of course, that takes time. I think combined that with the social aspect of figuring out your friends, figuring out your own life, has consequences on your academic achievements. So, one of the challenges initially was also keeping good friends and company around you, or people that you can study with. It's also challenging when changing your environment. You go from high school, which is very protected to undergrad, where nobody is watching over you. It's a much bigger space with thousands and thousands of students and you're on your own. The workload increases dramatically and you need to learn how to study better, how to study in a way that works for you. Notes work for some people. Repetition works and people like to go to lectures. Other people just like to study on their own. So those were some of the things that I needed to figure out in the first year. As far as challenges past that, I had to write the DAT, so I had to study and write the exam. But after I narrowed down to just dental school in second year, I only applied to dental school. I did not apply to any medical school. So I would say one piece of advice I have for people applying, it is a lot more work if you're applying to different specialties. I think at some point you have to decide what is it that you really see yourself doing, and then narrow it to that. And then just go for that. Keeping options open is fine, but I think it would increase your workload a lot because different programs will have different requirements for eligibility for their admissions.


Yumnah: So generally narrowing your focus down to a specific field and then being able to work a hundred percent and give a hundred percent of your effort to that field. Is that correct?


Dr. Hidayat: Yes, exactly. And then finding people that are maybe your seniors to ask for guidance and see what is it that you might be missing or what courses they took that helped them out with the DAT. To increase their GPA and navigating those requirements for specific dental schools. Even within dental schools, whether you're applying in Ontario or across Canada, would have different requirements. So I think it's, it's important to narrow down the field.


Yumnah: What kind of advice do you have for students who are listening to this show and who may be interested in pursuing this kind of career path?


Dr. Hidayat: I think you really have to work very, very hard towards your goals and I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that it's gonna come easy, and it's not going to come easy.

And I think you have to be okay with failures. And you have to be okay with the amount of time that it would take for you to get there.

Some people will get in right after undergrad. Some people will get in right after third year. Some people will need to do a master's degree. Some people may even have to do a PhD before they get in. But I think my advice would be, if there's something that you truly want to pursue, You have to work hard, but you also have to be realistic. I think if you know that it is almost impossible for you to get a really high GPA, then you have to look at programs that are easier than dentistry or medicine to get in. Those programs are extremely competitive and you have to be okay with working hard and also sacrificing. You may not make certain weddings, you may not be able to do other things that you have wanted to do, especially in undergraduate. And I think you have to think that this is not the end of the world. Just because you cannot have as much fun in undergrad doesn't mean you cannot do the same thing when you're in medical school, at dental school. So, I think having realistic expectations, working hard, being okay with like sacrificing your time and sometimes even your youth and certain relationships to focus on what you need to get done. I think you have to be extremely goal-oriented and focused.


Yumnah: I especially noticed the point that everyone's success is not linear. It’s very respective to what they're experiencing in their own personal lives. And that you should not look at other people's experience as like a marker towards what you should be achieving.


Dr. Hidayat: And you will see, even in undergrad, some people will have to study quite little and still do well, and other people have to study quite a lot to get those grades. But in the end, I always say nothing beats a good work ethic. I think you have to develop a very good work ethic because you're gonna need it in school. You're going to need it when you are practicing dentistry. You're going to need it in life generally. So I would say develop a good work ethic and a good attitude about things. And you have to be okay with making mistakes.


Yumnah: And kind of moving on to a broader perspective, what do you think our scientific community needs the most right now? Especially in regards to the field that you're in currently?


Dr. Hidayat: I think specifically talking about Canada, we definitely need companies that produce sundries and technology within Canada. I think we depend a lot; looking at other countries like the US and Europe and so forth, for importing goods into Canada. And I think Covid really put a damper on those things. And that's when we truly realized how far behind Canada is in the country in terms of production. And I think that's something that we need to work on. I think we have a lot of really smart people, but it's extremely challenging for international graduates and for foreigners to set their shops in Canada, whether it is being accepted into dentistry or whether it is setting up shops or whether it is setting up businesses specifically in dentistry. So I think the scientific community has to work hard along with the politicians to come up with plans that regulate these things so we have access to local products so something like Covid happens again, we are not so far behind and there's not a huge lack of gowns and gloves and sundries and day-to-day things that you need in a medical facility or in dental facility.


Yumnah: Hopefully, something like Covid-19 doesn't happen again. But you are absolutely correct that we need to be able to plan for these things in advance for the betterness of Canadian citizens. And our final question, what is the biggest misconception that people have in terms of keeping their oral hygiene or teeth in tip-top shape?


Dr. Hidayat: Well, one of the misconceptions that I often hear amongst people that are newly immigrated to Canada is that when they do their scaling appointments, which is essentially cleaning appointments, it’s going to cause damage to your teeth. They're okay with missing many hygiene appointments, and I think that is a huge misnomer. I think we have to get rid of perspective that that would happen. I think people need to realize that regular care appointments are extremely important. I will tell my patients that

finding things when they're in early stages of disease is a lot easier, is a lot better, is a lot more conservative for your teeth.

Treatments are a lot more invasive and that's where people make the mistakes, a lot of people. That a hygiene appointments are not that important and if they do not have any symptoms, that they're okay when a lot of things can be happening inside your mouth with absolutely no symptoms. I see it every single day that people have massive cavities or infections that are stagnant, but very obvious that need to be treated and we can only pick those up if a patient is responsible for their regular care appointments.


Yumnah: And how would you say would be the best way of informing the public about this?


Dr. Hidayat: I think from a governmental point of view or from an educational point of view, we need health policies that advertise dentists like medicine. Just like you need regular physicals or regular blood work. You need regular dental care, just like you need regular checkups for your eyes. You need regular checkups for your teeth and inside your mouth. You know, your diseases can range from having cysts and tumors to oral cancer, cavities, infections, all sorts of things. You know, tonsil stones. So there's a lot of disease that can happen in the mouth and I think we need to advertise better. I think we need to educate students earlier on. And I think overall that would limit the amount of emergencies that hospitals see that are solely dental related. Because people just don't have access to dental care the way they should.


Yumnah: In order to have the public as a whole be aware of this issue, it should definitely be implemented into our education from an early age. Did you have any specific courses that you took during your undergrad that really stood out to you or that you really enjoyed?


Dr. Hidayat: Well, I went to McMaster, so some of the courses that I really enjoyed, were abnormal psychology. Another course that I really enjoyed was called critical thinking. I also enjoyed courses like geography and music and English. Those were like my elective courses. But you know, I think each you may not use all of the knowledge that's important to you in those courses, but you will find that little small pieces of information come very useful later on. I think abnormal psych, was a great course because it taught you a lot about different DSM disorders and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and depression and anxiety specifically, and how it relates to your day-to-day life of patients and so forth.


Yumnah: And I believe that's all for our interview today. Thank you so much, and that's it for this week of SciSection. Make sure that you check out our podcast available on global platforms for our latest interview.