Celebrating 100 years of women dental professionals
Raj Dhaliwal BDS, LLM, MDentSci, MRACDS(DPH), MFGDPRCS, FICD
Where did you qualify and when? University of Birmingham 1992
What attracted you to dentistry?
I was always very frightened of visiting the dentist as a child, until I started orthodontic treatment at the age of 12. The orthodontist was so kind and took her time to explain the treatment and build up my confidence. Due to the number of visits I became interested in dentistry and undertook work experience at the practice
What are your current responsibilities in the profession?
I work as a dento-legal adviser for Dental Protection in the Melbourne office. I am also an examiner for the Australian Dental Council, and I assist with question writing. I am an examiner for the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons. I also undertake research and publication of articles for the Colgate Oral Health website
Raj’s dental story
I qualified from the University of Birmingham in December 1992 with a BDS. As part of my final year I was fortunate to be awarded a prize for my elective. This along with support from my supervisor and mentor Professor Raman Bedi led to my presenting a poster at the British Society of Dental Research (BSDR) at the IADR meeting at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow in July 1992. At this conference I was awarded the International Association of Dental Research Travel Award and invited to attend the prize ceremony at the IADR meeting held in Chicago in March 1993. I continued to present my research in the UK and internationally. Following qualification, I worked as an academic researcher at West Midlands Health Authority and completed my MDentSci at the University of Birmingham by research. The research was an extension of my elective, looking into whether mass media could be used to disseminate oral health messages to ethnic minorities. I went into clinical dentistry in 1994 and continued to work in both NHS and private practice and also undertook my MFGDP in general dental practice. My interest in the legal aspects of dentistry lead to my undertaking a Masters in Healthcare Law and Ethics at Manchester University in 2011. I was awarded an LLM with merit in October 2013. I then met Professor Ros Keeton who introduced me to the BDA Benevolent Fund where I became a BDA Trustee helping those in our profession in their time of need. I also became a committee member of the Central Counites BDA branch and helped to organise auctions to raise funds for the Benevolent fund on our annual education days.
Following my LLM, I became a clinical advisor for dentistry at NHS England West Midlands where I would engage with local dental practitioners and assist with complaint handling, record keeping and practice visits. I also became an Honorary Lecturer in Healthcare Ethics and Law at Birmingham University which involved lecturing and small group teaching. I started my role as a dento-legal advisor with Dental Protection in 2014, initially in their London office, moving to Melbourne in 2016. This role involves me assisting dental practitioners when they receive a complaint, an investigation from a regulator or when they require dento-legal advice in the way they provide care for their patients. The role has helped me to provide support and guidance when practitioners often feel at their most vulnerable.
I have been fortunate that my move to Australia has led to my becoming a member of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons via prior recognition. I have subsequently become involved as an examiner for the College and the Australian Dental Council. This has given me a great opportunity to meet up with dental colleagues from all over Australia and become part of the “ADC” family. I also research and write articles for Colgate’s Oral Health website. I was delighted to be invited to the International College of Dentists as a Fellow.
What has been your most memorable achievement in the profession?
Obtaining my LLM in Healthcare Law and Ethics where my thesis focused on adolescent consent concentrating on the field of dentistry and orthodontic treatment. It was amazing to be able to combine my years of training as a dentist and apply this to a new path in dentistry that I was going to embark on.
What advice would you give your younger self on qualifying?
To diversify and build a portfolio career as soon as possible. This allows the opportunity to meet other mentors and gain experience in other fields of our profession.
Which of your mentors have influenced you the most?
Dr Ros Keeton who I met when she was Chief Executive of Birmingham Women’s Hospital. I met her when I was beginning to move from clinical dentistry into the dento-legal world. Ros was a great inspiration and made me believe that we all have transferrable skills.
How have you used mentoring throughout your career?
I have used mentors throughout my career to discuss ideas and gain advice. Having moved overseas gaining mentorship has helped me to establish myself in a new country and within the profession. I am happy to discuss career pathways and provide advice and mentorship to younger members of our profession and those who wish to pursue other pathways in our profession, perhaps away from clinical dentistry.