The most inspirational, encouraging and nurturing women I’ve met in recent years is Dr Mali Aghelnejad. I orginally met her when I took my anxious first steps from general dentistry to the world of cosmetic dentistry and short term orthodontics.
Mali‘s story is an important one to share and glean from. It also conveys her strong motivation to succeed and the people who helped her get there. Her ideology against a common thinking that a man can do it better, is obvious and interestingly has propelled her to challenge inequality in a dignified, humble and inspiring way. It gives me great pleasure to introduce you Dr Mali Aghelnejad – the only female clinical instructor for Six Months Smiles in UK.
Mali, describe your journey as a dentist from qualifying to now
I am the youngest of 5 siblings growing up in Iran. I grew up in a culture where there were restrictions on women. I always wanted to stand up on my two feet, however. I was lucky to meet my husband who has encouraged me and supported me fully to be the woman who I am today. Without him, I wouldn’t be in this position. After a month of marriage, we moved to Sweden, where my husband studied for another masters and I studied dentistry, whilst raising my two boys.
I eventually started my private practice in Sweden but I wanted more. So we moved to the UK in 1999 and I worked as an associate for 4 years. I wasn’t happy however, as I wasn’t able to practice the dentistry I had learnt from Sweden. It was then I decided to open a fully private practice from scratch. My husband helped me run my practice and its been 9 years. I was losing my passion for dentistry and getting tired of every day dentistry. I didn’t want to place implants. I wanted to do something beautiful. I discovered orthodontics and that changed everything for me.
What was your journey to short term orthodontics?
Orthodontics was my favourite subject when I was studying dentistry. I couldn’t go for the degree however, as my boys were growing up. In 2011, I read about 6 months Smiles in the paper. That time there wasn’t a course in the UK and I spoke to my husband excitedly. The founder of 6 Month Smiles was leading the course in Florida. So we went for the 2 day course and despite the equipment being expensive, my partner encouraged me to invest in myself. When I came back, every night, I spent time on the online forum reading, copying and pasting other peoples cases and learning as much as I could. One of the instructors, Dr Noel Ananthan, was awesome and he mentored me. I kept reading and then using my knowledge for my own patients. I was gradually approached by 6 Months Smiles to become a mentor myself. and then a Clinical Instructor in the UK.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
Female empowerment to me means women being able to work, live and accomplish what it is the want to.
Who is your role model in dentistry?
Sadly I didn’t have any female role models. My role models within dentistry have been Dr Ryan Swain, the founder of 6 Months Smiles. I gained so much from learning from. The course itself gave me so much. I intially didn’t have the confidence, as English isn’t my first language, so I was worried. But with time, I began to realise that women wanted a female instructor. I now get women telling me how happy they are to see me teaching and that brings tears to me eyes. I always say, if I can do it, you can too. I try to raise a woman up.
Have you felt disadvantaged being a women in any way, compared to your male colleagues?
I don’t feel like I have been been held back as I’ve been lucky to have much support by my family and my husband. I’ve also always wanted to push myself and do something aside from being a wife and mother. I do feel however, that there are should be more women leading courses and would welcome it.