I would like to introduce a very passionate and talented young dentist – Dr Rhona Eskander. She is genuinely pushing the boundaries within dentistry and female empowerment and an asset to women in dentistry. I had the pleasure to discuss female empowerment and her journey recently.
Mahrukh; Tell me about yourself
Rhona; My name is Rhona and I’m a young dentist practising in the Chelsea and Kensington area. I completed my VT in Kent about 5 years ago and stayed at the practice but there was no ability for me to push things forward. I was doing a lot of courses but not able to practise them. I tried to build my skills as much as possible and ended up CV dropping all around London. Eventually, after a couple of years, a practice in Kensington called and said they had space for me to cover maternity leave. I left the practice in Kent and now I’m still there a few years later! The practice wasn’t doing so well but with the help with the practice manager, we were able to turn that around. Now it’s a fully thriving practice and I’m about to buy it!
Mahrukh; What was that first initial tipping force to move you to the next step, from NHS to cosmetic dentistry?
Rhona: After going on Rahul’s course, I realised I didn’t want to be the general drill, fill and pay the bill kind of dentist. I wanted to make a difference and make a person feel better about their smile. For me, that was through cosmetic dentistry. I knew that my practice in Kent wasn’t giving me that. My boss wasn’t forward thinking. I didn’t have the opportunity to grow. I started reading a lot of books and listening to amazing Ted talks. One of those books was one by Jack Canfield, ‘The Success Principle’, and he states that everything in your life, you are accountable for. I realised that you have to be practice rather than reactive to your circumstances. Simon Sinek’s book is also amazing. He talks about finding out your ‘why’ and your passion.
Mahrukh; What was your VT experience like?
VT was a horrendous time for me. I didn’t get a place and so my confidence shattered. I applied to lots of places in the south, near to my family, but I didn’t get a place in London. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I got one place in Kent and it wasn’t my choice. I felt really sorry for myself for a long time. I felt like this wasn’t how I imagined life to be after uni. I was doing well in dental school. I didn’t have a vision to do big cosmetic cases until I started going on courses and realising how much of an impact it could make on people’s lives.
Mahrukh; Whats does female empowerment mean to you?
Rhona: My understanding of female empowerment is that a woman can be exactly who she wants to be in society. They can take on the roles they want to take and not feel intimidated. They can be who they want to be without any judgement.
Mahrukh; Have you experienced negativity from other dentists the more empowered you’ve become?
Rhona; There have been male bullies online that I have come across in forums. Sometimes I have had my name crop up and some male dentists have criticised me for putting myself out there in the media. But at the end of the day, I don’t care and I block those dentists out. I feel like I shouldn’t stop because everything I do is to empower the public.
A lot of bully male dentists online would say that I’ve paid for a lot of PR and that’s why I’m so successful. That’s not the case at all. A lot of press people like me because I embrace who I am. I am fun and glamorous. I like to form relationships with patients and that’s important. I like to talk to patients on an emotional level. We can talk so scientifically. In between that conversation, get to know your patient. Get a feel for who they are.
Mahrukh; Brene Brown, the famous American researcher, champions show conveying vulnerability can foster strong connection and that the common thread amongst the people who were living their best lives, was the power of sharing their story, flaws and all. Do you feel like there is a platform to do this currently in dentistry?
Rhona: I think people are really scared of showing their vulnerability. I think there may be a lot of egos involved in our industry and narcissism. I’m not afraid to talk about my mistakes. I always say,’ fail,fail fail’ because that’s the only way you’ll learn. You make mistakes and reflect upon them and improve. As dentists we don’t like to show vulnerabilities, because if you do, you’re saying you’re not good enough.
Mahrukh; What would be a good way to address and challenge that?
Rhona: I think if you have a group of influential dentists challenging the stigma, that helps. For example, Jamie Oliver’s campaign against big corporate companies promoting unhealthy products. It had a knock on effect and doctors got involved posting on social media. If you had even one influential dentist speaking about mistakes and others tag on from that, to repost etc, it would be effective.
Mahrukh; Who would you say have been your role models within dentistry?
Rhona; I’ve had a lot of role models. Rahul Doshi and his wife as a duo act are amazing. They were running the ‘Perfect Smile’ course. They really changed things for me. Since then there are so many people whom I admire. The list is really long. You have people like Monik and his Totally Composite course. Minesh Patel who does beautiful dentistry. Simon Chard. Slaine and Shivana also. There is so much jealousy in the world. Everyone is trying to compete but I feel like women should be helping one another.
Mahrukh; Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Rhona; My next step is having my own practice. A lot of people have been approaching me about speaking more. For me, empowering the public is really important. In May I’ll be doing a talk with Soho House, debunking health fads, such as charcoal toothpaste and coconut pulling. I want to be very hands on with the public. That may be through charity work or work with brands to empower the public. I’m also working closely with Invisalign and Aligner Consulting, where I’ll be teaching short term orthodontics.
Mahrukh; What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Embrace failure. Reflect and learn from it. You can’t shy away from things. Invest in yourself. Its the best thing you can do with your money. Don’t just spend it on the car or a handbag. Spend it on your learning. Your education. Your spiritual learning. Make sure you take time to chill out. To meditate and socialise. Always find time to help other people.