The Alumni Interview: Ali Nabavi, DMD, class of 2010 & Danial Dehghani, DMD, class of 2009

Continuing our Alumni Interview Series, this time a special issue, since we’ve contacted two of the first graduates of the Dental Program of the University of Szeged and conducted a joint interview.

Both originally from Iran; Ali and Danial started their studies in Hungary at the University of Debrecen, but continued later on at the University of Szeged and have chosen since their graduation two different paths in their occupational lives. Read on to discover more!

 Tell us a bit about yourselves

Ali: I’m currently working a fulltime job in The Hague, Netherlands as a general dentist, and graduated 4 years ago from the University of Szeged, although at first we started to study both at the University of Debrecen in 2003. Since then I’m practicing 6 days a week.

Danial: Currently I’m working in Toronto, Canada as an associate dentist of 3 private offices, but my journey has gone from Hungary to Canada to the United States and then back to Canada.

What made you decide to study dentistry?

Ali: Simply, my father is a dentist and made me interested in this field, so that was my main reason to choose for dentistry, although initially I studied in a totally different field.

Danial: I’ve always like the medical field, although my major was mathematics and the technical field and studied engineering for a few years in Iran, but with health science being in the back of my mind I started studying at the dental program in Hungary.

As you know, the first two years of the program are almost the same as the medical program but reaching the end of the 4th semester and the beginning of 3rd year, when we I got into the more hands-on field it was the turning point for me, because I understood that dentistry is very artistic and practically based but at the same time related to medical knowledge.

Ali: I’ve never had any regrets in choosing dentistry during my studies, although at some point I had thought of choosing medicine and continue later with dentistry in the pursuit to study maxillofacial surgery, but all in all I can say I’ve never regretted choosing dentistry. When I reached third year, I went all-in for dentistry and never wanted something else.

Why Hungary and Szeged in particular?

 Ali: As mentioned we started our studied in Debrecen for the first two years, but transferred later on to the University of Szeged with one of the most important reasons being the higher ranking compared to other universities.

Danial: Being that said, also the people in Szeged were nice and very welcoming. Basically, we founded the dentistry program in Szeged and the professors and doctors helped us a lot in the beginning.

Ali: It was probably the best move in Hungary and we’ve never regretted that.

Originally my main field of studies was totally different, till I came into contact with a representative of the University of Debrecen who introduced me to studying dentistry abroad in Hungary

Danial: In addition to this, I’ve also got to mention that for me it was important that I wanted to study in a country where English is the main language at an academic level, and Hungary was offering all of these things in the English dental program so concluding from this Hungary was among the top choices.

Where do you currently work? What were the difficulties in getting used to the country you are currently working in? And what are your future plans?

Ali: Currently I’m working in the Netherlands, for fours years now as an employee in a private office. A hard thing to learn was the Dutch language, although it wasn’t difficult in comparison to Hungarian, so I can say that Dutch is an easy language.

So far I’ve not had any future plans, but perhaps in ten years I would like to open my own office, but at the moment I’m satisfied where I work.

Danial: I’m working and practicing dentistry on daily basis like Ali, but I took a different path, because I moved to Canada but in order to practice here I had to go through a qualifying program which I did in the United States and graduated from this qualifying program from the Virginia University, Richmond. Now I’m a board certified dentist in the US and Canada, but practicing currently in Toronto.

I’m working every day, but it was a bit hard to get used to the format since the Canadian and American standards are different from those in Hungary. All in all I can say it was challenging and full of hard work, but paying off!

How is the working environment?

Ali: The work environment is very satisfying at the moment, and I’m working currently for another dentist, although as mentioned that perhaps in ten years I would open my own office. Thus far, I’m satisfied where I practice.

Danial: Likewise for me, I’m working together with another dentist, as an associate at his office treating his patient pool. Of course I have to treat my own patients and have my own office hours.

How well do you get by on your salary?

Ali: Dentistry salaries differ from country to country and you can’t really compare that, since the amount of money you earn in different countries respectively coincides with the expenses you have to make. But at the moment I’m totally satisfied with my salary and I think you cannot even earn this much money in certain areas of England.

Danial: Everything works out well here, I’m satisfied as well. Of course everything is different from Europe since many of those countries have insurance-based dental treatments, but here it’s mostly a private business. People either pay the treatment from their own pocket or private insurance companies pay directly to the dentist.

How is the workload?

Ali: As mentioned I’m working a full-time job, six days a week, regularly from 8AM till 8PM, but sometimes even longer. Our clinic was one of the first in The Netherlands which introduced regular office times during the weekends and night hours corresponding to the working hours of our patients.

Danial: I have flexible hours, sometimes in the afternoons, sometimes mornings very different from Europe. It differs from day to day, since we try to plan our schedule according to the patient’s schedule since they are the customers. Depending on their work load, if they work in the mornings, we can receive them in the afternoons for an appointment or vice versa.

Also we have to work night hours, which is getting more popular these days, since in this economic era everyone works and nobody wants to take time off from their jobs for a dental treatment.

How well did you university studies prepare you?

Ali: At some parts I should say they’ve prepared me well, while on the other hand, certain things were lacking.

With regard to oral surgery and endodontics I have nothing to complain and those were really excellent. I’ve been taught the most up-to-date standards and they’ve helped me a lot.

What skills were you missing, but wishing you had?

Ali: One of the main issues I faced here in The Netherlands was treatment planning and diagnostics since both are important but as a fresh graduate are also those subjects in which you need to gain more experience along the way. I would’ve liked to see those more emphasized during my studies as well as radiology.

Danial: In my opinion you can never feel confident when you graduate from any dental school across the world, because dentistry is a very practical and hands-on based field. It’s totally relative which subject was stronger or weaker since it also depends in which field you start your working experience.

Correspondingly to what Ali said as well, they have to add treatment planning the academic curriculum as well as subjects like ‘complex treatments’ and ‘clinical judgments’, even though it hard to find the right patients for these, theoretically they should be discussed, because once you get to the practice, it’s a real case and you have to deal with it.

Implantology is an essential course which has to be taken up in each dental curriculum

Unanimously: in each country it’s always the insurance coverage dictating which dental treatments are performed most often. If your insurance covers implants, then you do more implants, if it doesn’t then you perform more endodontic treatments, but conclusively we can say that implantology is essential course which has to be taken up in each dental curriculum since it’s part of a new important era in dentistry.

Do you wish you had done something different during your university years?

Danial: for me it’s practical and Ali agrees with me on that. If you practice more in dentistry, then you can be a more confident dentist. Practice is probably the most important, because if you practice less then basically you are taking a risk.

Once you are practicing on your own, there’s no one who can help you or watching your hand to help you through the procedure, so all comes down to skills and your clinical judgment.

 What skills were most critical in your success?

Ali: This is also very dependent on the work you do now, since I’m doing a lot of endodontic work, endodontics was one of the most important subjects for me. The dentists at the university of Szeged, have taught me the latest informations and techniques.

As well as surgery skills I built up during my university years, have given me confidence to perform daily interventions in the dental practice.

Danial: Again this is very dependent on the work you do, for me it was operative dentistry and fixed prosthodontics. The Oral Surgery department at the University of Szeged was very helpful in terms of teaching us a good hands-on technique.

Any words of wisdom and advice for students trying to decide where and what to work with?

Ali: ‘No pain, no gain’, that’s what I can say, as difficult as the journey might be, because I know the way that Danial had to take to reach his current position, both in terms of time and effort.

Danial: ‘Don’t give up, work hard!’ If you see your future plans and work hard for them, then you will reach it. Don’t rush, because time is the least you have to worry about because you will get wherever you want to be, just imagine where you stand in ten years.

Thank you both for taking the time and sharing your experience and advice with us in this interview. We hope to see you back in Szeged next year September for the Anniversary of the Dental English Language Program!