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The first Indian dentist in Hong Kong


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Dr. Jain, Please tell us about your birthplace and your family.

I was born in Delhi, India. I did all my schooling as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Dentistry from Delhi. My parents still live in Delhi and my sister lives in Bangalore with her family.

I am married with two kids both boys aged 9 and 15 years old.

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Delhi .It was very nice with lots of greenery, less traffic and a fun filled childhood. I was very active in sports and played table tennis at state level. I still enjoy and regularly play tennis; cricket etc. and as I live in Discovery Bay it is much easier to have that kind of lifestyle.

Does your family hail from the medical industry or commercial industry?

No. My father was a senior bureaucrat and is retired now. My mother was an engineer. So I am the only dentist or doctor in the whole family. My father always wanted me to be a doctor and I really enjoyed biology especially surgery and dissecting frogs etc. at school.

Did you always know you wanted to be a Dentist?

No. Like most people I wanted to be cardiologist or neurologist saving lives. But to be a doctor in India we had to go through a rigorous entrance exam in which more than 40,000 people appear and only 400 are selected. So my ranking was only high enough to enroll to dentistry from the prestigious MAMC College in Delhi. It has been ranked as the no.1 college for dentistry in India this year. Education was practically free and my parents paid something like 100 HKD for the entire year.

Why did you relocate to Hong Kong?

After graduating I migrated to New Zealand as I wanted to broaden my horizons, learn new techniques and experience the world. Then I got married to my wife Cherie who was working for Cathay Pacific. We had our first son in NZ and we lived there for 2 years but Cherie found it very nice but boring. She missed the hustle bustle of Hong Kong and vibrant energy that is here. So I came to HK initially to do my Masters in gum disease from HKU. One thing led to another and I got a great opportunity to buy a reputable English dental practice in 2003 right in the middle of SARS.

Would you consider yourself as a businessman at heart?

No. In fact dentists are never taught anything about business at dental school, which is a pity because most of us eventually open our own practices and become businessman. I struggled with the business aspect of dentistry initially but I have tried to learn by reading management books, and self-educating myself to do the best I can.

Tell us about your practices and when you saw a need to diversify into 4 different practices?

My first practice like I mentioned before was bought out of the SARS crisis inflicted HK in 2003. I was going to lose my job, as my ex-boss did not want to continue funding the practice. Expats were fleeing HK in droves and we had lost a major chunk of our patient base. Nobody wanted to visit a dentist for the fear of getting infected and we basically did nothing for the first 3 months. Buying a practice in those circumstances was a brave and foolhardy move but I am glad it paid off. Around 4 years ago, we bought another practice in Central, which was run by a New Zealand dentist. Around 3 years ago, we moved to Discovery Bay where majority of the population is western expat (Gweilo). I soon realized that there was an urgent need for a Western style dental family practice so I opened yet another practice there. This month we are opening our latest dental clinic in Tung Chung. All of our clinics are located in the areas of high density of foreigners which is our main focus as most of our dentists do not speak Cantonese. I also see a lot of Indian patients and more so in the past few years. When I first started practicing 11 years ago I used to see around 3 to 4 Indian patients in a month. Fast-forward to 11 years later and I routinely see 3 to 4 Indian patients a day. I am fortunate and proud to be the only Indian dentist in Hong Kong and grateful for all the support and love that I receive from Indians here.

Where are your practice locations and how do you rotate?

Two of our practices are located in the heart of Central, one in Discovery Bay, and one is opening in Tung Chung later this month. During the week I work in Central and on Saturdays I work in Discovery Bay, close to where I live.

What’s the tell-tale sign of a great dentist and how do you couple that with business acumen?

I have 14 dentists working for me and my advice to them is to just treat the patients, as you would like to be treated and never do any procedure that you won’t do in your own mouth. I believe empathy and honesty are the two basic qualities that every dentist should have. The rest can be taught. Even though I have no formal business training, I try my best to learn all the time from colleagues, friends, business courses and books. I am a member of Indian Business Association and there are so many successful Indian businessmen in Hong Kong who had been kind enough to guide me.

What are some of your goals you are trying to achieve, after everything you have accomplished so far?

My goal is to have a balanced life. I love to spend time with my two boys and playing different sports, taking part in outdoor activities etc. At the moment I feel that I am going to be very busy attending patients for the next 4 to 5 years and after that I will try to work less and manage the other dentists more. I have a master’s degree and fellowships from Royal Colleges of Australia and Edinburgh (UK) in Gum Diseases and I would like to focus on these. I am Honorary Associate professor with HKU and would like to continue that association and share my experiences with the young dentists in HK.

At some stage I also want to give back to my country, India as well. I want to open clinics in India, which can be of a world standard and also educate Dentists in India about the current best practices in Dentistry.

What inspires you? I feel very fortunate to have the skills and to be in a profession where I can help people by getting rid of their pain and by they look and feel better about themselves. It is very satisfying when you finish a nice case and the patient smiles at you. This is my inspiration and makes me wake up with a smile every day.

What are the qualities that you value in yourself and in people?

Honesty, Integrity and above all empathy for your patients are a must for any dentist.

Do you consider yourself religious?

Yes. But not in term of rituals. My religion is Jainism, which advocates that you should never hurt anyone and be helpful to mankind. I follow this practice even though I might not visit the Temple every week. I believe that being of any service to mankind is the biggest religion. For example I would rather make schools and hospitals than temples.

Outside of university/medical content, what would you advise anyone studying to become a dentist?

Get some business training, be aware of new technologies, constantly update your skills by attending seminars and lectures, and do self -study. Always have an open mind to learning. Be a better dentist and a human being then you were yesterday. Even after 22years of practicing dentistry I still learn something new every week.

What can a person do to ensure healthy gums and clear bright teeth?

Teeth can get discolored and dark over the years as tea, coffee, curry, red wine .etc stain them. Dentists can safely whiten these teeth. This can really boost a person’s self confidence as they tend to smile more.

Last but not least – tips for all the readers to prevent gum disease is…

Brush twice a day for 2 minutes. Floss your teeth everyday. If you are not flossing then you leave 35% of your teeth dirty. Visit the dentist twice a year for examination and cleaning. Prevention is always better than cure. The patients who don’t visit us for years are the ones who end up having maximum treatment and spending more money. For example, if small cavities are detected early it will prevent pain and expensive treatments like root canals or extractions later.

 

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