Rami Shahrouri, DDS, BA Biology
Dentist, Great Expressions Dental Centers, Lathrup Village, MI
I still recall the feeling of frustration when my parents explained to me that our dental insurance had been cancelled, which resulted in minimal dental office visits. Having been 15 years old at the time, I was living in a home where receiving dental care was a luxury rather than a necessity. However, oral hygiene and a great smile were important to me. During a visit to my dentist office I explained to him my situation. He proceeded to give me his email and urged me to email him with any questions or concerns that I had. From then on, he taught me about prevention and finding affordable ways to maintain a healthy smile. My dentist had such a positive impact on me, as my family went through a tough financial time. I am grateful for this opportunity to maintain my dental care. Moving forward, I wanted an opportunity to influence lives the way that my dentist influenced mine. I looked up to my dentist as a role model of adequacy and he sparked my initial interest in the field of dentistry.
By the time I started my undergraduate degree, the memory of what my dentist had done for me became less vivid. While thinking about possible careers one day, I recalled the enthusiasm I once had for dentistry. I decided that I should shadow a dentist and see if it could be a good career for me and something that I can see myself committing to. Unfortunately, my dentist retired around the same time that I was looking to shadow. So with the help of the Yellow Pages, I found a doctor willing to allow me to shadow him. He was kind enough to provide me the opportunity to watch him work and observe his daily routine. I was able to see bridges, crowns, implants and annual checkups. Watching him work with his hands brought to my attention how much I would love to be able to incorporate that in a career. However, I was reminded of my passion for dentistry when I interacted with a patient who was in a great deal of pain and happened to only speak Arabic. My ability to speak Arabic allowed me to communicate between the patient and the doctor. With my help, the doctor was able to relieve her pain. Afterwards, she was so grateful that she gave me a hug and thanked me for being able to explain her situation. It struck me immediately that it was the interaction with patients that elevated dentistry above all other professions and was the main source of my enthusiasm years ago. The more I shadowed, the more I desired to be a dentist.
After years of hard work and dedication, I achieved my dream of making it into dental school. I had no idea what was in store for me and was shocked at the amount of work required to stay afoot. I would often find myself overwhelmed and wondering if it was all worth it. After two years of intense book work, I finally found myself in a clinic treating patients. As with all professional school, I found myself exhausted, and after years of having my head buried in a textbook it seemed as if I had forgotten what made me so passionate about this profession in the first place. I was given the opportunity to serve as a dentist on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. The experience was everything that I hoped it would be, and more. Being able to treat these patients who would otherwise be unable to see a dentist was an amazing experience. We helped countless people in 4 days at the clinic, including many children. Serving the underprivileged gave me the sense of purpose that I had seemed to have lost somewhere in the previous years. I found myself on the same trip one year later, this time as a mentor to younger dental students. The experience I had on each of the trips gave me the push and motivation that I needed to graduate.
Reflecting back, I have been graduated from dental school for a year, and took my knowledge of dentistry into the real world. Writing this column has given me the chance to once again reflect on my career and my ambition to help those less fortunate and in need of adequate dental care. With every patient I treat, I remind myself what makes my job the greatest job in the world. It’s not the paycheck, the job security, or the flexible schedule; I have the greatest job there is because I have the opportunity to reach out and help people every day. There will always be bad days at work, and mornings where I want to stay in bed, however, I could not ask for a more fulfilling job. I plan to continue doing mission trips and hope to create one of my own in the future. Each day I am thankful for my childhood dentist, who created that interest and spark in my younger self. Without his kindness and compassion, I may not be where I am today.