I’ve seen this happen so many times, international dentists end-up staying as dental assistants in the states. Actually, one of my dental assistants I’m working with right now used to be a physician in her country. It makes me very very upset every time I see it happen, you’re meant to be much more, don’t ever do this! Here’s a scenario I’ve seen happen more than a few times with some variations:
Aditi graduated from dental school in her country in 2008, practiced for a couple of years and came to the states with her husband as she got married. Her husband is a U.S. citizen and this gave her a permanent resident status, now Aditi is ready to get her U.S. dental license. She vaguely knows the steps she needs to take; taking the NBDE 1 and TOEFL, getting her education evaluated, shadowing or assisting to get some U.S. work experience etc. This all sounds like a lot of work but she has some friends that have done it so she can talk to them if she needs help. Studying for the boards was very challenging, Aditi invested 6 months of solid full-time studying into it, thankfully she has a loving supportive husband that brought her up every time she had a hard time. One of her friends knows a U.S. dentist and introduced her to him so she can volunteer at his office twice a week. As she’s doing that she took TOEFL, wrote her SOP, got recommendation letters and she’s now ready to apply. Finding places to apply to and making sure she’s doing it the right way was another challenge, and she couldn’t believe how expensive it was to apply, but she did it. She applied to about 10 programs and kept her fingers crossed, and she got it, an interview call!! She prepared as hard as she could and gave the interview her best, and got wait-listed. A big disappointment but she waited a few months, hoping the list will move and she’ll get in, but nothing happened. In the meanwhile she was studying for NBDE II, just in case it didn’t work out. She took the test, passed it and kept working at the dentist’s office and got ready for the next application cycle. She also became a registered dental assistant and became x-ray certified as one more thing to add to her CV. Know it’s her second year trying, she wrote a brand-new personal statement, updated her CV and got everything ready once more; now with the part II boards, she can apply to even more schools. She doesn’t want to take a chance so she applies to every single school she can, this time she gets 2 interview calls!! Excited but nervous, she prepares once more and attends the interviews. Again, wait-listed in both programs, she waits several months. The wait-list seems to be moving but she never got a accepted. By know she’s earning a little money and got used to working as a dental assistant, it’s already been a couple years since she’s been one. Aditi lost all confidence and hope to be a dentist again, she’s so confused and frustrated. So many times she wanted to cry while assisting, she was a dentist but the dentist she was working for treated her as any other assistant. She wanted to be a doctor again so badly, but nothing was working out, she had tried everything, so she just gave up and settled as a dental assistant, earning about $2,500/month…..
Do I understand why Aditi gave up?
Well yes, she’s never failed in her life before but for this she tried her very best two times, but it didn’t work. Of course she felt frustrated and hopeless…
Do I think she should have given up?
Hell NO! Aditi did give it her best; she spent tons of time on forums, consulted her friends and tried really hard to do things right. But the thing is, that could be enough for some people to get in, but not for everyone. She did what the programs asked her to do, taking the boards, writing a personal statement, and a bunch more stuff, even tried to get her CV looking good by assisting and stuff, but giving up without investigating further where things went wrong and just settling as a dental assistant??!! Unacceptable.
Seeing this happen over and over again is the reason I’m doing what I do, even though I’m super busy practicing. A general dentist earns $120k a year easily right after getting out of school, it’s a very rewarding and lucrative profession. And on top of that people give you instant respect when they know you’re a dentist, of course it takes hard work to become one! Find someone who can help you before giving up, it doesn’t have to be me, just make sure the person knows the ins and outs of the process well enough to see beyond what the average applicant does. It’s a much smarter move than staying as a dental assistant.