King’s College London Dental Institute, often found at the top of the national leaderboards for Dentistry, regularly invites speakers to inspire their students. On November 30th, 2015 they hosted Radhanath Swami alongside Ash Parmar, a world-famous cosmetic dentist (who has appeared on shows such as This Morning and Extreme Makeover), to give a seminar on the art of decision-making. Professor Mark Woolford, Dean of Education at the Institute, shared his reasoning for the talks: “One of the things that I feel very dearly about is that we have to instill into students that it isn’t just about dentistry, it isn’t just about learning to work with this [your head], it’s about learning to work with this [your head] and this [your heart]. If you haven’t got all of that together, it doesn’t matter how good you are at cutting crown preparation or holes in teeth or recreating shapes, you’re not really going to do a benefit to the patient, you’re not really going to be a useful part of society.”
To give students an insight into how to make clinical decisions in dentistry, Ash Parmar gave a presentation on different patients he’s treated in the past. “I was honoured to be here. This was a chance for me to share, through my career, decisions I have had to make through my practice, giving the students an opportunity to think about their options ahead. The learning curve gets steeper when you leave dental school” he said. “The more you learn, the more you find out you don’t know.” His main message to the students was “It’s all about picking the right mentors, going on the right courses, and really working out what work or career you want to go down. There are so many different fields. You need to think carefully.” He ended by urging students to introspect and aim to become the best people they can possibly be, so they can carry out the most caring treatment.
Divya Pathak, fourth year dental student at King’s College London and Vice President of the Dental Society, felt the same way: “I took away that work-life balance is really important. Dental students sometimes have the perception that it should be all about the money, all about selling their skills to patients. I felt that Ash was different. He wasn’t trying to sell his skills. More, he was trying to inspire us to produce a positive change in people’s lives.”
Due to his experiences, elaborated on in his autobiography, The Journey Home, Radhanath Swami was requested to speak about ethics, morality and compassion in relation to medically treating people.
From the outset, Professor Woolford was impressed: “It was fascinating to hear the silence when the Swami was talking. The fact that people were genuinely listening; I wish I had that much silence in my lectures when I give them on crown and bridge work!” he laughed.
Radhanath Swami told the students “cleaning our teeth is natural, but we also have to clean our heart.” He added that “If we don’t examine the deeper principles in life, we will develop the plaque of bad habits.”
Professor Woolford thought this a fitting message, responding “You’ve got to look at life in a deeper way. It isn’t just about dentistry. If you don’t start thinking about those things early on, you’re not going to be complete and you won’t make a great dentist. I think you’ll make a good dentist, but you won’t make a great dentist. And doesn’t everybody want to be great at everything they do? Not in terms of wealth and power, but great in the sense that you really made a genuine difference in another’s life. And I think that’s what his talk left with me: making a difference. Ash said ‘You smile with your eyes.’ From the Swami, I learnt you can do dentistry with your heart.”
“When he said ‘when you lose your character you lose everything.’ That really hit me. You should always remember who you are and stay true to yourself” said Manny Abdullah Naser, a second year dental undergraduate at King’s College. His friend, Ria Kanani, mentioned “His demeanor and taking it back to your roots. You have to be humble and grateful about everything you have in your life. Wealth is not about money, but your inner being. It’s about your soul.”
Radhanath Swami spoke briefly about the dental and eye camps he founded in Barsana, India. The Barsana Healthcare Centre is an initiative that sprung from the overwhelming need for eye and dental treatment in the poor district of Barsana. “90% of people there have never seen a dentist in their life!” said Radhanath Swami. “The wealthiest doctors and dentists give up their life of luxury to come together to serve these people with the intention of making them happy. They are in great need” he added.
The project started from Bhaktivedanta Hospital & Research Institute, a state-of-the-art facility in Mumbai based on the values Radhanath Swami promotes like compassion, integrity and spirituality. Professor Woolford was eager to send his students to such camps, admitting “An awful lot of dentists have been seriously challenged by attending those kind of camps. They challenge their own beliefs, perceptions and lifestyle. It’s so important to take on board that there are people out there who cannot afford what we can do, who have never seen what we can do and have no perception of what’s possible by having normal oral health. And isn’t oral health something everyone should have? Two weeks a year, it’s not a bad thing. And our students come back better people, I know they do.”
Ash ended the day by telling us that “Radhanath Swami is a very special soul. It’s very humbling to have the honour to lecture alongside him. What I like about him is that he uses great analogies and stories so that the audience can really question how we can be happiest with our careers and our life in general.” Ash was so impressed with the Swami that he ordered 30 copies of his book, The Real You, to give to his patients in his practice as well as his close friends.