A toolkit every internationally trained dentist needs to have
Being a new dentist in the current job market is not easy. Sky high tuition loans, a shortage in the labor market (that includes assistants and hygienists), being asked to perform hygiene apart from clinical dentistry, and having to pay high rents if you prefer to be in the city, are just some of the concerns we are experiencing.
Couple that with being an internationally trained dentist, looking and sounding different than most other graduates, needing a work visa sponsor, and worrying about your immigration status in this country.
That’s a lot to stress about as a new dentist!
I was stressed too, a few years ago, when I moved here from Dubai. And, apart from being stressed, I felt pretty lost. I had a few friends who were foreign trained dentists (FTD’s) but many of them had green cards already or were getting sponsored by their partners. Immigrating is and always has been a lonely and anxiety- ridden process. And, although I love my alma mater, the fact is that most dental schools do not prepare us for entering the job market with confidence.
So, here is a concise toolkit for any internationally trained dentist looking for an associateship, based on my experience:
1. Put it in BOLD on your resume that you are looking for a work visa sponsor. Be prepared to not hear back from as many employers as your domestic colleagues do. That’s OK, the process teaches you a lot about grit.
2. Have an abundance mindset. Know that you WILL prevail and find the associateship that’s perfect for you. It is a matter of time. Do not take the first opportunity that comes to you. Have multiple offers that you can decide between.
3. You should know your value and be prepared to advocate for yourself. You went to dental school in another country, and then went through the competitive process of getting into an advanced standing program in North America. You deserve to be compensated well for your efforts. Ask a dental specific lawyer what the average pay rate for a new dentist in your area is. Ask for a daily pay rate and a percentage of production.
4. Indeed and Craigslist are not the only areas you should be looking at for jobs. Your network is your best bet in finding a good associateship. Reach out to alumni from your school, introduce yourself to speakers who teach at ‘Lunch and Learns’, and connect with residents, faculty and specialists. Ask if you can take them out for coffee and learn more about their experience as a practicing dentist. You will be surprised to see how many will respond, when spoken to politely. When the time is right, ask if they know of a dentist looking to hire an associate!
5. Send letters to general dentists in the area, introducing yourself and sharing with them your goals in dentistry and hobbies outside of it. What are you looking to achieve from an associateship with them? Why in that specific neighborhood? Create a small free website and put a link for that on the letter for further details.
6. Lastly, build a strong support system of mentors and coaches. The rush of confidence you feel, when someone is out there vouching for your work, is indescribable. Nurture these relationships. Nobody is obligated to help you just because you went to the same school, or both of you are internationally trained dentists. These relationships can take years to build. Be patient and keep persevering.
My new book, Persevering, is a complete guide to applications, schools and work opportunities for foreign trained dentists in the United States. It is available now on Amazon.
Dr. Sampada Deshpande, author of Persevering, is a general dentist based in San Francisco. A foreign trained dentist from Dubai, Sampada earned a DDS in 2018 from the University of Washington, where she also completed a LEND fellowship in 2021. She is a recipient of the ADA 10 under 10 Award, AGD 10 to Watch honor and Howard Memorial Award. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys hosting the New Dentist Business Club, biking the city’s rolling hills, and advocating for innovation in technology via her work at Samsotech. You can reach her for speaking opportunities by visiting her website www.sampadadeshpandedds.com.