Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS?
My career path has been an extremely exciting journey to date, with challenges and encouragements that have made me the person I am today.
I started my journey in Pakistan, where I studied dentistry in 2002 at the prestigious Army Institute – Army Medical College. I was in a specialist training post in Operative Dentistry, at the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan at Armed Forces Institute of Dentistry when I was offered an opportunity to come to the UK for further education. Having always had a strong desire to study for a PhD, I took a break from my training, and made a pact with myself that I would come back after completion of my PhD to complete my training, but of course it never happened, and other opportunities presented themselves and I remained and pursued my academic career in the UK.
In 2007, I qualified with Merit in my Masters in Experimental Oral Sciences and Pathology from Barts and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, remembering to give my final viva just a week before my first daughter was born. With my clinical project, this degree was pivotal in both, widening my vision towards Molecular biology and giving me insight into clinical dentistry in tertiary care.
Choosing between an offer to do a PhD at Queen Mary or King’s, I went for the best and started my PhD at King’s in 2008 in the Department of Endodontics. I was extremely privileged to work under the supervision of two experts Professors Mannocci and Beighton. Being a dentist with a little background of microbiology, joining Professor Beighton research group nurtured my scientific knowledge, understanding and skills in molecular microbiology. The three years of my PhD were the most rewarding years, and certainly paved my career path from being a pure clinician to an academic.
I was an overseas qualified dentist, so to do clinical work in the Endodontic Clinic at Guy’s, I held a temporary registration with GDC during my PhD. In addition to my research, I thoroughly enjoyed clinical dentistry, so decided to do my overseas registration examination to attain full GDC registration. Anyone who has sat the exam can appreciate how stressful and competitive it is. Being a woman, I was further challenged as I was full term pregnant expecting my second child. I still smile recalling performing practical Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation exam while being 9 months pregnant! But I am proud that I succeeded and got my full GDC registration.
The Microbiology expertise coupled with my clinical training made me a unique and valued member in our Endodontics Department. The encouragement that I received at King’s and my passion for research grounded me here. After completing my PhD within three years in 2011, I took various roles as post-doctoral researcher, Clinical Research Associate and as a Clinical Teacher. Throughout my career, the support, inspiration and vision that I was given by my supervisors, mentors, Head of Centre and the Deans was integral in keeping me motivated and helping me thrive to achieve every milestone that I wanted.
In 2018, I was selected as a Registrar/Academic Clinical Fellow by the Health Education England to do my specialist training in Endodontology at King’s. Achieving this was a privileged position providing me with a secure platform to start my academic clinician career journey. The training was tough and became harder especially in 2020 when the Covid Pandemic hit us. But with my resilience, motivation and desire to strive for my ambitions, along with my fighting spirt and strong faith, I continued to thrive and cleared both exams of The Royal College of Surgeons of England and Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2020.
During my training, I was successful in being awarded research grants, which enabled me to further enhance my research programme. After completing my training, I was selected for my current role as Clinical Lecturer/Honorary Consultant in Department of Endodontics. My contribution in teaching was recognised at national level and I was recently awarded the Inspirational Lecturer Award by the British Endodontic Society.
So, looking back at my success story, I would say that in this entire journey along with my family support, the encouragement that I received from my faculty at King’s was integral in paving my career path to my present role and pursuit of future ambitions.
What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them?
Success stories are incomplete without acknowledging the challenges. While I see challenges as a relative term since everyone’s struggle is different from others. My first challenge was recognition of my overseas undergraduate qualification and getting on to the GDC register early in my career. I could foresee that my journey to get onto the academic clinician path would be longer, but I stayed committed. My focus, conviction and perseverance helped me along this journey. Although it took little longer, I achieved it. I am blessed with a beautiful family, who have always supported me however difficult the situation is. Some sceptics might feel that being a full-time working mother is a challenge, but I always felt that being a mother was rather a stress relief for me. Just being surrounded by the warmth of my family, my children, my husband and speaking to my parents allows me to relax and enjoy life.
Also, I learnt early in my career how to channel my energy to excel from any challenges. I have always approached challenges, small or big positively and were good for me as they helped me achieve higher things. I would say that my strengths are my faith, hard work and emotional intelligence which helped me navigate any challenging situations that I ever encountered.
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
One advice that I will give my younger self would be to pace myself. Everything has a time when it is destined to come. Don’t overdo to burn out, as an academic career is a long one, but it can be an extremely rewarding path.