Graduation and pathways

If you are about to graduate from dental school, then the days, weeks and months leading up to that point are going to be momentous. Never has your ability to organise, discipline and focus yourself been required to this high standard.

It is more than just the mere remembering of facts and figures or demonstrating manual dexterity. It is more than just the passing of finals. It is about who you have become on this journey – your character. You will need to govern yourself to a new level of awareness, let your mind expand and remember numerous concepts and teachings. To be present, prepared and powerful to take on the biggest challenge of your professional life up to that point.

Your life will go on beyond graduation so it is a wise idea to have a plan, a dream, a calling that keeps expanding you and magnifying your experience of being alive. I talked about this very thing in a recent webinar when a second year dental student’s intelligent question was ‘Do you have any advice for me at this stage in my life?’
I responded from my own experience and said that it would be wise to keep on learning from his colleagues, no matter how much he knew already. This would keep him in good stead for when his leadership abilities were needed. The next thing I mentioned was that as an undergraduate, he could start to plan what his practice would look and feel like. If he started to visualise his practice, the layout, the components, the teams of staff, the area of dentistry he wants to practice in and start to document this in ever finer detail, then this would be a very valuable exercise.

He would need to add to this document over the years so that even before he graduates, he has a clear vision of where his professional life is going to take him. I talked about how ensuring the little things like the sound of the practice doorbell needed to be in line with his values so that he could literally sense what his future practice would be like. Knowing that he had certainty with the structure of the practice, it would help him get more focused on the service element of the practice, the marketing and developing the business. When time and energy is focused on something like this, it grows and you grow with it.
Have a list
I recommended to have lists of things at dental school which worked for him and which didn’t work for him. In practice when I did this and had several hundreds of items of data, it helped me grow my clinical and non-clinical abilities tremendously. Remember to review this quarterly as you re-focus on your long term goals and dreams.

If you are an undergraduate, a newly qualified graduate, or someone who has reached a plateau in practice, then it is a good idea to go back to the drawing board and start to plan or re-plan how you would like your professional life to look like. It may be concentrating on providing clinical dentistry as an associate whilst the principal takes care of all the other aspects of running a practice.  It may be going into the community, the armed forces, hospital or a research post as a dentist.  It may be owning and managing several dental practices and ensuring they are run to a high standard.  It may be having a global vision doing something which touches the lives of millions of people and creates a massive impact in the world.

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Dr Nav Ropra is an international public speaker, human behavioural educator and dentist. For more information, visit

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