Versha Miyanger speaks to two young and very talented orthodontists Faranak Modarai and Sarah Akram from Metamorphosis Orthodontics who have proved to be experts in the making
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what or who made you choose a career in orthodontics?
Faranak Modarai: I was born in Tehran and moved to London with my family at the age of seven. I grew up in west London and studied dentistry at Guy’s and St Thomas’. As a dental student, orthodontics was my favourite speciality. I was fascinated by the subject but got very little exposure. After qualifying I spent three years as a senior house officer in oral and maxillofacial surgery and paediatric training. Throughout this time I was able to attend orthodontic clinics, treat patients requiring orthognathic surgery and publish the findings of audit and research projects I carried out.
During my general professional training I completed MFDS at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. I spent three years working in practice in Surrey and west London before starting my specialist training at Kingston Hospital and King’s College London. This led to an MOrth qualification and entry onto the GDC specialist list. I was delighted to join Metamorphosis Orthodontic Practice shortly after.
Sarah Akram: I feel very fortunate that my training to date has been primarily focused in London, which has meant receiving a world-class education by some of the most renowned figures in dentistry. I completed my undergraduate training in dentistry at GKT. After which, ranking first place in the short-listing process I obtained a place in a highly competitive and much sought after vocational training practice. I was very lucky to have the support and training from an excellent mentor, Dr Len D’Cruz and it’s really from this time I knew that I wanted to specialise in something. However, at that stage I was still not sure which route to pursue.
Having finished a year in practice I embarked on a year as a senior house officer in oral and maxillo-facial surgery at University College Hospital, Eastman Dental Institute and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. My experience during this one year was phenomenal and it opened my eyes to the vast and various specialties of dentistry: from complex wisdom tooth extractions to management of advanced head and neck cancer patients. However, I was most drawn by the oral surgery-orthodontic interface and the osteotomy procedure for dento-facial abnormalities left me craving more knowledge in this area. I realised that my interests lay in orthodontics. Having completed my exams for the membership to the Royal College of Surgeons I decided to apply for the competitive specialty training programme in orthodontics!
Can you tell us about your three-year training programme at KCL?
FM: The training programme was an unforgettable period. It really is a demanding course because there is a steep learning curve and ongoing emphasis on academic learning as well as clinical care of patients. There is an amazing sense of camaraderie between colleagues and it is a big achievement to get through the challenge and make it to the finish line! I was based at Kingston Hospital for most of the clinical component with a lot of the academic work based at Guy’s Hospital. Both units have a very inviting and friendly atmosphere. I feel very privileged to have been at Kingston as there is a unique opportunity to learn there. The team is fantastic and whilst everyone works hard, it is very well set up and a lot of fun.
SA: Tough! The path to specialising is a tough one. The training involves working full time as a specialist registrar and concurrently completing a masters. So you wear both hats and must balance the clinical needs of a busy hospital department whilst staying abreast with your academic studies, reading, essay writing and exams. You meet some fantastic people from all over the world who come to London to specialise and so you make some great life-long friends along the way. Now that it’s all over, we can arrange visits to far flung destinations to catch up! Next stop Malaysia to meet my best friend who moved to London just to specialise.
How did you find going straight from training into private practice? What have you learned from working with the very best orthodontists at Metamorphosis?
FM: I really loved the fact that I was able to offer patients the best possible care. I think that it does justice to the training I have had and I set my standards high. There are of course, challenges as with any new job but working within a team allows me to approach colleagues for advice if needed. I have learnt that teamwork is key. I adore the fact that we are constantly working together to improve patient care and meet patient expectations. Everybody brings different skills to the group and we are never afraid to ask each other questions and present each other with unusual or challenging cases. In my mind, this is a recipe for success as it encourages continuous improvement and an appetite for excellence.
SA: I relish the freedom that private practice offers. I can opt to use the best materials, latest equipment and technology. Private practice also enables the other facets of orthodontics to be explored such as adult orthodontics. We have a real mix of patient ages in our practice, with more and more adults seeking orthodontic treatment. This maybe because they missed out in their childhood, had relapse from previous orthodontic work or they want the perfect smile for the wedding day! I enjoy the challenge from the adult orthodontic cases as often they may need joint disciplinary management and heavily restored teeth mean the treatment planning is far more involved! As more and more adults seek orthodontic treatment I feel it is crucial to have specialist orthodontic centres, like ours, where the comprehensive treatment is delivered by those with the skill set and expertise to do so.
Faranak, you have an interest in facial aesthetics. How do you think it complements orthodontics?
FM: The reason I chose to do my research in facial aesthetics is because it is a fascinating subject which is in my opinion under studied. As orthodontists it is imperative that we understand what brings about facial harmony and how we can potentially affect facial proportions. In particular soft tissue changes are inadequately understood. My colleagues and I plan to carry out practice-based research using 3D scans.
Sarah, why do you like orthodontics?
SA: Since my undergraduate days I have always enjoyed orthodontics more than any other discipline in dentistry. I love creating beautiful smiles without carrying our destructive procedures on teeth. Our patients never have anxiety attending appointments as they are always pain free! The smiles created are the patient’s own natural teeth, in better, more ideal and aesthetic positions.
How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?
FM: Aside from attending courses and conferences, I try to talk to colleagues and attempt new ways to do things. There is ample opportunity to use the latest appliance systems and technology in a state of the art private practice where there are fewer constraints. It is very refreshing to be able to offer patients choice.
SA: I am an avid reader of the British and European Orthodontic journal. It is the best way to keep up to date, which advances in our specialty.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
FM: I’m very proud of completing my specialist training and gaining membership in orthodontics at the Royal College of surgeons of Edinburgh. The exam is a test of nerves as well as knowledge and I think anyone who has done it will agree that it requires hard work and stamina.
SA: Professionally I’m most proud of the conservative nature of orthodontics. Our treatments are not destructive. They give the patient a beautiful smile using their own teeth. If looked after well, this can be maintained for life! I love working with young patients, seeing how growth and orthodontic treatment work together.
Where do you get your motivation and drive from?
FM: Without meaning to sound cheesy, I love my job! Orthodontics is a great profession and always will be, so I want to be the best I can be at what I do.
SA: I have confidence in our work as a practice and our treatment planning phase is the key to our success. I am working with incredible clinicians and so feeding off their positive energy, drive and expertise is a great source of motivation!
How do you relax in your spare time? How do you balance work and family life?
FM: I love being outdoors and I also enjoy travelling and eating. My favourite sports are tennis, skiing and swimming and I find they always help me to unwind. As orthodontists it’s inevitable that we talk shop away from work but I try to avoid it as much as possible. It’s important to switch off and have a break.
SA: I am a globetrotter and need to fulfil my wanderlust! I love travel or rather live to travel. I am most relaxed when I’m off travelling or organising my next expedition. My last adventure was camping in the beautiful Wadi Rum desert, Jordan.
Do you have any regrets? What has been your biggest mistake?
FM: I have learnt to be more diplomatic with age! Perhaps in the past I’ve been too outspoken but you live and learn!
SA: I do not believe in regrets. Every experience positive or negative is something to learn from. But definitely no regrets – onwards and upwards!
What are your plans for the future?
FM: I am looking forward to further establishing myself as an orthodontist and taking on more challenges professionally. In my spare time, I’m going to enjoy travelling, and spending more time with family.
SA: Watch this space…