Out of office – Amit Patel on skydiving
Amit Patel explains how he got into dentistry before specialising in periodontics and how, despite taking up skydiving, is still afraid of heights.
Please introduce yourself
I’m Amit Patel, a periodontist in Birmingham.
I run a specialist referral clinic in the city centre starting as a squat practice seven years ago.
I’m originally from north-west London. But the London universities rejected me because my interview skills were and are still rubbish. Liverpool University offered me a place in 1992. I think they felt sorry for me as I told them I had been rejected from the others.
What I can say is that Liverpool University was fun. I made some amazing friends. Going to Liverpool opened my eyes to so much more outside of London. And I’m indebted to the university to offering me a place.
After spending five years having a laugh I was just scraping through. All I wanted was a pass.
Nearing the end of my degree I realised I wanted to do more. So I applied to become a house officer and then go on to do senior house officer jobs. These positions gave me so much more confidence about treating patients who were medically ill and doing complex surgical procedures.
At that time the mono-specialities specialist list had been formed. There were some universities setting up specialist training pathways for this.
I decided to do vocational training to make an informed decision about general dentistry. And I was lucky to have met a couple of specialists. One was an endodontist the other was a periodontist.
We spent a day with them as part of the VT day. They were so enthusiastic about their specialities and loved they jobs.
I arranged to meet them for dinner one night and they gave me advice on what I needed to do to become a specialist. I wasn’t sure about doing endodontics or periodontics.
We made the decision simple. The periodontist asked: ‘Are you good with a scalpel?’ Yes… That was it, I applied to do periodontics at Guys and St Thomas’ in 2001.
Before anyone asks, yes the interview went terribly yet again. But luckily they offered me the place.
I then spent spent four years training to become a periodontist at Guys and St Thomas’. This included two years of implant training.
I worked in many practices as a periodontist and implant dentist from Bath to Northern Ireland. All before deciding it was best for me to stay in one place and build my reputation. I was always previously advised to build my reputation but never listened…I wished it did it earlier.
What do you get up to in your spare time away from dentistry?
I’m a bit sad. I eat, drink and sleep dentistry.
If you told me when I was at Liverpool this was what I was going to become, I would have laughed. But because I’m running a specialist referral practice, I run study clubs for local dentists. I regularly keep in touch with them if they wish to discuss cases with me.
I also write the odd paper for publications and prepare presentations for upcoming lectures too.
So the question, what do I do in my spare time, is a good one.
Since lockdown I’ve realised my work-life balance is skewed. I really enjoyed lockdown, learning to bake from a dentists cake forum on Facebook and cooking a little better I hope. I’ve put on 8kg!
I must admit I do love desserts and my favourite is Portuguese custard tarts. I learnt to make the pastry the night before, then I found out you can buy pastry!
It was fun baking, although it would take me twice a long as others.
What type of television/movies do you like – any guilty pleasures?
I don’t watch a huge of amount of television. But when I do, I love sci-fi films and comedies.
I’ve been watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century during lockdown. It’s funny to watch the stuff I liked as a kid. It’s definitely aged!
Are you into any sport? If so what sport and why did you get into it in the first place?
I’m not into sports or going to the gym, I am rather lazy. But i do like to skydive.
I started in 1997 after qualifying from Liverpool. The plan was to help me get over my fear of heights. I can tell you a secret, it hasn’t worked I’m still scared…
Jumping out is easy. Everything looks like a map. It’s only when I am coming into land at around 30ft when I start worrying.
I’ve been skydiving with my good friend Bill Schaeffer, whose an exceptional implant dentist near Brighton. We have such fun together flying around the sky! The next plan would be to learn to fly and to jump off cliffs and mountains. But thats a long way away for now.
Why is it important to have hobbies away from dentistry?
I do think it important we have other things outside of dentistry. It’s a good way to relax and switch off as dentistry can be all consuming.
I’m looking forward to travelling again, I’m lucky lecture around the world. It’s always been nice to see new places and new people.
Two interesting places lecturing took me to last year was Vietnam and Azerbaijan. Such amazing people and beautiful countries. I’ll certainly go again.