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A young dentist journeys from Dublin to Killiney (Singapore)

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A young dentist journeys from Dublin to Killiney (Singapore)

My name is Shawn Shelley and I graduated from Trinity College Dental School in 2012. A Montana native, I now work as an Associate Dental Surgeon in a private practice in Singapore.

How does someone from the plains of Montana end up in the second most densely populated country in the world? During final year at Dublin Dental University Hospital, it became clear that 'entry level' dentistry jobs were thin on the ground in Ireland. I began to apply directly to dental practices in a range of cities across the world, including those in Australia and Singapore. Luckily, I was offered a role with Q&M Dental Group in Singapore, a company with over 50 practices and one that offers extensive structured training for new dentists.

The weeks after finishing college passed in a blur of getting results, travelling Europe with my parents, graduation, an engagement, and my 30th birthday. By August, my fiancée and I had packed up our apartment in Dublin and set out for our new (ridiculously sweaty, humid and expensive) life in Singapore. Q&M were extremely helpful from the outset - arranging visas, introduction to life in Singapore, and settling me into my new practice.

Having graduated from Dublin, it was quite fitting that my first day of practice in Singapore was in the Killiney Dental Clinic, near the junction of Killiney Road and Dublin Road. What was not so fitting was that the first patient arrived, sat in the chair, looked right into my eyes and demanded to have her (unerupted and asymptomatic) wisdom tooth taken out. Having just finished a long holiday in Bali and Thailand, and not having held a handpiece in about four months, this was not what I had in mind on my first day. Long story short, the patient did not have her wisdom tooth extracted that day. In fact, it was not necessary to have the tooth removed at all. This was an important real world lesson in patient management. Saying 'No' is often the best treatment. To be honest, I was expecting something interesting to happen that first day. We all have memorable experiences of our first day, first month, or first year and these are important to share. I will never forget the day the nurse called in the waiting room for Mr. 'T'. My ears perked up and I could not help from cracking a grin. Unfortunately, I was not in a Snickers advert that day and Mr. 'T' was of a slightly smaller build than I was secretly hoping for.

From-Dublin-to-Killiney-Singapore-2Although traditional routes, such as Foundation Training or Junior House Officer roles may dominate after graduation, many first year dentists might be surprised how satisfying and 'not scary' an immediate private practice job can be. I have had the opportunity to work for a company that has many practices across Singapore, allowing me to work in multiple locations that include different demographics, treatment needs, and even languages. I now know three words in Mandarin: pain, open, and close. Of course I have a bilingual nurse that helps with the rest. From treating expats on Orchard Road to local Singaporeans in Toa Payoh to inmates in Changi Prison, I feel my early experience as a dentist has been very fulfilling.

I would highly recommend new dentists to try Singapore as their first place to practice after graduation. If you have the right attitude and are up for an adventure, Singapore is a rewarding place to get your career started. I think the best piece of advice I could give a new graduate is make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in, but also enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, progression of your knowledge and skills are dependent on you, and remember, there is a lifetime to progress. The CEO of Q&M said it best when he said "dentistry is a marathon, not a sprint".

Singapore is a great place to live - my fiancée and I moved here without ever having visited! It is a bustling, vibrant city with a strong economy, vast mix of cultures and ethnicities, and a world renowned food paradise. Singapore is also an ideal base from which to travel around Asia. Since we arrived a short while ago, we have managed to visit Bali, Borneo, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand, Penang, Vietnam, and more.

 
Shawn Shelley

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