COVID-19 diaries with Chimdi Ota: All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

Next COVID-19 diary is with Chimdi Ota, a newly qualified dentist from London...

Chimdi, is a newly qualified dentist from King’s College, London. She has recently accepted an offer to start dental foundation training in London

Let’s go back in time, it’s the second week of March; crown preps, denture reviews and 30-minute bus journeys to and from the hospital. The media has picked up the pace, the number of cases is rapidly increasing. Stories of missing surgical masks from hospitals is coupled with a surge in the number of concealed noses and mouths on the high street. Creativity in Britain remained unshakeable; DIY inventions, such as scarves and socks are all the rage. I had started daydreaming of ways to explain to future grandchildren what loo roll was, as we all faced its frightening extinction together. Finally, came the dreaded but necessary email: remote learning, cancelled patients and online exams.

The first part of my lock down experience was dominated by revision for the online finals, and frankly, I was grateful. Before I knew it, my exams were, in the words of Hilary Duff, “so yesterday”. An influx of questions rushed to the forefront of my mind, “What do I do now? How do I stay productive? How do I maintain my knowledge and skills by incorporating dentistry into my new daily routine without seeing patients?” But first, I needed to rest. Five intense but wonderful years meant there was a lot to reflect upon. I took a week off and threw myself into online shopping, pizza dough kneading and banana bread baking. When the demon of gluttony eventually took flight from my soul, the same questions remained. Results came out – I had passed, finally after five years, I could add the title of ‘Dr.’ to the front of my name. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help feeling like I was all dressed up, with nowhere to go. So here’s what I did:

1. I Created a LinkedIn

It’s important to create connections with other dentists and this can be beneficial to have discussions regarding speciality training pathways and obtaining guidance from those more experienced than you. However, it’s also a great way to learn by following societies you’re interested in and staying up-to-date with competitions, conferences and webinar releases.

2. I Created a Dental Instagram

This was another great way to connect with fellow dentists in my age bracket from different universities in a supportive community as we all navigate our careers together. For me, it was also special to create an account where my timeline could be dominated purely by dentally-related posts, so it was all in one place. This meant it was quick and easy to absorb current news, without mixing my social life, and save time scrolling through the confusing algorithms of Instagram. So instead, all the posts I follow are tailored to my dental needs. I have a thirty minute timer set on my Instagram, and turn off push notifications to limit the time I spend on social media to an amount I feel is healthy for me and easily integrates into my life. It’s been a valuable tool to learn about personal branding, what I can bring to the table and the knowledge I can share with current and future dentists.

3. I Looked up Pathways to Training

The beauty of connecting with other dentists on Instagram allowed me to watch question and answer sessions and interviews on IGTV relating to various dentists’ pathways to their specialties. There are also documents online from various societies e.g. British Orthodontic Society has compiled a series of ways to boost your chances of getting onto a specialty training programme, such as experience in lecturing, poster presentations etc.

4. I Ordered a pair of Dental Loupes

I was lucky to have access to a microscope when performing endodontic procedures as an undergraduate but with my student discount quickly slipping out my grasp, I made the decision to order a discounted pair of loupes, attempting to get used to them before the commencement of my dental foundation training year. While there is still the opportunity to buy discounted loupes as a foundation dentist, the offers tend to be less generous.

5. I Joined the Facebook Group: ‘Deciduous – The Young Dental Forum’

This has been an amazing source of information, from the provision of CV and portfolio workshops, to fellow dentists posting advice and guidance for those of us just getting ready to start dental foundation training, providing insight into the upcoming post-COVID era of dentistry.

6. I Signed up to Kaizen Dental

This is another brand new venture launched by young passionate dentists wanting to give back and share their knowledge. They email weekly newsletters with tips and tricks to help us improve our skills and offer a new perspective that helps us re-evaluate the way we do things. The latest email I received detailed ways to more accurately achieve the desired thickness of composite when placing body and enamel shades.

7. I Entered into Essay Competitions

I threw myself into essay competitions because frankly, I love to read. Writing essays meant I was able to carry out research, gain more knowledge, learn more niche aspects of a topic in detail and grow in confidence. Naturally, it’s an absolute delight if you do win, but otherwise, the benefits of structuring a piece, improving your knowledge and research skills and adding more meaning to your day are priceless!

8. I Took a Look at Future Courses I Would Like to Embark on

I’m embracing that lock down has possibly provided me with the most free time I will have until retirement. Dental foundation training does not start until September, so that will bring the total to a whopping six months of no formal university. So, is there any better time to construct plans? NO! While, there’s no guarantee every plan will come to fruition, it’s been a good opportunity to sit and research costs of courses to at least give myself a breakdown of roughly how much I will need to save for future endeavours. One thing I’m particularly keen to complete a course on is conscious sedation so I can begin to safely and legally provide anxiolytic aid to patients that require this. However, for some other dentists, they may be interested in courses on facial aesthetics, Invisalign or the renowned Style Italiano composite courses.

9. I Read… a lot

As someone who’s passions outside of dentistry are very much ingrained in self-development and psychology relating to human behaviours, lock down has been an opportunity to read. I’ve enjoyed non-fictional motivational books by the likes of Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and Richard Templar. In the same way we value continuous professional development, I think it is equally important to value nurturing and tending to your development as a human being. My New Year’s resolution every year for as long as I remember has been to be a better and kinder person. The Black Lives’ Matter Movement has seen many of us reading more and educating ourselves on this human rights issue to know what we can do to help and be impactful. A favourite quote of mine by Michelle Obama is, "success isn't about how much money you make. It's about the difference you make in people's lives". If we can apply this philosophy into all aspects of life and not just our careers, I truly believe we can all lead more fulfilling lives. A huge part of having the confidence and ability to help is through education, so I will always encourage those I come across to read.

My finals words are to be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you haven’t been the most proactive during this time but I hope if you’re struggling finding something to do, then this article can be of some help.

Do you want to write a COVID-19 diary? Please get in touch! Whether you're a dental student, foundation dentist, dental core trainee, associate, dental nurse, therapist I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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