Equality, Diversity & Inclusion series with Kiri Paul: The Unknown

 Next in the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Series, is from Kiri Paul, a final year dental student at Kings College London...

Kiri, final year dental student at Kings College

I wanted to write this blog post after being asked a heartfelt question by a younger black female. That question was “Dentistry sounds great, but how do I deal with potentially being the only black person there?”. A demoralising deliberation that I am guessing many black students may have considered before applying. I could only think to myself that this within itself is a tangible deterrent to achieve in the environment we live in today. If I am honest, the thought did cross my mind on how I would cope in an environment where I knew I would look around and most people would not look like me. I wanted to share some realism, thoughts, and experiences on trying to overcome this mental roadblock. I wish to do this in the hope of encouraging more young black students to pursue a career in Dentistry.

Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has been so important and educating. Some of my friends explained to me the emotional toll experienced when reliving and sharing some uncomfortable, upsetting personal experiences to help spread awareness. It also stirred up thoughts of the hard facts that you might have to work twice as hard as the people around you in conjunction with things like systemic racism existing. With all these things stacked against you, it can be daunting to want to start the journey especially when the application process alongside is so gruelling in the first place.

I myself through my experience have been subject to imposter syndrome and comments about making my hair look more professional than its natural form. However, I was also shocked by the supportive community network of strong black colleagues I have made in dentistry alongside other fantastic friends I have met on the way. I never expected any of these things and I guess the point I am trying to make is that the unknown really is the unknown. Of course, this is just one perspective of one person’s experiences. Dentistry, or the world may not be 100% multicultural. Uncomfortable situations can arise, nothing is perfect, and everyone is constantly growing. But a few things helped me to take the plunge into the unknown.

1. Have faith in yourself

2. Be real about what you are coming into

3. Know yourself, know what you want to achieve and why you are entering this environment

4. Use support networks

5. We are all in this together and in essence you are never really alone

Just because the world is not perfectly ready for us does not mean we should not arrive. When I think back to all the inspirational black people that encouraged me, I am so grateful they stepped into the unknown. A recent quote by Kamala Harris springs to mind:

“you will often find you are the only one who looks like you in the room, be it around the conference table or in a meeting or wherever you are. But the thing to remember is you are never in that room alone”. 

And on that note, I’m going to leave it here and I hope to see you in the unknown.

Do you want to write a post for the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion series? 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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