Despite the challenges I face as a young lady in this profession, I just let my work speak for itself.
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to work in a field where I would deal with the human body. My decision to focus on dentistry stemmed from the lack of dentists and the lack of knowledge of oral hygiene in The Gambia. After finishing high school in 2010, I took a gap year to work as a lab technician at the Medical Research Council (MRC) in Fajara. This led me to apply to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana, where I got accepted into the six-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme.
Although I was never one of those people who felt that they had to study in the United States or Europe to be regarded as successful, I was a bit apprehensive when I first moved to Ghana. I wondered what the country would have to offer to me. My apprehensions about studying in Ghana completely went away once I arrived and began my course. Though I experienced some challenges in the beginning due to a difference in cultural norms and customs, I was eventually able to adapt and integrate quite well.
During my time at KNUST, I met many students, both from Ghana and different parts of Africa. One thing I really liked about my time there is that people in Ghana hold their educational institutions in high regard, and acceptance into universities is competitive. Education is taken seriously. And in many ways, this served as motivation for me to do well. I enjoyed my time in Ghana so much that after my two-year housemanship posting when I finished school, I considered staying in Ghana to work as a dentist. However, I remembered the promise I made to myself about moving back to The Gambia to make a positive impact in the nascent dental sector. Thus, I moved back home in 2020.
Since being back, I work in both the public and private sectors. I work at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in the mornings, and then in the afternoons, I work at the Yakar Medical Service, which runs the dental clinic of a private hospital. Though the job is rewarding, it is very challenging due to deep-rooted beliefs and prevailing misconceptions people have about oral health in The Gambia. Many people are scared to visit the dentist because of negative misconceptions that persist. As a result, many people wait until complications arise before visiting, rather than making dental visits part of their regular health check-ups. I also face challenges with people wondering whether I have the capacity to carry out the functions of my role, and some will ask me, “you are so small, are you sure you can take out my tooth?” Despite the challenges I face as a young lady in this profession, I just let my work speak for itself.
I am happy with my decision to move back to The Gambia despite the challenging work environment. There is a real need to educate people about oral health and to improve people’s access to dental services. I hope to be able to contribute to this through my work in my dental offices, as well as on social media platforms where I share educational information about oral hygiene.