In this week’s Secrets to Success, Jana Denzel speaks to Dr Mohammed Naji, a dentist and executive director of Liberty Medical Group.
The Liberty Dental Clinic based in Dubai is an internationally-known dental clinic that treats several celebrities across the world. It even has its own dental reality show, which you can find on Youtube called – ‘Smile Masters’. It receives millions of views worldwide.
Dr Mohammed Naji, please can you tell us about your background and how you got into dentistry?
Mohammed Naji: I was born and raised in Dubai. A lot of people now talk about Dubai as it’s very fancy and beautiful, but it wasn’t always like this. It’s been amazing to be here from the start of its transformation to where it is today.
I was actually raised by four of my brothers who are much older than I am. I always appreciated the support and life lessons I received from them all.
Dr Majd Naji, is my older brother – who was much more of a father figure than a brother (as he is 23 years older than me).
He started Liberty Medical Group back in 1998 and has grown that into what it is today. As a child I was not involved, but watched everything that was going on.
I have seen how much hard work, dedication and effort went into it. He has and always will be a mentor to me in many aspects of life.
Thus, although dentistry wasn’t always my biggest passion at the time, I always have much respect for my brother and wanted to pay back all the effort he has put into the business and into myself. Thus I went into dentistry to help him expand the business.
I then took all the teachings my brother gave me in cosmetic dentistry and used it as I graduated. But I also did a masters program in orthodontics and now I practice both cosmetics with orthodontics.
I have seen so many of your cases published on Instagram – do you have a favourite smile makeover?
Mohammed Naji: The way we work in Liberty Dental Clinic is different than the norm.
No case I post up on Instagram I can take full credit for. That’s because here at Liberty Dental Clinic we work in a very comprehensive manner for each case.
We always make sure that each dentist we have here works within their speciality. So the patient always gets the best results.
That’s why sometimes we get a case and will have seven dentists working on it. There is a great team that range from doing the root canal treatments, the oral surgery, the periodontal works to give you the final results. It’s not just one dentist, it’s a team – everyone plays a role.
When the patient comes in they will always be the centre of attention. They have all these specialists working on his case and they really feel a sense of team culture here at the clinic.
What else differentiates Liberty Dental Clinic from other dental clinics?
Mohammed Naji: Every week, we have a guest lecturer come in and provide a course to all the dentists who work here at Liberty. This way we are always constantly learning, not only from each other but outside the clinic as well.
However, what I would say that really differentiates our clinic from the rest is the patient experience we provide.
A patient can find two good dentists and have two good results. But they won’t both provide the same experience.
We always make sure that the dental room that the patient is walking into is very suitable for their character.
Liberty has 16 rooms in our clinic, each of them have different themes to suit different types of patients personalities. We also are trained in patient communication skills. So no matter what patient we come across we can always act accordingly to their character.
What to date has been the most challenging point in your career so far?
Mohammed Naji: Proving myself. Initially, I was always linked with my brother Dr Majd. He has a great international reputation as a dentist and people always used to compare us, positively or negatively.
So my biggest challenge has been to just get out of people comparing us and recognising my skills and myself for my own merits.
Being young in this industry is very challenging. At times people won’t take you seriously – they look at your youth and think ‘lack of experience’.
Yes I will never disregard the experience an older dentist has, I learn so much from them. However, I believe the new generation of dentists bring in new technology, new techniques of the modern world that isn’t always provided by the older dentists.
So being a young dentist and trying to prove myself has been my biggest challenge to date.
As a young dentist myself, I sometimes feel that I have patients look at me and think this guy is still a kid. I want a more experienced dentist. What advice would you give us of how to tackle this?
Mohammed Naji: I think one of the things I do in my consultations is provide a lot of feedback.
Every diagnosis I go into detail and explain all the options I have thoroughly. This shows the patient I am educated as I go into pros, cons, risks and benefits. They are fully informed in whatever they would like to do. It almost shows, despite my age, I have a dental degree and know everything there is to be fully competent to do this treatment.
I also advise the younger dentists reading to go and take communication courses. Body language and communication skills play such a huge role in dealing with patients. It’s important to focus on this.
Never stop learning and always try and learn something everyday. It doesn’t need to be a huge thing, even one small thing a day after one year (365 days) will take you very far.
You have now been practising dentistry for a few years. If you had to write a letter to your younger self, knowing what you do now – what would you say?
Mohammed Naji: Chill. Take it easy.
When I was a younger I almost had six-seven years of my life I didn’t ‘chill’. This was because of the big shoes of my brother I had to fill ahead of me.
I always used to stress out, but realised even if I was to chill, I would have still got where I am today!
What are the future plans we can expect from yourself and the Liberty Dental Clinic?
Mohammed Naji: Two years ago we achieved accreditation to the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) Evaluation & Quality Improvement Program (EQuIP) Oral Health edition.
We were the first organisation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to achieve accreditation to these oral health standards.
The ACHS was a lengthy process where they send others to your clinic to assess absolutely everything.
This ranges from finance, HR, medical and non medical guidelines. The height of the mirrors you have in your treatment rooms, your security services, safety of the data you store, etc. They evaluate it all and if all is well, they give you their international accreditation.
This for me was an eye-opener. I felt there was a gap in the market to provide the standard of care we do here at Liberty. Thus we are working on establishing our own Liberty Accreditation system to give to clinics around the world meeting high standards of care!
For me, I am currently working with some local and international organisations to empower the youth.
Not only having conferences and talks but getting hands on and mentoring and getting role models who have done a great job in their own industry to mentor the youth.
What dental product can you not live without?
Mohammed Naji: I can’t think of any specific product I can’t live without. But I prefer products that take care of gum health.
This is because our gums are what supports our teeth and they’re very important to oral health!
I think products of this nature are far more important than those that are of cosmetic use such as whitening the teeth.
Who would you have as a dinner guest in the world, dead or alive?
Mohammed Naji: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.
He is one person I would love to have a conversation with because he is a person I have always looked up to. He is the man who grew up in the desert with camels and horses and in the space of 20 years has transformed all of Dubai. An international spot where we have everyone all over the world come and look at his work.
He is not just a ruler with money, but someone who is always working around the clock to ensure our city is constantly evolving and one of the best cities in the world.
Finally for reflection, what is the biggest lesson you have taken from last year and the pandemic?
Mohammed Naji: Believe it or not, despite the pandemic, 2020 has been one of Liberty Dental Clinics best years of development.
We believe that if it wasn’t for the crisis we wouldn’t have the opportunity or time to restructure the clinic to where we are today. We achieved this and didn’t lose any staff during the crisis. It gave us an opportunity to rethink, restructure and improve.
I also believe the crisis taught us that everything has a solution. If we can overcome the crisis that affected the world, I’m sure we can overcome anything.