Staying true to who you are

dentistry awards hawa azharDentistry speaks with Hawa Azhar, winner of Best UK Therapist at the 2020 Dentistry Awards and Best Recently-Qualified Therapist and Best Therapist at the Oral Health Awards.

How do you feel to have won?

Hawa Azhar (HA): I feel incredibly honoured and humbled to have been recognised for my work out of all the incredible entrants, especially so early on in my career. 

Why do you think you won?

HA: I think that the judges recognised that all the finalists have gone out of their way to provide comprehensive patient care, both inside and outside of the surgery. 

The patient-clinician relationship is evolving into one where clinicians are more accessible now than they have ever been. Especially via social media. 

I think we’ve all made an effort to educate and advise patients over social media during this time where everyone has had to stay at home. 

Why did you choose to enter The Dentistry Awards?

HA: The Dentistry Awards are highly regarded throughout the profession and even if I hadn’t won, the chance to showcase my work to the panel of judges would have been enough of an accomplishment.

What do The Dentistry Awards mean to you?

HA: It’s incredibly motivating to win an award and be recognised for the work that you do. It’s given me that extra push to keep on improving my skills and give back to the community the best way I know how – through dentistry.

What do you think The Dentistry Awards are doing to raise the standards of the profession?

HA: Anyone wanting to enter The Dentistry Awards will be putting maximum effort into each case and documenting it with a chance to become a finalist. This in turn is definitely raising the standards of the profession to higher levels, which is a positive all round. 

What feedback have you received from your patients since winning your awards?

HA: My patients have been very supportive and encouraging. Lots of them have congratulated me and new patients have had more confidence in choosing me as their clinician. 

Have you got any advice you would like to pass on to dental professionals who are thinking of entering The Dentistry Awards this year?

HA: Stay true to who you are as a clinician. It’s easy to get caught up in the world of social media and all the amazing-looking pictures that come with it.

Document cases you feel confident with and start collecting evidence early. It will make it much easier when putting your presentation together.

Will you be entering this year?

HA: I’ve been so overwhelmed with last year’s outcome I actually haven’t given this year’s awards much thought. Never say never! It would be nice to potentially attend a non-virtual ceremony this time!

What inspired you to enter the dental profession? 

HA: I never imagined myself having a desk job, I’ve always been quite hands-on and very sociable. The turning point for me was when I did work experience with my own dentist, Dr James Critchley, at the age of 15. 

I spent a week with him observing, drilling on extracted teeth, doing domiciliary visits in our lunch break and he even let me take his impressions! 

It was so good that they actually asked if I wanted to come back for another week during the summer holidays, to which, of course, I agreed. As they say, the rest is history

Who inspires you in your career?

HA: First and foremost, it would have to be my parents. Not only do they inspire me in my professional life to chase my dreams and not let anything stand in my way, but also in my personal life to be a better individual. 

More dentally specific, my inspirations come from a plethora of people that are successful within the dental field for various reasons – as clinicians but also as business people, for example. The more I network, the greater the list becomes. 

What is your favourite aspect of the job/profession?

HA: The variety. No two days are the same. For someone that gets bored quite easily, this profession keeps me on my toes. I also love how it’s not just strictly clinical if you don’t want it to be. 

There’s a business and marketing side to it too. There’s also a lot of other avenues you can pursue like teaching or law and ethics. It’s a job where you’re always learning, growing and able to evolve as a professional.

What is the secret to a successful practice? 

HA: Integrity. Doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching. Making decisions in the best interest of the patient gives you a solid foundation in growing a successful business. If you follow this even when something goes wrong – which it will – you can be confident in knowing you acted with the best intentions at heart.  

What do you think is important in your profession?

HA: Ultimately, the most important thing is the oral health of the general public. Along with this comes the trust of the public. With the access patients now have online to information and ‘influencers’ that share advice, it is paramount for us to be vigilant in what habits they may pick up. 

How do you see the dental profession evolving in the future?

HA: I think dentistry will continue to take a more preventive stance in its approach. As we continue to discover more links with oral health and the rest of the body, I hope in the future there will be more emphasis on dental health with relation to overall wellbeing.

Have you any advice you would pass onto newly qualified/aspiring dental professionals?

HA: Master the basics. You have plenty of time to work out what you like doing or want to do more of. Having a solid foundation with the basics under your belt will make everything else come much easier. That’s not just to say clinically but also your communication and people skills with patients and staff alike. Both are equally important and one does not work without the other.  

The Dentistry Awards 2021 are now open for entry. For more details, including this year’s categories, visit

This article was first commissioned for Dentistry magazine. Read the latest issue of Dentistry magazine here.

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