The doctor will see you now
Dentistry catches up with Jana Denzel, who reveals his hope to change the future for the better.
What made you want to get into dentistry?
Jana Denzel (JD): I grew up in a very strict academic household. As a child of refugees, conversations of education, job security and work ethic were frequent. It pained my parents to have to leave their beloved homeland, in search of safety and a better life.
Having been granted asylum in England, they were lucky to have escaped the ethnic conflict within Sri Lanka. My father was a businessman and once had several stores across the island, however when they all went up in smoke from the war, he was left with nothing.
It’s no secret that I’ve inherited the business mind from my dad. Since I was a child, I’ve loved entrepreneurship and growing up I started small start-ups. I took business studies up until A-levels and was really passionate about it.
I love the stories of Elon Musk, Walt Disney and Steve Jobs – their dream wasn’t to make money, it was to change the future for the better. This is what I want to do. My dad advised against studying business at university and wanted me to pursue something with more job security, so suggested medicine, dentistry or law.
Luckily, I was also passionate about art and sciences. Thus, from the age of 15, I took several work placements in the field of dentistry – from clinics and specialist practices to even dentistry in the Royal Air Force.
I loved being able to put people out of pain, improve their smiles and self-confidence and seeing patients on a regular basis to really build a relationship. This, and knowing I could always create a dental business after I graduated, made me go into dentistry, not just as a career but as a life choice!
When and where did you graduate?
JD: I graduated in 2019 from Universidad Europea Valencia, Spain. The first two years were really relaxed as I studied biology and psychology before at Queen Mary University of London and thus knew most of the modules well from the first two years.
I used this time to experience the city, travel and learn Spanish, as the course was all in Spanish for the next three years.
The course was good, but Valencia was even better; sun, the beach and the kindest people. I have made many lifelong friends and the city will always have a special place in my heart!
What’s your career pathway been like since graduating?
JD: My career pathway wasn’t quite what I expected. I studied for the UK Dental Foundation Training Situational Judgement Test and Interview and ranked really well.
I got a placement at the practice I wanted and even a job lined up for the year after. However, due to COVID-19, the clinical aspect to the training year was cut short in March 2020.
At the end of the training year, I only had six months’ clinical practice and, as it was my first time working in the UK with the General Dental Council and NHS system, I wasn’t comfortable going into independent practice by myself.
I applied for an extension on the programme and thankfully was granted an extra year – and I’ve really made the most of it!
From normal treatment to complex care, I feel a lot more comfortable now and am ready to be out into the world of independent practice!
What are you doing now?
JD: I am currently completing my last month of NHS practice in my dental foundation training programme and am also completing a PG Dip in restorative and aesthetic dentistry.
In my spare time, I love to interview dentists for Dentistry’s series called ‘Secrets to Success’. Here, I sit down with world-renowned dentists as they share their daily routine, mindsets and the secrets that allowed them to become successful.
The connections to all these dentists started over the first lockdown, as I knew dentists had their clinics closed and were at home.
I saw this time as an opportunity, so contacted the dentists to propose collaborating and making content – and as they were free, they agreed.
I am also relaunching my Youtube channel: ‘Doctor Denzel’, so stay tuned!
What are the next steps for you?
JD: Next year, I plan on focusing on cosmetic and aesthetic dentistry in private practice. I have also just opened up an office in London for my marketing company, Denstudio.
Denstudio really picked up when we went into national lockdown in March 2020.
As I was not able to work in the dental practice, I spent more time on this and, with my team of qualified designers and marketing professionals, we really began to excel through the digital landscape within the dental industry.
Together, we have years of experience in branding, social media marketing, web design as well as building and running online courses.
We work with students, dentists, dental clinics, dental educational organisations and dental training providers across the UK.
We plan to continue our efforts in helping people within the dental industry and expect more and more clinicians to switch to digital marketing over conventional means.
What are you most proud of to date?
JD: God put me on the right path to see my dreams of being a dentist come true. I’ve also been able to keep my entrepreneurial spirit alive by having my own business. But honestly, I am most proud of my family, my parents and brothers and sister.
They have all been the greatest support system. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if it wasn’t for each of them.
When you’ve got the right people behind you, you can do anything.
The sacrifices my parents and all my aunties and uncles made is what I will always be thankful for.
To escape a war-torn country and come into a country not knowing the language, system or way of life and give everything to the future generation is extremely difficult, and I am so proud of them all.
What’s your road map for the next five years (and beyond)?
JD: I have a vision board for this. Each year for the next five years I have set goals.
Overall, I want to improve my clinical skills and become one of the best dentists in the UK. I want to specialise in aesthetic dentistry and create a brand for myself as ‘Doctor Denzel’.
Also, I have my podcast. I want to continue to learn from great dentists all over the world, take inspiration from each of them of what they have contributed to the world of dentistry and in turn listen, learn and contribute in my own way.
Denstudio will also play a huge role in the next few years. With opening up our first office doors this month, my team now has a dedicated space to work from and set meetings with our clients.
Aside from this, I want to ensure I give back to my family. They have helped me so much to get to the stage I am at now and I want to return this.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned that dental school didn’t teach you?
JD: Entrepreneurship. Business management should be included in the dental curriculum, but I don’t know of any dental programme that includes it!
As dentists, many of us are self-employed and we need to understand finance and how to operate as a business. This is something I learnt outside of dental school that I’m sure would help many dentists.
Who have been the biggest influences on you?
JD: Without a doubt, my older brother, and my father.
My older brother works as a doctor, but he is also a renowned political activist.
He’s dedicated his life to helping others across the world and is the most charitable person I know. He grounds me, and because of him I always practise and live ethically.
My father is the strongest person I know. In his 30s, he had to move to an unknown country with nothing and start from scratch.
He has influenced me to be relentless in my pursuit of success.
What tips would you give to those just embarking on their career?
JD: I know it might sound a little weird, but pretend there’s a camera crew following you, filming your success story. You’re going to try your absolute best to work as hard as you can and move as ethically as you can.
If you act like your life is a movie, then you’ll never settle for living an average life!
What do you think the future holds for dentistry as a whole?
JD: I think more and more people will start to understand the link between dentistry and medicine.
To date, dentistry has always played a less important role in healthcare than medicine. This was proved last year when the UK government closed dental clinics during COVID-19. But so many issues occurred from that, in terms of people in pain and doing bizarre DIY treatment at home.
I think this has taught the population a valuable lesson about how important dentistry is.
As more studies highlight the correlations between dental health with overall health, I’m sure dentistry will carry greater importance.