In Pakistan, Dr. Ali worked as an orthodontist in his own private practice. However, translating that experience to Canada proved difficult. Becoming licensed in Canada is a challenge for many international professionals. For Dr. Ali, the process was particularly tough due to the fact that Pakistan and Canada don’t have a mutually recognized system of accreditation for dental training. For this reason, Dr. Ali couldn’t apply directly to take the national dentistry exam administered by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB).
Dr. Ali’s Bachelor of Dental Surgery, one-year compulsory internship, fellowship in orthodontics and thirteen years of dentistry experience didn’t guarantee a Canadian dentistry license. His education was considered non-accredited. Back in Karachi, the sixth-most-populous city in the world, Dr. Ali served as head of the Orthodontic Department in different colleges and had a private practice. “I taught in the dental college in the morning and my clinical hours were from 5 to 10 p.m. My associates covered the morning sessions, and I covered the evenings,” says Dr. Ali.
However, he did have some luck. A colleague from Pakistan who lived in Mississauga started guiding him before he arrived in Canada. Although Dr. Ali did his research, this colleague was instrumental in knowing what to expect of the dental courses and exams. Dr. Ali needed to complete three assessments: Fundamental Knowledge (AFK), Clinical Judgement (ACJ) and Clinical Skills (ACS), and one final examination. “You must take four exams in a row, and if you pass them, you’ll receive the license. I didn’t want to go back to school for more than two years and get a big loan. But the option I chose was still expensive because I had to pay for every exam,” adds Dr. Ali.
Knowing that getting his dentistry license would take some time, and having three children and a wife to support, the first thing Dr. Ali did when moving to Canada was to look for a job. “My friend advised me to get a license in anything because that would be my asset. So, for my survival job, I got a security guard license,” indicates Dr. Ali. He completed the mandatory basic security guard training and test and got his license. Then he began a long process to find a job in this new field. In all, he worked for four months as a security guard because he had to take care of his family and their expenses plus his examination fees.
Even though the security guard job offered him some time to study during slow shifts, Dr. Ali made the decision to concentrate on his studies. “If I do this job long term, I might be derailed from my track, which is the examination,” recalls Dr. Ali.
Dr. Ali had invested a large amount of money towards his Canadian dentistry license and supporting his family, which made a significant impact on his savings. “I was planning on taking the Assessment of Clinical Skills, but there was already a funding issue,” adds Dr. Ali. “Windmill Microlending changed my life. They gave me a great deal of support that made my journey easy.” His loan from Windmill was approved in 2017 and helped him pay for the ACS and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).
“Once I received my license, I started my struggle in Toronto as a dentist,” Dr. Ali indicates. “Most of the opportunities I got were close to Mississauga. I was commuting hours every day, so I decided to move there.”
“My first objective after receiving my Canadian dentistry license in 2018 was to pay the Windmill loan,” says Dr. Ali, and he paid in full later that year.
It took him several years of hard work and studying, but today Dr. Ali is an associate dentist in a number of clinics across Toronto, Mississauga and Brantford. With a license and Canadian dentistry experience, Dr. Ali’s next objective is to open his own practice later this year.
“Never think about failure. Be focused, set a goal, weigh in your options and follow a game plan,” is Dr. Ali’s advice to any internationally-trained immigrant who wants to continue their career in Canada.