The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

Career Path Interview: Amisha Singh, DDS

Amisha Singh, DDS
Director of Diversity & Inclusion Programming
University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine

On the surface, the dental profession does not seem like it would offer a variety of career paths but in reality, there’s much more than just what’s on the surface. Recently the team at the Articulator sat down and discussed the diversity the profession has to offer. From private practice and DSO to academics and public health, even entrepreneurship and innovation, there are countless options for dental school graduates or career dentists looking to make a change and find their passion within the industry. But don’t just take our word, we sat down with seven dentists from different journeys in the industry to learn about how they found their way within the profession. Despite their differences, at the heart of the interviews were two common denominators: the importance of not settling until you find a position that truly makes you happy and taking time away to reset whether through education, family, exercise or a hobby. Hear more from Dr. Amisha Singh, Dr. Geebellue Mensah, Dr. Nicole Furuta, Dr. Arthur Yagudayev, Dr. Amy Rosinsky, Dr. Jack Nguyen and Dr. Brett Kessler in the pages to come.

What drew you to the profession?

I was pre-med as an undergrad and knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, so I explored almost every health career under the sun. During this time, I was fortunate to speak with two sisters who were family friends—one was a dentist, and the other was an MD. As I was shadowing the MD, she told me if she could do it all over again, she would do what her sister did and become a dentist. This changed my trajectory. Dentistry was a place where I could connect with people, draw from my creativity, be a leader, and impact health.

I have always been intrigued by small businesses and that is part of what drew me to dentistry. My family bought our first small business the summer between my first and second year of dental school. I thought it was crazy when my husband proposed the idea, but it ended up being a life-changing decision. It’s how I learned to read profit and loss statements as well as a lot of leadership skills. I gained experience in how small businesses operate and so much of what I learned then, I later applied when I opened a scratch start-up dental practice.

In addition to academia, you have tried on many other hats in dentistry. Do you have feedback on any? What would you say to a young dentist trying to decide on a practice modality? (Or, a dentist looking to make a change?)

I think the best answer I have for this is to “know thy self.” Lots of people in leadership talk about the first pivotal action of being a strong leader is understanding yourself, what makes you tick and what legacy you want to leave. I often ask the young dentists I mentor questions like, “How do you want the world to be different because of your career and your life? How will the world look different because of you dedicating 30 to 40 years to a profession? Do you have ideas of how you want that profession to be different because of dedicating decades of your life to something?” I tell them the more you understand yourself, your why, and how you want to make an impact, the better off you will be and the more career satisfaction you will have.

I believe one of the biggest disservices we do as a profession is having this gold standard of what success is in dentistry. So often we tout if you can have a multi-million-dollar fee for service practice, you should, and anything else is a consolation prize. That is just not true.

There are practice modalities out there that will create fulfillment, joy and wholeness in every one of us. And we owe it to ourselves to find out what are those options. That will be different from person to person. We cannot use the same yardstick to measure the success of every dentist in the world.

For a long time, I used to ask everyone I met, “Do you have a job that if you won the lottery, you would still show up the next day?” Most people would say, “No.” But I felt convinced that there must be a profession out there that could bring me so much joy, fulfillment, and alignment that it became more than just a paycheck. I am lucky enough to have found that profession. I never thought I would be a career academic.

I wholeheartedly believed I was going to be a career, private practice owner dentist. I loved my time when I owned my practice and building up a scratch start-up fed that “new challenge” I crave. But I soon realized I was a teacher at heart. Our practice was a rotation site for different dental assistant schools, and I had a different student shadowing almost every day in our practice.

I paid attention and realized when I was teaching, I was the most joyful. I decided I owed it to myself to find a career in the profession where I was teaching most of the time. And I was right, my life has completely transformed.

There are gifts that every person has, something you do better than anybody else, something that sets you on fire, gives you flow and makes you smile ear to ear. I think every dentist needs to find that joy. Whatever your gift, you owe it to yourself to find it, develop and hone it.

Can you share a bit about your role as Director of Diversity & Inclusion Programming at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine?

There are three main pillars to the DEI work that I do: 1) the path to becoming a dentist, 2) creating a culture of belonging at our school and 3) creating equity in patient outcomes in our profession.

I work to understand the systemic inequities that exist on the path to becoming a dentist, the roadblocks in the path and how to remove those roadblocks. The university manages three different pipeline programs, and we help students who have been historically excluded from the profession to access it as their career choice.

The second piece of my role is culture cultivation. In the simplest terms, I ask “does everybody in our school, faculty, staff, and students, feel like they belong?” This has become an essential tenant of our dental school and is part of our core values. Our goal at CU is that in our classrooms and in our clinics students, providers and patients don’t have to minimize who they are and that they can bring all of the pieces of themselves and feel welcome.

The third piece of my DEI work is patient outcomes. Research consistently shows if our practitioners are not culturally competent, even beyond that culturally humble, it impacts patient outcomes. We want all of the work in the first two pillars to drive positive health outcomes, especially for the underserved.