My Journey of Dentistry and Faith

Dr. Munira Lokhandwala is a practicing dentist based in Fremont, CA with over 25 years of experience. A spouse, mother, and businesswoman, Munira has single-handedly built a highly successful dental practice in the state of California, USA. In this blog, she sheds light on her experiences and recalls her eventful journey to reach where she is today.

Beginning

When I was in 10th grade, I accidentally chipped my friend’s tooth and promised that I would somehow make amends for it. It would take me 35 years to make good on that promise.

My career choice began in the Indian education system where, in the 12th grade, you either choose biology to end up in medical sciences, or math for engineering. My dad wanted me to be a doctor, so I chose to do dentistry in central Mumbai as my first choice in the Government Dental College. 

India to USA

Soon after finishing my degree, I got married and left India to join my husband, who was pursuing his PhD in the United States. I spent my first year in New York before relocating to California for my husband’s new job. Over the next four years, I faced four difficult licensing examinations. I had to put my nose to the grindstone to prepare for them as I was determined to get my dental license in the state of California. 

To practice, I set up a small dental lab in our apartment, where I used plastic teeth and a drill driven by an air compressor purchased from a local hardware store. My loving husband played an essential role, becoming the recipient of countless practice injections. To this date, I get compliments on my painless injection techniques thanks to him. His unwavering support and patience were instrumental in helping me gain confidence for the exams.

Acquiring patients for the licensing examination was another challenge. Unlike the setting of a traditional dental school, I was not surrounded by a ready pool of available patients. Finding the right individuals, obtaining their dental X-rays, and ensuring they would show up on the examination day was a nerve-wracking process. With the support of members of my Dawoodi Bohra community, I managed to assemble a group of patients, each becoming a symbol of the trust and confidence that people were placing in me. These long hours of practicing, late nights studying, and the emotional rollercoaster of the licensing process was all part of the journey that brought me to where I am today.

Building a dental practice from the ground up

After I was awarded my license, I spent four years working in other dental practices to gain valuable experience before deciding to branch out on my own. This allowed me to pick up essential skills which would prove useful down the line.

In 2002, I took a leap of faith and designed and built my own dental office in the city of Fremont.

I had always wanted to open my own practice as this would give me the opportunity to be patient centric and offer the kind of dentistry I would want my loved ones to have.

Something fun that we do yearly in our practice is called ‘Halloween Candy Buy Back !’ After the Halloween celebration, we ask parents to let the kids select some good candy and bring the rest to us, for buy back. We purchase the candy from the kids for $1/pound. This allows them to enjoy part of their Halloween candy and have an incentive to avoid the excess sugar!

Sometimes when you work for other employers, your decisions as a dental practitioner are influenced and guided by their office policies, but having my own practice was so liberating as I had the bandwidth to bring in my own style and ideas to the workplace. The Halloween buy back initiative is one such example.

Throughout my career, I have continued to seek excellence thanks to the incredible support I received from my family. This commitment to learning led me to achieve the distinction of becoming a Fellow and eventually a Master of the Academy of General Dentistry. Only 2% of American dentists achieve this distinction. This has enabled me to offer all aspects of general dentistry to my patients at the highest level, so they do not have to seek specialist care outside of exceptional circumstances. I take pride in being capable of doing nearly all dental work in-house.

The balancing act

Along the way, I raised two wonderful sons. This was only possible with the unwavering support of my husband, mother-in-law, and my parents. With their help and prayers, I navigated the delicate balance of being a wife, mother, medical professional, businesswoman, masjid volunteer, and avid reader. 

In my journey of growth as a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community in the field of medical science, faith has always been my guiding light. Its positive impact is evident in my life, as it has given me the strength to overcome challenges and stay focused on my goals. I hope I can continue to help those around me and derive fulfillment from this service.And remember my friend from 10th grade? She visited me in Fremont after 35 years and I finally got my chance to keep my promise.

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Last Updated
April 25, 2024
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