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Presenting: Dr. Rajiv Arya, My Cool Dentist

When your eyes are open, you tend to find wonderful and wonderful people around you. My dentist, Dr. Rajiv Arya, is one such person. Every time I go to get my teeth checked we end up having a very deep discussion and I am always amazed at what Dr. Arya is involved with. Not only is he a practicing dentist and a practicing lawyer, Dr. Arya has volunteered his time and expertise in places like India, Malawi, Zambia and of course Canada. He is one of the most versatile people I know. Without further ado, here it is: Dr. Arya:

1. Tell us a little about your personal and educational background.

I am married and have a little daughter of 22 months. It was a really profound experience that I had. I have found that just when you thought marriage was the best thing in and for your life, having a child is even better. My life in general is relatively smooth. The great thing is that I have a supportive family on both sides. I consider myself very lucky.

2. You are actively practicing as a dental surgeon and as a lawyer. Why did you decide to do this and what is your overall work-related philosophy?

Really, I get this question a lot. Why did I go into dentistry and law? I guess it was self preservation. I felt that I needed another profession to give me full or further satisfaction in my professional life that I was looking for. It certainly wasn’t for the challenge – as both professions are very demanding. What one profession would not offer to the other could also vice versa. It was a bit of a gamble to make this choice. But it was never about earning more money or gaining unique qualifications. I’m not as goal oriented as people think. This choice was more about self-fulfillment and I don’t regret it for a second. The bottom line is, yes, I’m having a busy week. but most importantly, I’m usually smiling and content through it all.

What made me go to those fields carries over to the rest of my left side. I try to see life in a broader, holistic way. In dentistry I am interested in the patient, not only in the clinical procedure in front of me. If there’s one thing I can credit myself for it’s that I have an uncanny ability to remember details about my patients and clients for a long time. In exams, I will often comment on things they have told me in the past and follow the details of their lives that they have shared with me. I am sometimes surprised, even more than the patients, how much I remember them personally.

I care about my patients that goes beyond just treatment, I look at my patients more with a holistic wellness approach. Likewise, legally, I look at the client from a bigger picture. What are we really trying to achieve here? That way – all parties involved appreciate what you are trying to do for them.

I’d like to think I have a casual approach to both jobs since I’m not a huge fan of pretense or acting like a know-it-all. I don’t appreciate the smoke and mirrors. I also try not to take myself too seriously. In both professions you come across experiences that you just don’t know the answer to right now. This can present itself as a very difficult situation. I’m the first to say that we need to look at a situation from more angles and maybe bring a different expertise. Clients and patients appreciate this honesty, and I find that, in return, they talk to me on a different level—a more honest level. I am always surprised and pleased when patients and clients ask and remember things about my life outside of work. It gives me some sense of belief that they care too. What you see is what you get. I’m not a fancy lawyer or dentist, no Armani suits here.

3. How do you manage to combine a busy law practice with your work as a dental surgeon?

I find that striking a balance is not as difficult to manage as one might imagine. You need to know your limitations and priorities. My priorities have always been clear: I wanted to have a very strong family life and an equally fulfilling professional life. Legally I’m lucky in that I essentially only take on the cases that interest me. In dentistry it is similar – if something is beyond my capabilities or outside my area of ​​interest, I refer it to other specialists. Accordingly, I spend a lot of time with my little one. Right now, he usually gets up around 5:30-6 in the morning and is in a good mood right away. Since I have the morning shift with her, I have to quickly buckle up and start smiling at her. Those hours are precious and more often than not, I always seem to learn a little something from her every day.

I basically throw away the unnecessary things of the day and somehow everything falls into place. I must also say that I have a very supportive wife who is very organized and keeps things under control. My philosophy is “Just do it”. If you love what you do, if you love your life and want to maximize the limited time we all have on Earth, then do what is important to you. Even during law school I was doing about 20 to 25 hours of dentistry a week and missed going to the pub every Thursday night. I also didn’t just hang out and drink coffee during the day waiting for the next class to start. I tried to maximize.

Generally, if people really need to do something they will do it. It’s the same with friendships – you make time for the people who are really important to you.

4. Tell us a little about your travel experience in general.

Someone I know and respect recently said, “Life is made up of experiences. If I have to measure the quality of my life, I look at experiences that I can remember, that have moved me.” Traveling is one of those things. Travel is one of those milestones in life, like marriage or births or deaths or other important events, that have the ability to move people.

Often, but not always of course, I choose places off the beaten path as I like to see alternative places. Travel for me has to have some level of depth in general. It must be something that moves. It’s the closest thing we can do as adults to bring us back to childhood. When you travel, you see life almost with the curiosity of a small child, you look at the street signs, the lights, the way people act. There is a freshness to the journey, it is childlike. When I observe my little girl, I notice that she is so curious and playful. Travel brings us to this level of openness. It is very refreshing, liberating and refreshing.

5. You have also volunteered in countries like Canada, India, Malawi and Zambia. Tell us more about these experiences.

I have practiced volunteer dentistry in hospitals in India. I’ve also helped with such far-flung tasks as applying insect repellent to trees in Zambia, visited hospitals in Zambia and Malawi, and even done dental work in Canada for troubled youth.

Volunteering in general is something where you always get more than you put in. This is a fact. A few years ago I went to India and it was not the happiest time of my life. However, I feel that just when you have nothing left in your life, when you are empty, and then when you decide to give more, you begin to fill up. This is a valuable lesson for volunteering in general. It’s good for the soul. More than you know!

6. You have also been involved in racial equality and leadership initiatives in South Africa, Poland and Germany. Tell us more about these experiences.

These initiatives were actually started by my wife. She is a very vocal advocate for racial equity in the Toronto School Board, where she is now vice-principal. It has always had an inherent sense of equality, even before it became politically correct. He always seemed to be on the cutting edge.

He always brought home articles written by educators or other commentators on racial equality. This gave me a little twist in how to look at things. A few years ago he had an opportunity with a Catholic educational organization to go to South Africa. Since she’s a big fan of animals, and especially elephants, she said that’s a good enough reason to go. He just wanted to go for a few weeks. Once I started reading the outline, I decided I was coming too. Whether she liked it or not!

30 of us went down and talked to community leaders, went to leadership meetings, talked to interesting people who helped South Africa come out of apartheid. We visited many areas and it was an eye-opening venture. The experience was very moving, especially since the free elections were in 1993.

The leader of the group that took us to South Africa was already thinking about studying the holocaust in Poland and Germany. I had already been to Israel earlier and as the tour was organized at a very high level, I wanted to come along. I was drawn into it by people I respect and admire. That’s how it all started.

As the saying goes, “if you hang around with eagles, then you’ll soar, but if you hang around with turkeys…”

7. A few years ago you went on a very interesting trip that took you to the sites of the Holocaust. Tell us more about this trip.

I recently heard a commentator talking about the Holocaust and the people who visit the sites. He said that there is absolutely nothing to learn from the Holocaust and we should not study it because it is so horrific that we cannot learn anything. While I appreciate his sentiment, I feel, with due respect of course, that I disagree with his comment.

What you see on the sites is so horrific and heart-wrenching that words cannot explain it. Everyone needs to see what happened. And not just here – in other places too – like Rwanda etc. However, it has been preserved in places like Poland and Germany. Many concentration camps and death camps are maintained. It is an experience that shakes you to the core. This goes back to one of the broadest reasons to travel. Go and try to experience something because reading, video or other media cannot move you in the same way.

It was a very sad journey, but at the same time I tried to make it more academic, to make it more scientific, to try to understand what happened. I could afford to do that. I didn’t have to experience it directly. But I ended up with more questions than answers.

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