Gagandeep: Returning to the dental dream

By Cam Buchan

Gagandeep’s career has taken him from Punjab, India, to Australia and finally to Canada. Along the way, he has graduated from dental school, taken two master’s degrees, worked in the mining industry, a call centre, and finally as a program manager in ecommerce at Walmart.

Despite achieving much, there was much still to accomplish.

“It was a total shift from science to a corporate retail call centre,” said Gagandeep, “But, I still have a dream to achieve of being a dentist in Canada, and here I am trying to do that at age 37.”

This dream, and his family’s encouragement, finally brought him to the Internationally Trained Dentists Program at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Now as part of International Week at Western, we take a closer look at the journey of Gagandeep.

“My name is Gagandeep and I actually have a single-word name,” said Gagandeep, ITD 2025, who, as an internationally trained dentist, joined the second-year class of the regular Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) Program in September, and will graduate with a DDS degree upon successful completion of all three years of the program. “But when I moved to Canada, they wanted a last name. So, I am Gagandeep Gagandeep.”

Image of Gagandeep

Life happens

Gagandeep practised in his own clinic before feeling the call of the classroom again, this time going to Sydney, Australia, and the University of Western Sydney. There, he completed a masters in Health Sciences with specialization in occupational health and safety and another Masters in Risk Analysis. With two degrees in hand, he worked as an occupational health and safety advisor at a mining company, and then, “life happened.”

He met his soon-to-be wife, Sonia, who already lived in Canada and the two decided to make Montreal, Quebec, their home in 2015. From there life, indeed, happened and quickly. His first job was at a Walmart call centre, before moving into its Mississauga, Ontario, home office, holding several roles there before returning to the dream.

Something missing

“My father was a physician in India who had many friends who were dentists, and it was amazing what they could do,” said Gagandeep. “I could have gone to either medical or dental school, and selected dentistry. When I left it, I always felt that there was something missing.”

After visiting the School and reaching out to friends at Western and at schools in the U.S. and Canada, Gagandeep chose Schulich Dentistry for its emphasis on the practical, hands-on opportunities.

“I like the focus on the theoretical, but it’s much more than just theory,” he said, who was on a waiting list last year before getting into Schulich Dentistry in September. “You do a lot more hands-on work and gain exposure to the patient side. I made the right decision to come over here, for sure.”

There are challenges to be faced as an international student. In India, Gagandeep faced one yearly exam.

“Over here? It’s every day – you have a quiz in the morning and a test the next day. That’s a challenge.  But I like that because it keeps me on my toes,” said Gagandeep, the father of two, who credits Sonia for providing him with the support he needs to succeed.

With family in the Greater Toronto Area, Gagandeep hopes to return there upon graduation to set up a practice.

“Schulich is teaching me a structured preventative approach that works together with a patient’s historical, biological, and psycho-social dimensions,” he said. “It made me realize that dentistry is a multi-dimensional profession. A great emphasis is put on a patient-centred, evidence-based care with a personal focus on improving patient health outcomes. I am looking forward to learning all this in the coming years.”