The more you give, the more you get
Jennifer Parraga, BA’93‘The more you give, the more you will get’ is an old adage that has been expressed in various ways and shared throughout the ages.
It’s a lesson that stands far and above all the others that Mohamad Abu Sharkh has learned during the past four years at Schulich Dentistry.
“If you have the opportunity to help out, don’t think about what you are going to get out of it, just do it and you will reap the fruits of what you do,” he said.
Despite the long hours in the classroom and clinic, Abu Sharkh didn’t shy from getting involved with community-focused and dentistry-focused initiatives. He served on the executive team of DOCSKids, was the co-chair of Oral Health Total Health, served on the executive of DART for two years and organized the Meds versus Dents charity soccer game last fall.
During the summer months his engagement continued. Between his second and third years, he travelled on his own to Ghana to work as a student dentist under the supervision of local dentists in providing care. He travelled with a British company that specializes in matching health care students with care teams in Africa, Asia and Mexico.
The training experience positioned Abu Sharkh to shadow and learn from dentists and treat patients for a three-week period in hospital and private clinic settings.
“I wanted to choose a company where I would be supervised and where I would be working alongside experienced dentists” he said.
Morning appointments caring for eight to 12 patients often led to afternoons filled with x-rays and extractions and more complicated care. And every step of the way Abu Sharkh was learning.
Abu Sharkh says that he arrived in Ghana full of confidence and expecting that the team would be impressed with his skills and knowledge. He learned quickly that despite fewer resources, the science, the treatment planning and the care was very similar to what is provided in Canada. He realized he has a lot to learn.
Becoming a dentist had been part of Abu Sharkh’s plan since he was a teenager. Born in Abu Dhabi, Sharkh split his formative years between the United Arab Emirates and London, Ontario. With siblings attending Western, it was an easy decision for him to follow suit. He completed his Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree and was excited to be accepted into dentistry.
Abu Sharkh admits that achieving high marks had been the main focus of his academic pursuits. That is until his first year in dentistry. It’s been an important and difficult lesson for the dental student that now he would be learning for his future patients.
“It was tough to transition from focusing on marks to seeing the relevance of what I was learning and doing,” Abu Sharkh said. “Slowly, I’m starting to appreciate that what I am learning will affect my patients and I’m beginning to understand the importance of life-long learning.”
Reflecting on the past nearly four years, Abu Sharkh says he’s had a lot of fun, worked hard, made friends for life and learned more than he ever expected.
“I have learned so much from others - the community, my peers and colleagues, from professors and from people in general. It has empowered me to give and do more.”