Iain Hart: A High Achiever In and Out of the Classroom

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Iain Hart, centre, with fellow DMD students Marc Al Khoury, Nazanin Hojjati, Ashley Ta and Ruby Kaur

The Scottish stereotype of being pessimistic is anything but true with Iain Hart. Currently in his third year of studies he radiates positivity in his relationships, patient care and academic achievements. He was awarded the Dr. D.P. Mowry and Dr. Maxwell and Betty L. Goldenberg prizes at this year’s White Coat Ceremony. A middle child with 2 brothers, his parents immigrated to Canada from Scotland and settled in Kelowna, BC where the winters were warm enough for them to handle. Iain embraced Canadian life playing competitive lacrosse and hockey throughout his childhood and knew he wanted to work with his hands and become a dentist from a young age. He comes from a medical family with a GP as a dad, his brother in medical school and the other one applying for dentistry. Before arriving at McGill he completed his BSc in Biology from the Okanagan Campus of UBC.

Why did you choose dentistry? Why McGill, Montreal?

Once I realized my singing career wasn’t going to take off, dentistry was the only thing left for me to do really. All joking aside, I come from a medical family and have always wanted to end up within the realm of healthcare and helping others. In seeing what my father does I noticed one thing that was missing and which I valued, and that was working with my hands. Dentistry allowed me to have a bit of both worlds, so much so that after shadowing a few dentists back home I decided to make it my end goal!

In terms, of choosing McGill and Montreal specifically, I had never stepped foot in eastern Canada before coming to my interview here. I had a lot of good friends back home who attended McGill and spoke highly of both their time at school and within the city of Montreal. I also had been living for so long in the same area that I wanted a big change, so when I was offered a spot by McGill I was quick to take it. Even all the way out in BC, McGill has a very reputable name, so I would be lying if I didn’t admit to that having some influence on my decision as well.

You’re from a small Canadian town and you’ve talked about the cultural shock it was arriving in Montreal. What has being immersed in this cultural diverse city brought to you and how will it help you in your dental career?

It’s very true, in terms of cultural diversity Montreal and Kelowna are two very different places! Stepping off the plane and immediately being immersed in a different culture was definitely something that took some time to get used to. I would say I am still getting used to it. Living here has taught me a lot and I can only see it being beneficial.

It has made me much more aware of my own personal and cultural beliefs, which has in turn allowed me to open my mind and try to understand others cultural beliefs. I think that both the city and beginning to learn my profession have contributed to this conscious awareness of my own beliefs. It helps me to understand why others may not share the same views and this, in turn, may influence their opinions on certain matters. Being exposed to such a cultural mosaic allows me to connect easier with a wider scope of patients, something that I can see as very useful in the future for patient care.

You won two awards this year at the White Coat Ceremony; the Dr. D.P. Mowry Prize for highest standing and the Dr. Maxwell and Betty L. Goldenberg Prize for the highest standing in the Practical Clinical Component in the second year of the dental undergraduate program – Congratulations! What are your tricks to maintaining such high standing in both the academic and practical components of study?

First of all, I would like to thank all the donors whom make such awards available to students, without them there would be no such recognition. Also, I would like to share both of these awards with my class, without them I could not have done it. During pre-clinical studies there are plenty of good and bad days, without the support and help of my classmates and instructors the entire experience would have been completely different. So I would like to first say congratulations to all in my class, and thank you to all parties involved for all your hard work, I couldn’t have done this without all of you.

For me it is important to not think of the practical and academic components as mutually exclusive entities. While practicing the practical component being conscious of why you are doing something the way you are, or for what purpose, is a good way to never forget it. It also fosters understanding. For myself if I understand a concept I will rarely forget it, whereas a concept memorized can be forgotten much more easily.

In terms of practical work, a lot comes down to luck when exam day comes, and I happened to cut well on the days we were examined. However, the age old saying of ‘practice makes perfect’ is very true. Repetition is really important and I did spend a lot of time in the lab after hours practicing in order to produce the muscle memory required to perform while the stress was a bit higher during the exam. That being said I truly believe these awards could have been given to plenty of other individuals within my class.

Lastly, giving my mind the breaks it deserves is important. In order for me to be at my best I have to give my brain some time off. The best way I do this is by holding on to the things that I really enjoy doing which are mainly sports, socializing, as well as keeping in touch with my family regularly (and good coffee always helps).

What is your approach when you are caring for patients?

Honestly, my approach is really to just be myself with my patients. I don’t feel like I am a hard person to speak to which allows me to connect with most of my patients fairly quickly. This is the approach I have most appreciated when in the shoes of the patient so my philosophy is somewhat based on the principles of ‘do unto others as you would have them unto you’. This can be simple things such as I prefer to paper chart and then transfer my notes to the computer so that I can make eye contact with my patient. This approach allows me to share a profession relationship with my patient that I am most comfortable within.

I think it is very important to be conscious that although within the dental environment you may be the ‘expert’ each patient who sits in your chair is undoubtedly more knowledgeable within another field than I am, something that remind me that while the patient respects me, I should also give them the same respect. Having this in mind keeps me a much humbler person, something that a lot of patients find comforting, and something I value greatly when I am in the role of the patient.

You’ve talked a lot about your family. How have they shaped your philosophy in life?

Oh boy, where to start! Ever since I moved away from home, I’ve realized how much my family means to me. Ultimately, my family has shaped me greatly and everything they have taught me comes together to create my own personal philosophy.

Both of my parents have been great examples for me in the way of demonstrating incredible dedication, as well as a determined work ethic. My father was the person whom made me want to enter into the healthcare field. A lot of my professional beliefs and approaches come from him directly or indirectly, and one day I hope to be at least half the doctor that he has become. A lot of my approach is from his guidance, but also from what some of his patients have mentioned to me when he isn’t present. My mother, through her endless support, has taught me about forgiveness, strength, and sacrifice, three qualities that she has demonstrated on numerous occasions. And my brothers, they have provided me with an extra bit of motivation, and help to remind my of the accomplishments I have achieved, rather than being daunted by those which are my goals.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I can see myself working in a setting that is semi-hospital based. I love the atmosphere of the hospital and feel the need for some on-call type of work for myself. I find that type of work keeps me on my toes and keeps me motivated. Whether this be more hospital-based general dentistry or pursuing a specialty I am still currently undecided. I have recently begun to think more and more about potentially pursuing a career within the field of oral and maxillofacial surgery. I have a love for anatomy, that started in my second year of university and then flourished while learning more throughout my studies here. This love for anatomy and interest in dissection makes surgery seem like a very good fit for me. Not to say that I don’t enjoy the other aspects of dentistry as well, because I do. However, I don’t believe I would ever regret the decision of going into surgery in hindsight. All this being said, in 5 years I hope to have the same drive to learn and become better at dentistry as I do now.

What does success mean to you both in and out of the classroom?

Success to me is going home at the end of the day and not only feeling good about what you have done but also having the peace of mind knowing that your effect on those surrounding you was a positive one. Success is not only about bettering yourself but also facilitating those around you to become better as well. Obviously this may not be possible every single day but if the majority of days you are able to attain this I think you are more successful than a lot of people. Success to me is also just being comfortable in your own skin. When you are most comfortable with yourself you can achieve great things.

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