Smiles of Dentistry

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Dr. Raphael de Souza.
Photo Credits: Suzanne Lacombe

At the beginning of my academic career in Brazil, a female student came to my office to talk about how overwhelmed she was feeling. She was struggling with the courses, which were very intensive, and with a personal challenge: she had a high-risk pregnancy. Her doctor was very concerned with her high blood pressure, which was a major risk for her health. He was even considering abortion as an option if her blood pressure could not be controlled within the next 15 days. This baby had been greatly anticipated with much affection by her, her husband and her son, and my student was torn and concerned. She needed to graduate as soon as possible, but the stress caused by the courses was impacting her health. I immediately told her to interrupt her studies for a year, take care of her health and focus on her pregnancy, because the Faculty, unlike life, could give her a second chance to resume her studies later. I remember my assertiveness during the talk, which led her to take my advice. In the following years, I eventually moved to another university and lost contact with that student.

Almost a decade later, I received an email from her. She explained to me how grateful she was for the talk we had that day, and that she felt I had saved her daughter who was now 7 years old. After she went on leave that year, her blood pressure was kept under control and it was safe for her to move through the entire pregnancy.

This experience was a turning point for me as an instructor and human being. I realized just how much power you have as a faculty member and teacher. And “with great power comes great responsibility”. The same power that can smash students’ dreams can result in wonderful outcomes too, like saving a family. In the end, to me, remaining human and personable is the way to go that extra mile and possibly make a huge difference in someone’s life.

– Dr. Raphael de Souza, Associate Professor, Division of Oral Health and Society, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University

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