Welcome to our first episode of the Dentistry Unveiled series where my friend Dr. Keyur Shah will be sharing with us about his life’s successes, failures, regrets, his practice as an orthodontist, and his passion for dentistry.

Dr. Shah is an unusually talented orthodontist. He was born and raised in Toronto, Canada.

To read more about Dr. Shah or learn about his practice, please visit: http://www.illinoisortho.com/home

Full interview is here: https://youtu.be/rkum0MBLdM4


Let’s get to the interview:

Question1: Please tell us about yourself, your upbringing, and childhood.

My father passed away when I was growing up and so I was more attached to my mother’s side of the family. My mom was into accounting and I was largely inspired by her work ethic. She was a book keeper for many years and worked many jobs to support us. I observed how hard she worked and I was positively influenced by her. My interest in Dentistry was nurtured and cultivated by my family. We had several pharmacists, a microbiologist, and some family members in the auxiliary medical field. When growing up, I observed how my stepdad was respected by his patients and at that time I was thinking of pursuing psychiatry, but I was encouraged to explore other options too. My stepdad introduced me to his friend who was a general dentist and I hung out with him a lot
Question 2: At what age did you decide to pursue a career in dentistry? 

As an undergrad at the University of Toronto, I majored in Psychology and Biology. I applied for both medical and dentistry. It was harder to get into a dental school in Canada because there were fewer schools. However, I was lucky to get into the dental program at the University of Toronto which was close to home.

Question 3: As an undergrad, were you always an A student?

After elementary school, I started getting better grades and always did the best I could. My mom would jokingly ask where the 3% went whenever I got a 97% on a test. A lot of the stuff came naturally but there was a lot of hard work involved too.

Question 4: The truth about partying in dental school

I had good friends when I was in high school and college. I was involved with Student Council and sports which helped make me a well rounded person. Time management was the key to leading a balanced life. As for partying, I tell myself there will always be another sort of party to go to. Finish my exams first and I can always party later.

Question 5: University of Toronto Dental School – was it hard?

There were tough times. It’s hard to fail out of dental school because the school really invests in their students. In a class of 100 students, it was interesting to note that the top 20 students were the most social.
Question 6: Do you think that your dental school selected you because of your communication skills?

The admission process right now involves an interview, so dental schools do take into account that students have good communication skills and isn’t just book smart but have great personality too. But back then, dental schools cared more about your DAT grades.

Question 7: Is it true that there is no time for fun in dental school?

That’s not true at all. Time management is everything. If you set priorities, there should be time to do everything you set your heart to do. In addition, people learn at different rates. Some people learn slower than others and so they have to set aside more time to learn something. At the end of the day, you really would have to know yourself. Being a practitioner isn’t all about having your nose stuck in a book, you would need cultivate social interaction skills as well.

Question 8: Can you give any advice to someone going into dental school for their first time? Is there anything you would’ve done differently? 

I think I came into dental school a little too nervous and rigid. Looking back now, a friend provided a synopsis of how I looked before: I was professionally dressed with a brief case but was looking very stiff. I wished I could have taken it all in and enjoy the journey.

Question 9: What was behind your decision to go back for an orthodontics residency after 3 years of being a general dentist?

The goal was always orthodontics. During my second year in dental school, I met an orthodontist and we shared similar values, and I knew that it was something that I wanted to do. However, I didn’t want to go from school to school and I knew I wanted some sort of outside experience. The year that I got married was the year that I applied for orthodontics school at the University of Manitoba. The school provided a really good environment to learn clinical skills and do research.

Question 10: What is the secret for success in your family?

Communication and compromise is key. There are ups and downs to every marriage. But as long as you can be a team, a mutual understanding can be reached. The day after I got married, I felt a sense of responsibility for my wife who was next to me. Likewise, my wife approached it the same way too. This sense of responsibility gets elevated when you have kids.

Question 11: Life is all about choices: do you always look on the bright side?
I’m an optimist to a fault sometimes. Some of my staff members joked that I’m always thinking of positive things and that I can’t be negative for one time. Being an optimist has helped a lot in my life and in my career too

Question 12: Passion: how did you know that orthodontics was your true passion?

I was decided on orthodontics pretty early on. I had interactions with some patients and orthodontists. I learned a lot by observing what the orthodontists could do and how they were making their patients happy. Their patients were coming in happy and leaving the clinic with smiles on their faces too. I also have a lot of close friends in Loyola when I was completing my residency who are orthodontists too.

Question 13: Did you have any failures in life? What is your biggest regret in life? (You can’t miss this part of the interview!)

My favorite quote is Michael Jordan’s quote, “I’ve missed this many shots. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” There’s no failure that I haven’t learned from and there’s no failure that sticks out in my mind that I wished I hadn’t done. The way how I move forward with my life is that I learn from my failures and I make sure to not repeat them again.

My biggest regret wouldn’t be something that I did but rather something that I didn’t do. I have a close friend who unfortunately passed away. He had a bachelor’s party at Barcelona and I couldn’t make it because I was early in practice and it was hard to schedule time off. I didn’t want to disappoint staff and patients by taking a vacation. But I felt that it would be great to spend time with him on his wedding because you get closer with friends on trips like these.

Question 14: What does it mean to be the business owner of a dental practice and what did you have to learn?

There’s a lot to learn about the inner workings of a business that I learned while I was on the job. I have a good mentor as well. Having good people around you to build the business is essential. We have a great team who share the same committed values.

Questions 15: When you look at other dentists, what do you consider success and how do you measure it?

I think success is a personal decision. But I believe what defines true success is happiness of the patients and my staff. People walking out of the door feeling really happy about the results of your practice and people who are around you every day who are happy when they come to work and share the same passion as you do.

Question 16: Is money really important?

Money is necessary but it’s not the end all. It doesn’t have to be the driving force for everything. Some people’s lives aren’t complete yet even though they have a lot of money and it’s something that you can observe as a third party.

Question 17: How do you choose your friends?

I feel that my friends choose me. I am really lucky. In my mind, I feel that we have a core group of friends who share the same philosophy and values and we just migrate and found each other.

Question 18: If you could summarize what you do, your passion in life and in dentistry into one word, what would it be?

Smiles. It’s just such a powerful thing. Not only creating smiles on the surface through the orthodontic work that we do, but also you can create smiles in patient’s eyes from their dental experience. The satisfaction that you get from that is what drives me.

Question 19: What does the word “trust” mean to you?

Trust is an emotional connection. There are several degrees of trust. If you trust someone with your medical care, it comes from within and it’s hard to establish that trust. You could get information from family members and friends or even look at reviews, but I don’t think you can establish that trust until you really experience it for yourself.

Question 20: If you could go back and tell yourself one piece of advice in dental school, what would it be? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?

I think about this a lot actually not in terms of regret but because of what others can learn from my experience. There are several students who come here who seek our advice and were thinking of pursuing dentistry or orthodontics. I would give advice to relax more and not overanalyze everything. I feel that keeping the big picture in mind and being focused on that rather than sweating the small stuff is key. My main priorities and goals were staff and employee satisfaction.

Dentistry Unveiled, 

Tiger Safarov

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About Dentistry Unveiled

Dentistry Unveiled is a project that aims to learn the personal stories of some of the most successful dentists. In this video series, we go deeper to uncover what drives and motivates dentists each day to do what they do. We break down their personal path to success from dental school to today. I ask doctors to answer the challenging question of “why dentistry?” and analyze what it is they are passionate about in the profession and in life. I ask thought provoking questions and get unconventional answers. It’s now up to you to decide if dentistry is truly unveiled.


Dentistry; Dentist; Dental Life, PEOPLE