Dr Mohit Tolani, Griffith alumnus, says that building community spirit and finding a way to give back with his skillset makes people smile in more ways than one.
Dr Mohit Tolani’s life both during his studies and since graduation has been a combination of being a dental surgeon, a community volunteer and an excellent example of leadership. In addition to undertaking full time work and studies, Mohit devotes his time to various career and community initiatives to learn not just from the books but from the people around him.
Mohit says he’s always been interested in health, specifically in the intersecting areas of science, medicine, hand work and communication, which lead him to undertake the Bachelor of Dental Health Science. It’s his career goal to become a successful dental practitioner by contributing positively to the dental field by enhancing dental education and innovation.
“During my dental school days, I used to volunteer in various capacities with the Rotaract Club of Southport (RCOS) and as mentor with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) program,” he says.
“The value found in education, mentoring and community service has underpinned my career and institutions like Griffith University, RCOS and AIME have been a critical part of that.”
Mohit says it was while working as a Dental Officer in Goulburn Valley Health in rural Victoria that he realised he didn’t just want to be a dentist who pulled teeth; he wanted to do more to improve dental health by educating his patients.
“I had to extract 8 teeth from a 2-year-old child due to poor dental health management,” he says.
“Then I had to remove all the teeth from a 17-year-old girl’s mouth due to oral health neglect. I saw recently arrived refugees, for some of them this was their first visit to a “tooth doctor.” Sadly, there are more examples I could give.
“I wanted to get to the root cause of all of this and work out a reason why is this happening in today’s world and I found the answer was poor dental health literacy, and that there was a marked difference between the dental and general health between urban and region/rural populations.
Mohit set out to change things. In 2017, while working in Shepparton in rural Victoria, he organised the Shepp Health project, delivering basic dental, eye and general health management information to high school students and TAFE students in order to increase health awareness, identify the anomalies, and give them knowledge of where and when to seek help.
Then, in 2018, he etched the Community Smiles program in Dapto in regional New South Wales, providing free dental care to marginalised communities and those with limited access to oral health care, and oral health literacy to school children and young adults.
Mohit says the basis of both programs is changing the future through education.
“If you want to shape the future, you should shape the child; they’re such quick learners and will spread the message to friends and family,” he says.
“Next time there’s something wrong with their mouth, they will know where to seek help and what to do”.
Mohit says the diversity of opportunities offered to health professionals in a rural setting drew him to build a career in rural settings – he has worked in rural and regional New South Wales and Victoria, and contributed locus relief to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“I was drawn to rural and regional locations because I feel that it’s an area where there’s been neglect in the past,” Mohit says.
“Often there’s a big backlog of patients who have not been able to go to the dentist because dental practices or the public health services has been closed, so they would need to travel great distances, even days, to see a dentist, which is often not possible.
“So you can go out to these communities in rural and regional areas where there is an actual demand for service who have previously been missing out.”
Currently, as the nation battles the challenges of COVID-19, Mohit is offering his services within both the professional and volunteer capacity.
“The healthcare system is currently overtaxed, and I am glad that as one of the private practitioners in the region, we are open and still serving our local communities while working within the prescribed guidelines,” he says.
“On the frontline, we have been offering tele-dental and web-based assistance to those in need.
“Something this all makes you realise is that there is more to your job than just drill and fill. Learning from, teaching and empowering the people you meet daily with the aim of putting a smile to their faces drives me further every day.
“I enjoy my work and want to do more. My message for the next generation is that using your skillset and experiences to make even a small change in someone’s life can have a profound impact on both them and on yourself.”
If like Mohit you’d like to change lives through a career in dentistry, visit our website for the range of undergraduate and post-graduate options in dentistry and oral health. Several places are held each intake for students of a rural origin through Griffith’s Rural Priority Access Scheme.