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Dr. Nika Vafaei – Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon: Patience, Purpose and People

This week on Womanity-Women in Unity, Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka talks to Dr. Nika Vafaei, who is a Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon in private practice and previously served in the public sector. Dr Vafaei shares the differences between the types of conditions she treats in the private sector compared to her experience in the public sector, noting that cases in the public sector tended to be dominated by pathology (i.e tumours) and trauma as a result of assaults (such as broken jaws and broken noses), whereas wisdom tooth extraction and placing implants were more common in private practice.

We discuss the low ratio of maxillofacial surgeons to the general population and the uneven distribution of these specialists, particularly in rural communities. Lack of access to specialists has significant implications on individuals’ wellbeing, often conditions become complicate to treat because patients have delayed seeking help.  Dr Vafaei describes a memorable case where she was able to restore mobility to a young girl’s jaws after 13 years of not being able to open her mouth properly.

According to the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons only 8% of oral and maxillofacial surgeons are female; unfortunately this is a global trend. Dr Vafaei highlights some of the challenges of pursuing a specialisation, such as the intensity of working, studying and conducting research simultaneously. The demands during this phase can be difficult for women who have or plan to have children if they don’t have adequate support structures to help them. Dr Vafaei emphasises the benefits of having role models and mentors to provide a lived experience that shows how they attain professional goals and positive behaviours to emulate.

In closing, Dr Vafaei encourages us to understand our purpose and what motivates us to do the things we want them to; and to combine these drivers into our vocations to lead fulfilling lives.

Tune in for more…

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