It’s not often that we have the chance to speak to medical professionals, specifically in the area of dentistry, but today we’ll be hearing from Dr. Liya Mohammed, an expert dentist and orthodontist who has a passion for helping people overcome medical challenges.
As an elite member of the American Dental Association, Dr. Mohammed has been featured as a guest speaker at Mercy College, where she shared her story and experiences with students and faculty.
Dr. Mohammed is also a research scientist, studying oral cancer and the clinical application of dental products. She has presented this research to the American Academy of Dental Research, or AADR.
But it doesn’t stop there: Dr. Mohammed is also the founder of EmpowerGirlsNOW, which is a nonprofit that seeks to help victims of female genital mutilation and child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s quite the resume, and we’re very excited to share our interview with Dr. Mohammed with all of you, in which she expands on these various aspects of her career and discusses how other women can lead successful careers.
You’ve clearly excelled in dentistry. When you started your career, did you expect to be this successful?
Mohammed: I’ve always worked hard and did my best to be the best in anything that I do. However, I did not expect to be this recognized and sought after. I’m at a point in my career where patients wait months to get an appointment with me. Despite my efforts, working six days to provide access to everyone, I’m limited by available time.
Going back to the very start, what attracted you to dentistry as a career?
Mohammed: I have always wanted to be in the healthcare field because I have always wanted to interact with and help patients in need. Dentistry stood out to me because it adds an art and creativity aspect to health. In addition, Dentistry provides opportunities in a variety of private and public settings including private practice, teaching, research, public health, and administration. In the later stages of my career, I intend to allocate my time to public health and teaching.
Within dentistry, do you have any particular specializations? Are these specializations related to your research work?
Mohammed: In dental school, you only learn general dentistry, which is mostly restorative. Once I started practicing dentistry in private practice, then I started noticing specialty skills needed to provide excellent oral care.
That’s when I decided to specialize in orthodontics. My training has allowed me to perfect my restoration by aligning teeth properly. My research work has mostly been studying the effects of commonly used bleaching agents such as Carbamide Peroxide on healthy and demineralized teeth. Research allows me to provide evidence-based dentistry to my patients.
Can you tell us about what it was like being asked to speak at Mercy College? That sounds like a great opportunity.
Mohammed: It was an honor to speak to our future leaders and aspiring dentists. I was asked to speak about my journey to success as a dentist. Specifically coming from Ethiopia, a third-world country, I spoke about the hardships I faced and also spoke about what kept me motivated to keep going. The message of this speech was that anything is possible if you put your heart and soul into it.
That’s definitely a positive message to send. So what would you say defines your approach to patient care?
Mohammed: My first approach is listening to patients and their expectations of the visit. Once I address their ‘chief complaint’ then I expand on what I actually think is the order of treatment. I make sure that they understand what they say matters and that this is a two-way approach to give them the best possible treatment outcome.
On top of all your other accomplishments, you’re also the founder and CEO of EmpowerGirlsNOW. What is this organization all about?
Mohammed: EmpowerGirlsNOW is an NGO dedicated to helping and empowering young women who are victims of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, and child marriage. Most of these traditional harmful practices are performed in the sub-Saharan African region.
There are other NGOs with a similar mission as EmpowerGirlsNOW, however, our approach to finding a solution is different. We at EmpowerGirlsNOW believe that education is a path to freedom. Not only does education explain why these practices are harmful to their health, but it also provides financial freedom for these young girls to make their own decisions. I want to give the same gift my mother gave to me: education.
To close out, do you have any advice for aspiring dentists who are getting ready to start their careers?
Mohammed: I would say believe in yourself, work hard, and focus on your goals. As an Admissions Ambassador to NYUCD, I believe preparation is key to any success. Do your research on the schools you want to apply to and be authentic in your interviews.