Expert Q&A with: Dr. David Attia
BDSc (Griffith), GradDip (Dent)(Griffith)), MSc (Oral Implantology)(Goethe) PGDipClin(Ortho)(CoL), FICOI
Dr David Attia completed his undergraduate training at Griffith University, Queensland. Following graduation, Dr. Attia completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics through the City of London Dental School and is now a clinical instructor for dentists completing the program through EODO, Australia.
His passion for surgery led him to complete a Master’s in Oral Implantology through Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. David’s Master’s dissertation focused on a novel approach in full-arch implant rehabilitations and he presented his research at the 6th Annual Congress of Innovation Jumps in Oral Implantology. Dr. Attia has also presented on the importance of dental photography and clinical documentation, as well as the soft tissue management around implants both locally and abroad. David is also involved in live surgical training of dentists looking to begin their journey in dental implantology.
Among others, he is an active member of the Australian Society of Implant Dentistry (ASID), The International Team for Implantology (ITI), the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI), and has completed his fellowship with the ICOI.
Dr Attia thoroughly enjoys the multi-disciplinary approach to dentistry. David’s unique combination of education and training allows him to implement cutting-edge treatment, offering patients comprehensive, predictable and long-term treatment solutions.
Oral surgery and implant dentistry is a big aspect of dentistry that a lot of dentists want to learn more about. From case selection, flap designs, extractions and implants, how do you suggest people get started in safely expanding their clinical scope?
I’d like to start with a quote from one of my mentors – “The knowledge of today can be the error of tomorrow”
In all aspects of clinical (and non-clinical) dentistry, continuing education is essential and should form an integral part of your schedule when planning the year ahead. Whether you want to open your eyes to an aspect of dentistry you don’t know much about, or completely immerse yourself into something you are truly passionate about, ‘ongoing education’ will always be key….and education comes in many different forms. We are very blessed to be practicing dentistry during an era where education is so readily available – not only live, but also online.
However, in my opinion, when it comes to oral surgery and implant dentistry, I believe it’s important to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we start to run. Beginning with fundamentals such as treatment planning, case selection and the importance of medical history for example, will provide us with a solid foundation on which we can truly develop our skills and build our experience and confidence levels. Having a good grasp of the basics allows us to discover and acknowledge our limitations and therefore lead, to good case selection – especially during the early stages of our journey where mistakes and complications can often stunt our growth and deter us from taking on cases.
There are so many great courses run by phenomenal educators out there – from short weekend courses to modular-style mini-residency programs – there is just so much to choose from. Although these courses offer great value in their own regard, I am a big advocate for structured, blended learning programs through recognised tertiary institutions provided by highly respected clinicians within their field. In my personal experience, these programs offer a solid literature-based foundation, coupled with hands-on clinical exercises and a variety of clinical case requirements that are completed under the close supervision of experienced mentors.
In addition to great education, the importance of mentorship cannot be overstated. Surround yourself with mentors whom you trust and have aligned philosophies with. A good mentor will be someone who will not only guide you and help you prepare for cases, but will also be honest in their critical appraisal of your work with the sole motive of helping you improve. This will lead to a greater appreciation for the finer details that can often be overlooked when we begin to venture out into more clinically demanding, multi-disciplinary cases.
The say you are average of the five people you hang out with the most. There seems to be a huge movement of top young clinicians in Australia that you are a part of. How much of your personal growth as a clinician do you attribute to the growth of your peer group? How do you suggest other clinicians surround themselves with more like minded clinicians?
Personal growth is the result of a number of factors that synergistically work together within each individual. We each have an inherent desire to continue to develop and progress both personally and professionally. However, one cannot overlook the impact that the environment we are in, or the people whom we chose to surround ourselves with have on our trajectory.
Dentistry can be quite an isolating profession and this can be clinically and mentally taxing – particularly when we find ourselves stagnating. Going through these ruts alone can be extremely difficult – especially early on in our careers. Whether we are adapting to a new work environment, struggling to fulfill financial obligations, striving to meet clinical demands, or managing the pressure we so readily place on ourselves to continually improve – we all need help!
The people we chose to align ourselves with can directly influence our mindset. We always have a choice and can either surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and therefore “as iron sharpens iron, so one person will sharpen another”, or we find ourselves surrounded by negativity and the “bad company will corrupt our good character”.
By aligning ourselves with those who want what’s best for us, we create a close net group of colleagues (friends!) who are genuinely interested in our growth and wellbeing as much as they are interested in their own. What does that mean or look like? It means associating with those who will not only share in your successes – but will do so without any shred of jealousy, hatred or envy. It also means that when you experience less-than-ideal results, complications, or even failures, that same group of friends will not shy away from providing the honest feedback and tough-to-swallow pills that you need in order to improve. There is no sugar-coating and no holding back – because you know it comes from a good place.
As we see each other elevate both clinically and personally on a regular basis, our natural response becomes to lift our standards both individually and collectively. We are each on our own journey and carry our own experiences, possessing different strengths and weaknesses. We each have two eyes and two hands, and we will always look at our own work in a different light to others. The more time we spend analysing the good and critiquing the not-so-good in each other’s work, the quicker we begin to assess and plan our cases from a completely different dimension and our eyes will begin see what our minds can now comprehend. It is all about collegiality and being genuinely happy for the individual and collective growth of those around you.
You have used social media and Instagram in particular to build a following, connect and collaborate with dentists and specialists from around the world. How can dentists leverage the power of social media to accelerate their learning?
Over the last few years, social media has had a huge impact on the dental industry. Facebook, and more recently Instagram have both served as great platforms for clinicians to not only market themselves but to also share their work and connect with like-minded professionals. Great clinicians from all over the world are regularly sharing an incredibly high calibre of dentistry that it is readily accessible at our fingertips. As we connect with dentists and specialists through their clinical work, we also gain an insight into their personal journeys and unique experiences that have shaped them into the clinicians they are today.
This has allowed me to personally form friendships with many general practitioners and dental specialists from different corners of the globe that would have not been possible without Instagram. It is through these friendships that we have been able to learn from one another through case discussion as well as grow and develop not only as clinicians, but also as people. Such interactions have opened up my eyes to a world of dentistry that I had never thought would be possible. It introduced us to new concepts, ideas and philosophies in both clinical and non-clinical dentistry and encourages us to think outside the box in the way we run our practices and complete cases, all for the ultimate betterment of our patient.
The fact that there is so much positivity on social media at the moment is a great thing, as historically, social media developed a stereotype of negativity and bullying. Nonetheless, despite the many positives that can be drawn out from the power of social media, it is equally important to recognise that it can also serve as a double-edged sword – especially for younger clinicians. As we see the standard of dentistry elevate through the work being put on display daily, it can leave us with a sense of overwhelming pressure as we reflect on our own work. Oftentimes, we are left to ponder “will I ever be able to provide these outcomes for my patients?”. However, it is important to remember that what we see on Instagram is a not only a small snapshot of a particular case, but also the author’s journey, and there is often a lot of blood, sweat and tears shed behind the scenes.
Furthermore, in order to ‘keep up’, ‘remain active’ and ‘engaging’, clinicians can be tempted to shift from striving to achieve patient-centred outcomes, to obtaining that perfect photo ‘for the gram’. However, social media should be aspirational. It should serve as a source of inspiration to helps us discover our passions. We ought to look at the incredible clinicians that post phenomenal work and rather than think “why isn’t my work that good?”, have the mindset of “how can I fulfill my own potential with the skills I have been blessed with?”.
Social media is a great tool and it doesn’t need to change. Alternatively, we should develop a sound mentality of how we perceive social media. For younger clinicians – seek out and connect with those who are not only more experienced than you, but also people who align with your values. Social media is not for us to ‘learn dentistry’ so-to-speak, but rather point us in the right direction to get the education that we thirst for, and we should look beyond social media for mentors. Remember to stay in your lane, run your own race and compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who somebody else is today.
For those with more experience, be ready and available to help the new generation of dentists. Be willing to share your experiences with them and wherever possible, offer them sound advice or point them in the direction where they can find solutions to their unanswered questions. Just as we were offered help during the earlier years of our careers (and now as older clinicians!), we too should help those who are to come after us. We owe it to ourselves, our patients and to our profession!