Dr Roshanak Amrein
Adelaide dental surgeon and University of Adelaide alumna, Dr Roshanak Amrein arrived in Australia from Iran in the mid-nineties with only limited English. She belongs to the Bahaí community, and the Baha'is are among the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran. Her family members experienced execution and detention and were barred from tertiary study. Roshanak remembers her first day at school vividly. She witnessed a six year old girl receive physical punishment for forgetting the mandatory Hijab. Her older brothers paved the way, arriving in Australia as refugees, putting themselves through university and later becoming a professor and an ophthalmologist.
Roshanak always knew she wanted to be a dentist, so she learned English, restudied year 12 and applied to the University of Adelaide Bachelor of Dental Surgery program. Roshanak recounts, "I came home and there was a message from the University of Adelaide on the answering machine. As English was still a bit hard for me, I asked my brother to listen, and he confirmed I had been offered a place. It was so unbelievable for me that I burst into tears."
After completing her Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Dr Rosh, as she is known to her patients, spent many years in clinical practice and started a private clinic, Adelaide Cosmetic Dentistry, in 2007. Although Dr Rosh faced challenges along her journey to becoming a dentist, she remembers Adelaide University with great fondness.
What is your most enduring memory of Adelaide University?
The life of a student is hard. There is so much pressure. At times tutors and teachers could make life feel challenging, but I also remember lunches on the Bar Smith Lawns, coffees and snacks at the Union Cafe, Dental Balls, and sneaking out to Torrens Banks with then-boyfriend and later husband, Andre.
What did you learn during your studies that you found most helpful in your career?
Alongside the technical and scientific skills of dentistry, I learned how to be a caring professional, put others first and be uncompromising when it comes to the care of my patients.
Did you have a favourite place on campus?
Union Studio. I loved the pottery classes with the teacher and now my friend Helen. It was an amazing escape that I still miss.
What was your favourite activity?
I loved O'Week and was always part of the Adelaide University Bahai Society. We always had a wonderful stall promoting ideals like equality of men and women, the harmony of science and religion and unity in diversity.
Any noteworthy mentors?
There were quite a few extraordinary individuals whose input has lasted over time. Dr John Whetherell had a laid-back approach and a great Aussie sense of humour. I still use his little phrases to make my patients laugh. Late Professor Townsend's conduct taught me how to be a caring professional. Dr Paul Duke taught oral surgery with great kindness, humility and professionalism. Other excellent teachers include Dr Tracy Winning, Dr Kay Roberts-Thomson, Professor Dryer and Professor Thompson from the orthodontic department and Prof John Kindonas. Dr Richard Salter was a thorough and passionate teacher who offered me my first job and continued to teach me for the first few years of my career.
What was challenging?
Dentistry is a demanding and highly pressured degree. The hours are demanding, and the subjects are complicated. So, the pressure was on to perform well and pass.
What advice would you give to current students?
As my former teacher, Dr Whetherell, always said, "leave the ego at home". Ours is a privilege that is hard to come by. Remain humble, retain a learning posture for life and do your work in a spirit of service to humanity.
What makes you proud?
My main focus is cosmetic dentistry. Improving the appearance of someone's smile based on principles of aesthetic dentistry can take many forms, from gum surgery to simple orthodontics. The smiles and sometimes the tears always make my day. I feel blessed and privileged. I am proud of what my husband Andre and I have achieved with Adelaide Cosmetic Dentistry in Hyde Park.
What career goals are you aiming for now?
I will always continue to learn about the various facets of dentistry. I'm also fascinated with the power of public policy and education to prevent disease! Dental care and general care go hand in hand. The human body is a whole entity; we must collaborate as a community of health professionals and avoid operating in silos.
I started learning about sleep health several years ago and formed the Adelaide Airway interest group last year. We are learning from medical and dental specialists about this topic and hope to extend the conversation to others and share how we can prevent the problem or lessen its impact on society.