Dental student Rajbir Nagra tries to focus on the positive to help overcome challenges. As a new U.S. citizen studying dentistry at University of California, San Francisco, Rajbir Nagra volunteers, in addition to her dental school clinic time, to connect with the community.
Nagra began dental school in India in 2009 and quickly fell in love.
“I had a great experience and it was a great foundation for me,” said Nagra.
Attending a rural dental school in Punjab, Nagra and her classmates gained an understanding of diseases other dental students might not encounter.
Following her graduation from Adesh University in 2014, Nagra moved to the United States to attend the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, shown. Upon arrival, Nagra realized the basics were the same, but the way dentists in the United States practice is completely different.
“Dentists here practice preventative dentistry rather than caring for patients at end-stage with swelling and pain. Seeing patients during COVID has been similar to seeing patients in India – people that were scared to come in for preventative care. It led to seeing a lot of emergencies.”University of California, San Francisco Dental Student Rajbir Nagra
Outside of dental school clinic time, Nagra volunteered at a local dental clinic to feel more acclimated to American life. She began working in a clinic with an Indian dentist whose patient population was primarily Indian.
“I wanted to get connected to the American community. But it (the first clinic) was what I was used to, and I wanted to go out and explore more.”University of California, San Francisco Dental Student Rajbir Nagra
New U.S. citizen at UCSF Dentistry, Rajbir Nagra volunteers to connect with the community
As a new citizen of the United States, Nagra sought a sense of connection with new customs and cultures. That led her to another dental clinic where she gained experience treating veterans and people from diverse communities in the area.
“You have to feel inside that you are American,” she said. “You have to feel inside that you made the right choice.”
Graduation for Nagra is quickly approaching, but she is keeping her options open. When asked if she would consider returning to India to practice, Nagra said she wants to return briefly to volunteer.
“There are so many differences and things India is lacking,” she said. “Things that we can provide them. I have a soft spot for my country.”
Currently, she is signed up to work with DSOs and private clinics. Nagra is looking to gain back the experience she lost due to COVID.
Although COVID took away parts of her dental school experience, Nagra remains grateful.
“We should take everything that comes up and try to make the most of it,” she said. “I crossed these hardships for a reason. I try to find the positive in every negative thing to help cross the hurdle. I feel more confident because of this.”
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