Dentistry in his heart

Dr Vinal Harkishan at the Fiji National University dental clinic. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

NOTHING is more satisfying to Dr Vinal Harkishan than seeing patients leave the dental clinic with a big bula smile on their face. Dr Vinal is an assistant professor and head of department of clinical operations at the School of Dentistry and Oral Health.

“By profession, I am a specialist prosthodontist that specialises in treating and handling dental and facial problems that involve restoring missing tooth and jaw structures,” Dr Harkishan said.

“I am a highly trained and skilled clinician pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance of the oral function, comfort, appearance and health of patients with clinical conditions associated with missing or deficient teeth or oral and maxillofacial tissues using biocompatible substitutes.

“My particular interest is in maxillofacial prosthodontics with a multidisciplinary approach involving oral and maxillofacial surgeons, plastic surgeons, head and neck surgeons, physiotherapists, and other healthcare professionals.

“It revolves around treating patients who have acquired and congenital defects of the head and neck (maxillofacial) region due to cancer, surgery, trauma, or birth defects with the aid of prosthesis including maxillary obturator, speech aids, artificial eyes, nose and ears.”

He said many patients at their school as well as the Ministry of Health had benefited from the service that significantly had improved their quality of life as part of rehabilitation.

“At the dental school, I teach the fourth year and graduating students. This gives me an opportunity to train students in replacing missing teeth using removable as well as fixed prosthesis,” he said.

“A patient who presents (him or herself) to our school with the need for missing teeth to be replaced is offered a number of treatments to replace missing teeth. There are many factors that determine what treatment option to select, and as an academic, I make sure that students are well trained in coming to a diagnosis and developing evidence-based treatment plans. “Further to this, dental students plan the case and execute treatment under my guidance.”

Dr Harkishan said he was passionate about what he did and aimed to improve himself. “I find my job challenging and at the same time satisfying. Those patients come with a hope of being able to be rehabilitated and talk, smile, laugh, socialise and most importantly chew and enjoy their food,” Dr Harkishan said.

“The realisation that I want to be a prosthodontist came during my first year of work as a new graduate. I saw the need for a specialist, particularly with most patients you see having missing teeth.

“Also there was a need for such a specialist at university level whereby the students can be groomed who will be our future dentist.

“I was very fortunate to have been taught by Dr Borlase who is currently the associate professor and specialist prosthodontist at Charles Sturt University in Sydney.

“He was instrumental in my training as the inspiration I got from him was amazing. I always wanted to do something different so that I could come back and serve the people of Fiji and be part of the dentistry family in both academic and clinical. It was after two and a half years, I got a chance to fulfil my dreams.”

Dr Harkishan said each day was a new day with its own challenges and that was something he loved most about his work.