Tatsiana Samalazava

Tatsiana Samalazava, who is originally from Belarus, was set to go into business with a business administration degree, and a masters in marketing.

But after watching a video of Root Canal Instrumentation, she decided dentistry was the career for her – and, after qualifying as a dental nurse first, explains her eventful path.

Eight years on from first seeing the video, Tatsiana graduates from the University of Plymouth as part of the first cohort of the five-year BDS (Hons) Dental Surgery programme at the University’s Peninsula Dental School.

“Right at that moment I decided that I would love to study dentistry and began a long journey to getting a place at the University of Plymouth”

My former partner studied Dentistry at Peninsula, and I sat with him as he watched a video on how to do a Root Canal Instrumentation (part of the root canal treatment). I was fascinated by the procedure, which sounds a bit odd because if you ask dentists, 99 per cent of them would say that it is possibly the most boring treatment in dentistry. 

But for me, I loved it then and I love it now. Right at that moment I decided that I would love to study dentistry and began a long journey to getting a place at the University of Plymouth. 

At the time, the entry requirements were to have a healthcare-related degree or any degree with related experience, so I started doing a degree in Biosciences with the Open University. Some time after, I found out that Peninsula was looking to train dental nurses to work alongside dental students. I applied but was unsuccessful, so I continued with my degree in Biosciences with the OU and fortunately was successful with my application second time around.

During the time I was on the dental nursing course, the BDS Dental Surgery changed from a four-year to a five-year programme, and with it, the entry requirements changed. I would need to undertake a GAMSAT, a widely-used medical exam that evaluates your relevant skills and abilities from prior experience and learning.

I applied to be part of the first five-year cohort, but unfortunately GAMSAT scores hadn’t come back in time so my application wasn’t considered. I made a decision to finish my dental nursing training anyway, work as a dental nurse and apply the year after. I passed my finals in July 2013 and was offered a place.

I can sincerely say the last five years have been unforgettable and I’ve had the time of my life! I remember when I stepped in into the Simulated Dental Learning Environment (SDLE) for the first time – which is where we practice skills on models before going into real-life clinics – and was asked to drill my name on the block to develop manual dexterity. 

It was something I’ll never forget, along with the first cavity preparation on a plastic tooth, the first extraction performed on the real patient and after five years of all that knowledge, practice and experience acquired, the day I was presenting my final Exit Case.

Tatsiana Samalazava

I loved it then and I love it now and every moment in between. I’m not going to say that It was easy and straightforward because it certainly wasn’t. English is my third language, there were areas where I struggled, and issues in my personal life got in the way on occasion. But the support from my tutors was outstanding. I’m not sure if I’d have been able to do it without them, and they really are a credit to their profession.

After graduating, I’m doing a Dental Foundation training year in a dental surgery and also would like to do some training in the hospital setting after that. Ideally I would like to specialise but I have not decided quite yet in what area. I enjoy practical aspects of dentistry, so I’m looking at restorative dentistry, paediatric dentistry and endodontics, and recently I have developed an interest in dental public health. I feel that I need to work for a few years to gain some valuable experience in order to make an informed decision.

I truly believe that Peninsula Dental School has given me such a strong platform in terms of theoretical knowledge and practical experience which I can use and build upon should I choose to specialise or work in the general dental practice.

They helped me write the first chapter and now it’s my turn to write the rest. 

“Dreams do come true, they just require lots of hard work and patience, trust and belief in one’s abilities.”

Tatsiana Samalazava clinic

Someone asked me in my final year how can I describe my experience and I said 'It's like climbing the Everest, it was exhausting, sometimes felt like never ending and I was stumbling through it, and yet it was the most rewarding, thrilling and exhilarating experience of my entire life'. 

I enjoyed every moment of it and would miss being there, I already do, but I'm utterly thrilled that I have reached the summit and the view is breath-taking.

Dental dentistry students practicing