My journey into dentistry: Sneha Lopes

Sneha, a third-year Dental Surgery student, took an unconventional route to study dentistry at University of Plymouth's Peninsula Dental School

5 min read

I am so fortunate to be a part of the Peninsula Dental School, as early clinical exposure has made me more confident in treating patients.

Dental students in teaching environment
My journey into dental school was very unconventional. However, I cherish every experience I had and every lesson I learned along the way.
My parents are first-generation immigrants to the UK, originating from India. Many of my family members work in the healthcare sector, so growing up, I had a high affinity towards it. However, I also had an artistic inclination, as I enjoyed drawing, knitting and painting.
For this reason, I considered dentistry to be the perfect profession for me. 
Throughout my school journey, my teachers were very supportive of my aspirations. At school, I ensured that I gained experience shadowing dentists in both the NHS and the private sector. Despite having interviews for dentistry at three dental schools, I was unsuccessful in securing a place. This was very disheartening at the time.
I was left with the option of either taking a gap year or doing another degree and applying to study dentistry as a postgraduate student. I was hesitant to take a gap year, as I feared that if I didn’t get a place at a dental school that year, I would have had to go down the postgraduate pathway anyway. Additionally, I didn’t want a break in my education.
I conducted further research into the available options and came across the University of Plymouth’s Biomedical Science programme, which allows students to transfer to medicine and dentistry either in year one or upon graduation.
Fortunately, I knew someone from my school who was studying medicine at the University, so I contacted her.
She referred me to her friend, who was studying dentistry and had transferred from first-year Biomedical Science into Dental Surgery.
This was the best thing that could have happened to me at that time, as not only did I find a mentor but also a lifelong friend.
During my first year of university, I worked as a receptionist at a local mixed dental practice. It made me aware of the issues regarding access to dental care in the South West, something that I had mentioned in my interviews.
My time as a Biomedical Science student gave me a great opportunity to explore Plymouth and solidified my decision to study dentistry at the Peninsula Dental School.
Through University events, I encountered dental students who gave me insight into the course structure and what to expect as a dental student.
That summer, I also volunteered at a local dental practice in India. This was a valuable experience, as I got to compare and contrast the dental care and issues in the Western world with those in a developing country.
In my panel interview, I was able to talk about my experience and my journey towards achieving my goal of being a dentist. 
I am so fortunate to be a part of the Peninsula Dental School, as early clinical exposure has made me more confident in treating patients. 
I enjoy the dental school’s focus on problem-based learning rather than conventional lectures. Support is also not only available from the staff but from fellow students, which has made my journey worthwhile so far. 
As for the future, my volunteering experience in India, where I witnessed health inequalities, has had a great impact on me. So, upon qualifying as a dental professional, I would like to spend some time volunteering in socio-economically disadvantaged countries.

Access and Participation: supporting your journey into healthcare professions

The University of Plymouth Faculty of Health has a regional and national reputation for its widening participation work, and as part of our commitment to widening participation to medicine, dentistry and health courses, we undertake a series of initiatives in order to raise aspirations and healthcare.
We aim to help target and support the least likely but most able students, regardless of their background.
Medicine and dentistry school school pupil with microscope