“I’m a new graduate with 20 years’ experience!” exclaims Ramin Hakimi, reflecting on his status as a Canadian-accredited dentist. When Ramin arrived here in February 2013, the Iranian-trained dentist declared that within two years he would conquer the roadblocks to practising in Canada. He has succeeded, thanks to Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) Career Pathway Loan Fund.
Even before Ramin and his wife immigrated, he contacted ISANS and enrolled in online courses on resume writing and job searching. Here he took writing courses and the Introduction to Nova Scotia program. But it has been a hard road. “The professional part was my greatest challenge as a newcomer,” says Ramin. Luckily his English was good. He contacted the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB), responsible for maintaining a national standard of competence for dentists. Registration took six months. “I knew all the barriers; I needed solutions for everything.”
Assessments included written tests about the basic science of dentistry, and clinical judgement. A practical exam covered clinical skills, what to do day to day. Ramin’s dental degree was accredited by the NDEB, allowing him to write the Canadian Board Exams in November 2014. By January he received his licence and started to work. “It felt good; absolutely!”
Ramin had worked in Iran for over 20 years, having received his dental degree in 1991 from Tehran University and later a Master’s of Old Iranian Languages and Culture. He was also an oral medicine and diagnoses lecturer; a history of medicine research instructor; and he has been published widely. Ramin worked in clinical dentistry and in 1998 started his own practise with his wife, also a dentist. She is now working toward her Canadian licence, having delayed studying at the same time as Ramin because of the stress and expense.
Despite the challenges, he respects the process. “If we want to keep the integrity of the Canadian health system, these assessments are necessary. They know we graduated but they don’t know how good we are at dentistry.” Ramin calls it a “long and intensive continuing education program.”
ISANS’ Fund was crucial, including invaluable financial literacy sessions and a bank meeting about how the loan works and how to manage finances. ISANS helped find and pay for study materials and directed Ramin to an internationally-trained dentists study group. The loan covered the expensive examination process including instruments, and travel to exams in Ottawa and Saskatoon. He began to pay it back upon employment.
“ISANS is the best opportunity for immigrants,” says Ramin, who now helps other immigrant dentists through the bridging program. “There’s lots to learn; if you do it by yourself it takes a very long time.”
He volunteered in ISANS’ computer lab and studied English for Business. He believes he found employment quickly because of that course, as well as ISANS’ employment counselling, job interview practice and resume writing assistance. He applied for four jobs, received two offers and was hired by Daniel Daniel Dentistry in Halifax.
Although his two sisters are in the US, Ramin doesn’t question whether Nova Scotia is right for him. “The ocean, the weather, the people, the history – everything attracted me. I love Nova Scotia.” He and his wife swim and run, and he is an accredited scuba diver. He travels annually to visit his parents in Iran. Life was good there, but they wanted a challenge. “Work for society and the society will pay you back. It’s good to have faith and hope, but you must be a hard worker if you want your dreams to come true.”