Bringing their brilliance

The IDA has recently launched a campaign to attract more foreign-trained dentists into Ireland. Here, we share the stories of dentists from other countries who have come to Ireland and found success in work and the Irish Dental Association.

Dr Amalia Pahomi
HSE Dental Surgeon
President of HSE Dental Surgeons Group
Amalia comes from Târgu Mure, a city in the heart of Transylvania in Romania, and studied dentistry in Cluj-Napoca: “I graduated in 1999 and just a few years later, I came to Ireland. At that time, Romania was not in the EU, so I had to sit the Irish Dental Council examinations for foreign-trained dentists and I got registered with the Dental Council in 2005”.
Amalia currently works as a public dental surgeon in Hartstown Health Centre in Dublin 15. She joined the IDA soon after coming to Ireland: “I became a member of the IDA in 2005 as soon as I got registered with the Irish Dental Council. In 2014, my then Principal Dental Surgeon, Dr Jane Renehan, asked me to consider joining the IDA HSE Dental Surgeons Committee and I did”.
Now, Amalia has risen through the ranks and is taking on the role of President of the Group at a time when there are serious issues within the public dental service. While HSE dentists who were seconded for Covid duties are now back at their normal work, the time they spent helping the country out has naturally resulted in delays: “I think the big issue at present is to catch up with the backlog as a result of the pandemic and resume normal services while dealing with the challenges imposed by staff shortages, redeployments, and increased demand on our services”.
Amalia says that there will be challenges in the year ahead for public dentistry: “The public dental service has been severely affected by the pandemic and the HSE Committee will work hard to help and guide its members during this time. I would aim for very close co-operation between the public and private services in providing the best care for the patients”.
Amalia commends HSE dentists for their extraordinary effort during the Covid pandemic, “either by being redeployed or working in the dental surgeries, and very often doing both roles at the same time”.

Positive impact
Amalia says that the IDA was the biggest source of information to her about Irish dentistry when she came here first, and that the Association has helped her continuously since then: “Being an IDA member, I’ve had numerous opportunities to meet new colleagues, and to attend events and seminars organised by the IDA to keep up with CPD requirements and be up to date with any dentistry-related issues. “My involvement in the HSE Dental Surgeons Committee also helped me to understand better the HSE organisational structures and politics, and the work of the Committee on behalf of its members”.
Considering Ireland’s multicultural society, Amalia believes dentists from outside Ireland have a positive impact, both from a dental and cultural perspective: “Sharing personal and professional experiences with colleagues from other countries and cultures is beneficial, both for the patients and the dental team”.
Amalia loves living in Ireland and says Irish people have made her feel very welcome. Living here has afforded her great professional and personal opportunities, but it’s only natural that there are some things she misses from home: “I miss my family and friends, especially my college friends, but I had the chance to meet them again in 2019 at our 20-year reunion. I just wish I could bring the warm Romanian summers and great winter snows over here”.

Amalia would like to share her positive experience of working in dentistry in Ireland with any dentists thinking about coming here: “I would encourage them to join the IDA as soon as possible because it is a great resource for meeting other dentists and finding out how dentistry works in Ireland”.

Dr Marcela Torres-Leavey
Kinnegad Dental, Co. Westmeath

Marcela swapped Latin America for the Irish Midlands in the mid-00s, after meeting her now husband Aidan while he was working in her home country of Guatemala. She set up Kinnegad Dental in the Westmeath town in 2012.
Marcela’s studies in Guatemala entailed six years of training, the sixth of which sees students go to work in the community to help those most in need: “It gives you a fantastic feel of the real world, going out there to practise as a dentist, and the responsibility that it takes to have somebody with you in the dental chair”.
Marcela got married in 2007 and completed her Dental Council exams the following year. In 2009, she started practising. Her principal dentist at the time recommended that she join the IDA: “IDA membership for me is something I couldn’t do without. I really love being part of the IDA because I am happy with the guidance they have provided for me, the support when I needed it, as well as all the courses that happen throughout the year”.
Her Irish family helped her settle in the country, but another strong source of assistance was joining the IDA, both for professional and moral support: “It’s a way to integrate and it’s a way to not just learn clinical things, but also learn from other dentists, even from the small interactions we have at coffee breaks when we go to the seminars”.
There are things she misses about Guatemala, such as her family, the food and the landscape, but she has settled in well in Ireland: “The people here in Ireland are fantastic. They’re happy. The sense of humour is really similar to our sense of humour in Latin America. People here are really welcoming as well. That makes me not feel as homesick as I thought I would be”.
For dentists coming here, she says prepare well. Have your documents in order, research where you want to live, and speak to the IDA: “Working and living in Ireland in my experience has been joyful and a blessing … I’m delighted that I can practise in a country that lets me do my work and provides me with the opportunities to keep learning, growing and to be respected in my field. As a woman, I came from a country where it is difficult to make your mark and to have a better life. I am delighted to be here and have a beautiful family and friends and dental friends, and obviously, I love my patients!”

Dr Erika Barta
Crown Dental, Harold’s Cross, Dublin

Erika graduated in 2005 in Budapest before doing a master’s in restorative and prosthetic dentistry in Debrecen, a university town in Hungary: “After getting my master’s degree, I always wanted to try myself and work in another country. I decided to move to the UK and I worked there for a year. Then I was offered a position in Dublin, so I decided to move over here and I really liked it. I fell in love with the country. The place is beautiful, the people are friendly, so I stayed”. That was 12 years ago and since she came to Ireland, Erika says the IDA has been of great help to her: “When I moved over from the UK, I wanted to get familiar with the local regulations and obviously, I was trying to find courses to improve my skills as well. One of my colleagues recommended checking out the IDA courses, so I did. But I found out they offered a lot more than just courses, so I joined and that’s how it started”.
She says the IDA has been of assistance to her especially since she became a practice owner, offering help on aspects like tax, marketing and HR issues, which dentists aren’t trained for in dental school: “Also, IDA membership has helped me network and meet dental colleagues and learn from them too. It’s really nice to know that I have colleagues that I can meet at IDA events and keep in touch with for advice and support”. Erika misses her family and friends in Hungary and the summers of her home country: “However, I think people in general are a lot more laid back over here and they tend to appreciate small things more in general than say in Hungary”. For any dentists thinking about coming to Ireland, Erika says now is a good time: “I think Ireland is a great place to practise dentistry. The registration process is quite straightforward and I think especially now, dentistry is really busy so finding a job is easy enough. I would definitely recommend taking the plunge and moving to Ireland. Even if someone is thinking of it for a short-term period, it’s still worthwhile trying yourself and you might just learn different techniques or you might figure out that this is the place for you and want to stay here forever”.

Dr Tristan Hartung
Eyre Square Dental, Galway

Tristan was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany, to a German father and Irish mother, and as soon as he finished his dental training in Hannover Medical School, he made the move to Ireland. Now, he is working in Eyre Square Dental in Galway.
Having an Irish mother, Tristan spent a lot of time here growing up: “I spent many holidays in Kilkenny, where my Mam’s family is from, while growing up but I had never really lived here. After college, I guess I was adventurous and I was happy to give it a try. Thankfully, if you qualify in the European Union, you can work anywhere else if you speak the language. It was very easy to make the switch in that way”.
There are things that are different in Germany and Ireland, but what might be considered an advantage of one place can seem different from another’s perspective: “When I go back, it’s a very different feeling in Germany. Everything seems more organised and more streamlined, but I myself perceive that as a big benefit of living in Ireland, in that you don’t have to be as organised. Nobody expects you to be as German as the Germans might expect you to be”.
When Tristan first moved over, the IDA proved a great help: “I got in touch with the IDA office and they had just published a document for young dentists starting dentistry in Ireland … It was a really good help for me to get started and to get set up for insurance, indemnity, and get registered. That was my first exposure to the IDA”.
Starting off, Tristan says it was a great help to have some friendly people to speak to in the IDA, but that in general: “It’s really good representation for general dentistry in Ireland because we all tend to be so focused on our local practice and maybe what we prefer to do in terms of treatments and techniques. Dentistry can be a very isolated job if you’re just working for yourself, so having a body that unifies everyone and works for the more general good of dentistry, I think it’s very valuable”.
Making sure you give yourself enough time is the most important advice Tristan has for dentists thinking about moving to Ireland: “Getting registered with the Dental Council, I had a really good experience with them, but it just takes a while to get registered and get the indemnity and everything sorted. Getting a job as well, it can take a couple of months”.

Colm Quinn
Journalist with Think Media