“My motto is determination. If you want to do something, put in your focus, and one day you will reach it.”
Dr. Basil Al Shaikhly, IDS '15, grew up working with his hands. His father is a mechanical engineer, and Basil spent summers in a factory where he helped produce spare engine parts. Even before he started dreaming of donning a white coat, he was well on his way to developing the manual dexterity essential in dentistry.
Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, Basil first became interested in dentistry as a high school student when he visited University of Baghdad and fell in love with the clinic environment. As he learned more about dentistry and met admirable professionals in various specialties, he became more certain of his choice. He says, "I liked the idea of putting on a white coat and helping patients."
Coming from a family that valued education and perseverance, Basil was well-prepared for the academic rigor of dental school. After graduating from the University of Baghdad's College of Dentistry, he trained with a prominent dentist and soon opened his own practice. Although he was working among more established dentists, he kept up with competition by focusing on patient-dentist communication skills to build a loyal clientele.
Basil and his wife (also a dentist) were faced with a tough decision after several life-threatening situations and a tragic family loss. The couple had young twin sons and decided that "there was no way to live a safe life in Iraq." Although they had to leave behind their home, they ultimately decided to apply for refugee status and moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2011.
When Basil first came to the U.S., people balked at his dream of practicing dentistry as an immigrant. He recalls people telling him, "You want to be a dentist? That's really hard. It's so competitive. Even people who were born here can't get into schools." Yet Basil was undeterred and even more determined to improve his English, learn from dental mentors and fulfill all the requirements to apply for dental programs.
He has this advice for prospective IDS students: "My motto is determination. If you want to do something, put in your focus, and one day you will reach it."
He chose the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry because he had heard about its focus on developing clinical skills and its reputation for treating students well. The humanistic model of dentistry was appealing to him, and he also discussed his decision with a former classmate from Iraq who was attending the school and encouraged him to apply.
Basil speaks warmly of his IDS classmates. He says, "We have people from 14 different nationalities. We learn from each other ... and what's interesting is that we find so many similarities across cultures." While his class is very close, Basil says that there is still an element of competition. But that's not a bad thing — they stand together and push each other to become better dental professionals.
Like all Dugoni students, Basil has more than just teeth on his mind. Although Basil works hard as a dental student and president of the IDS Class of 2015 during the week, he devotes weekends to his family. The balance can be difficult at times, but he finds time to enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities with his family.
Basil would like to combine his passion for dentistry with his passion for teaching. After he graduates in 2015, he is hoping to be accepted to an orthodontics residency program and also stay on as a part-time faculty member at Pacific Dugoni. His mother was an elementary school teacher, and it's not surprising that Basil understands the value of being an educator. As he talks about his love for teaching, he says, "I like to give whatever I have to people."