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The Traveling Hygienist Spotlight: Demika Levy, RDH

Get to know this hygienist practicing in the Arabian desert!

Where are you originally from? Fort Lauderdale, Florida

What did you learn about hygiene before heading abroad? I had a great hygiene mentor during hygiene school, Mrs. Marva Williams. She instilled so many gems that I rely upon ‘til this date. My first employment was part-time a multi practice office; let us just say I learned a lot about sales. My last position before coming abroad, was with a private associate office. Two of the associates were Anesthesiologists and Dentists. So needless to say, all clinical staff were trained to work with special needs including high anxiety patients, which were sedated during treatment. However, my four-year tenure with the Broward County Health Department, working with The Ryan White Grant in their dental clinic, was my fondest. This grant included the oral health needs of HIV patients. Initially, I started out as a dental hygiene volunteer which eventually led to a permanent part-time position.

What country do you work abroad in? Dubai, United Arab Emirates

From which years? August 2014-present

What inspired you to move abroad? The office I worked with for nine years restructured for a corporate acquisition and the hygiene department was not a good fit anymore. The move was very random : March 2014 I responded to a Facebook ad from a dental group. In April I was offered the position and I arrived in Dubai in August 2014. I say it was serendipity!

What did your family say? “Are you sure?” and “Why are you going so far?”

Were you afraid? 30%. I was afraid of the unknown but the unknown didn’t outweigh my curiosity. I knew that I could always come back home.

What is that region known for? Oil rich, innovation and gatekeepers of tradition and culture.

What practice did you work for and in which specialty? My first office was a regular dental DSO setup; two doctor owners with several associates and locations. My second office was a medical start up, with preventive and collaborative medicine as the main focus. The dental department is boutique in construct: one doctor, one hygienist, one assistant and part time oral surgeon.

Makeup of staff, etc? The first office consisted of international clinicians with varied philosophies regarding practice and the role of the hygienist. In my second office, the doctor and I are from the US.

What is your social life like? Active but lonely at times. Most here work a motley of hours just based on your industry. Dubai has a very strong food and burgeoning art culture. Most socializing revolves around Friday Brunch, especially for ex-pats. People here are very transient, and I find my social circles shift frequently. Even with the constant shifting one eventually finds their tribe again.

What do you most enjoy? The ability to travel to different areas with ease. Least enjoy? The inability to get certain foods and other products from the US.

How did the experience change you as a person? Professionally? Personally? Professionally: It helped affirm the type of clinician I aspire. I want to deliver care that comprise of three interdependent components: function, health, and aesthetics. Personally: it has expanded my way of seeing cultures, even this culture. Especially, especially within the Arab communities. There are Arab Christians and various branches of Islam. I better understand better why certain cultures behave the way they do; their culture shapes their personalities.

Do you still practice hygiene? Yes, but I am serious about transitioning from being a clinician within the next two years. Why or why not? The development and evolution of my practice. I’ve been through two crises, — one financial and one public health. Both have affected my practice tremendously.

Do you have any regrets? None about the move or about being in UAE. The only regret I probably have is not taking advantage of learning Arabic while being here.

How would you like to be remembered? As personable and kind.

Any wisdom you would like to pass on to future internationally practicing hygienists? Remember exceptional ethics and professional standards of care at all times. Do not compromise your safety.

Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash