Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Martina Olivieri

The beauty of a career in dentistry is that it opens countless opportunities. I have colleagues who have not only gone on to be general dentists, but also marketing assistants, researchers, university professors and many more. The variety of options means I do not feel restricted, and know I can tailor my career to exactly what I want.

(Dentistry BDS, 2020)

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Tell us about your career path to date and what are your next plans?

My journey to becoming a dentist was not the most straightforward. While many dentists have known they wanted to follow this career path from their early years, I was not one of them. I initially thought I wanted to go into scientific research, and decided to undertake a degree in Biomedical Sciences. While I enjoyed the 3 years thoroughly, I felt it was not for me – I wanted a person-focused job. Living with dental students introduced me to the idea of Dentistry as a career – and little did I know I would end up following the path and becoming a fully qualified dentist mid-pandemic in 2020. I have now finished the one year foundation training, and will start working as a general dentist shortly. In the future, I would love to further my skills and potentially undertake specialist training.

What does a ‘typical’ working day look like for you?

A typical working day for a dentist can be incredibly varied. I usually arrive to work at 8.30am, and spend about 30-45 minutes catching up on note-writing, sending any relevant referral letters and making any phone calls needed. The next 15 minutes are spent chatting with my nurse and debriefing on the day ahead – ensuring we have all the equipment we need, and are fully stocked on materials. The first patient arrives at 9.30, and from then it is a constant flow of patients. Typically, I will see anything between 10 and 20 patients a day, doing a mix of routine checkups, treatment and emergencies. The day finishes at 5, when I head home for a well deserved cup of  tea!

Has your work been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how have you had to adapt?

The field of dentistry has been very much affected by COVID-19, as for most careers. For us, the pandemic brought in many new regulations and limitations. We now have to wear full personal protective equipment, including gas masks and plastic gowns, on top of our already taxing PPE. We also need to observe new safety measures, such as bleaching rooms and leaving them empty for 30 minutes after what we call ‘aerosol generating procedures’. These changes have been tough: wearing restrictive and uncomfortable equipment for 8 hours a day is physically and mentally quite challenging, and makes communication with patients harder than it already can be in face masks. Despite the challenges, safety of the staff and patients is paramount, so we have all adapted to the changes and it is now part of our daily practice.

What do you love most about what you do?

The beauty of a career in dentistry is that it opens countless opportunities. I have colleagues who have not only gone on to be general dentists, but also marketing assistants, researchers, university professors and many more. The variety of options means I do not feel restricted, and know I can tailor my career to exactly what I want. Currently, I love the patient element of my job: there is something incredibly rewarding in treating a patient, and seeing the direct impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. Seeing the outcome of your own work also encourages critique and building on your skills to constantly learn and improve.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at Queen Mary, such as Clubs and Societies, or volunteering? How did these improve your university experience?

Throughout my time at Queen Mary, I joint several student groups. I was part of the Dental Society, with which I worked on a mentoring scheme within Dentistry. I also joined the BL Netball Club, playing recreationally and having weekly socials in our beloved Griff Inn. Finally, I found a new passion for the sport of cheerleading, and went on to become the President of QM Angels – going from a beginner to representing the UK in the European championships, the sport is a huge part of my university experience. I feel very strongly about the importance of extracurricular activities during uni: most of my close friends were made through these clubs, and the weekly socials, fundraising events and big sporting challenges are a welcome break from the gruelling academic requirements of the course.

What was special about your time at Queen Mary? Can you give one or two examples of some of your most memorable moments?

My five years at Barts and The London were unforgettable to say the least. The beauty of this university is the unique family feel: my year had about 70 people in it, whereas other dental schools had year groups of much larger sizes. Being in a smaller cohort meant you got to know everyone on a personal level, and feel like a big family. This is something that was also true outside of the dental course: the extracurricular groups I was part of placed a heavy focus on ensuring all members had a good experience. My most memorable moments include Wednesday Sports Nights at the Griff Inn, as well as the annual Merger Cup sporting event, where QM and BL clubs battle for the prize.

My five years at Barts and The London were unforgettable to say the least. The beauty of this university is the unique family feel: my year had about 70 people in it, whereas other dental schools had year groups of much larger sizes. Being in a smaller cohort meant you got to know everyone on a personal level, and feel like a big family.

Do you have a favourite spot on campus?

The Griff Inn is undoubtedly my favourite spot on campus: whether going for a coffee with friends in the mornings, a quick lunch between clinical sessions, or Sports Night on Wednesdays, my fondest memories of my time at Barts & The London were made there.

What’s a piece of advice that changed your perspective?

Dentistry is an ever evolving field of healthcare. Currently, there is a heavy focus on the patient experience and cosmetic work. While ‘instagram dentistry’ is very educational, and an excellent way to showcase your work, as a new beginner it can feel quite daunting. I spent most of my foundation training comparing my work to that of experts, and often felt quite down about the quality of work I was delivering. It was a quote that changed my outlook on this: “comparison is the thief of joy”. This is something applicable to most careers: while you can learn a lot from other people’s work, it is important to focus on your own strengths as well, and build on those, instead of constantly attempting to achieve standards you can only achieve with time and experience.