A headshot of Mohammad on Haverford's green.

CCPA Summer Series 2022: Ajjawi Dental Clinic

By Mohammad Fanous ’25

Funding Source: CCPA’s Primary Care Pre-Medical Internship

Last semester, I was looking for something fun to do over the summer, yet at the same time I was worried about my career path as a first-year student. So, I thought to myself that my plans for the summer should be in favor of exploring a potential path of interest for me: the pre-med dentistry path. With the help of the great staff at the CCPA and the generous fund mentioned above, here I am, shadowing a dentist here in Lebanon for almost the whole summer. My main job has mostly been sitting around watching the dentist, Dr. Ajjawi, as he works with patients and asking him questions when he is finished. Additionally, I have been helping with inputting the patients’ data into the clinic’s computer, keeping the clinic organized and tidy, and occasionally handling the specific dental tools Dr. Ajjawi has introduced to me.

Although it has been a few weeks since I started, I have already learned a lot about the dental workplace. The job itself requires lots of precision, patience, and professionalism, which, according to Dr. Ajjawi, comes with lots and lots of practice and years of experience. I have been closely watching how precise every cut and every drill must be as well as the amounts of the medical compounds used. Often, in addition to all this precision and pressure, the dentist is likely to deal with a nagging patient requiring him to have a great load of patience to calm the patient down. Yet, with all the huge efforts a dentist puts into their work, mistakes are still bound to happen, and the dentist is expected to be completely frank and transparent with their patients about their situation and the future steps to be taken. 

Thanks to Dr. Ajjawi, I came to understand that dental work is not a one-sided procedure that is merely in the hands of the dentist; it rather necessitates a continued cooperation between both the dentist and the patient. In this regard, the dentist should be caring, give enough details to the patient, and calm them down so that they can do their part: taking the pain and even oftentimes overcoming their fear of dentists. According to Dr. Ajjawi, this important role of the patient is often overlooked by dentists.

Talking about the human-to-human care, Ajjawi is used to reminding me, “A good dentist is one that cares for their patients, before their teeth or money.” I have already seen his advice come to life in the warm, welcoming, and caring treatment of his patients. I may have become familiar with a couple of dental tools and their names, but that does not really matter to me; dental school will do that for me. Instead, what I am hoping to learn is compassion, the same compassion that hides behind Dr. Ajjawi’s success, like many others. Many times, I have seen him work with impoverished patients, especially in light of Lebanon’s devastating economic crisis, for free without complaining. “Their honest prayers that is often accompanied with tears of gratitude are why I am still opening my clinic every day,” says Dr. Ajjawi. “They stand behind my success.” 

Finally, I can say that my work with Dr. Ajjawi has opened my eyes to what’s beyond the academics of my career, and what’s undoubtedly more important and much-needed in today’s world with all its complex healthcare systems: humanity. I aspire to encompass Dr. Ajjawi’s concepts of compassion and humanity into whatever career path I choose to follow. I am sure that, with this, my career success will not be as difficult to attain as some may think, but rather more meaningful and long-lasting.