Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Dr. Sandra Oyakhilome

oyaksWhat made you choose medicine and why OMFS specifically?
I’m actually in the field of dentistry and Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) is a specialty in dentistry. I chose dentistry because I love to create things with my hands and put smiles on people’s faces and dentistry offers the dexterity and the ability to restore healthy smiles. OMFS because it extends beyond the mouth and focuses on the face also.
As a black woman in medicine, what have been your biggest challenges?
Having lived in West Africa all my life, that has never been an issue. I’m blessed to be in an environment which supports women empowerment and major respect is conferred to you once you are a doctor.
Biggest challenge in dentistry as a dentist so far is getting people to appreciate the importance of oral health as part of general health and not waiting till it hurts before they see a dentist.  Public Oral health education & access to oral healthcare services is a huge challenge.
What 3 lessons would you impart to the up and coming young black female physician that you wish you had known going into this field?
  1. Have a long term vision for your career
  2. Make a career plan and set timelines
  3. Be bold & just do it. Ask questions don’t listen to people’s “it can’t be done” mindset. Be persistent, Yes We Can.
How is it practicing in Ghana?
I practice in a government healthcare facility so it requires a lot of mental and physical strength with tons of patience because of the doctor to patient ratio and the dentist to patient ratio gap is huge. Much is required on us to work with limited resources and still save lives and have a life.
What is a typical day like for you?
Currently I’m doing my residency program in OMFS so a typical day if my team is on duty for that week, starts with going through my own personal morning routine then to the ward to review patients on admission, then pass through the accident & emergency to do some reviews, discussions with other specialties, transfer-out patients to the ward and sometimes do suturing of facial lacerations if trauma cases are in. Since we usually work in teams, will head back to OMFS Out Patient Department to join other colleagues to attend to patients, a mixture of consultations and doing minor surgical procedures. And if not a clinic day then will head to theatre to do major surgical procedures.
Usually pass through the ward before heading home and if no calls from the Emergency we call it a day, but keep phones close by just incase.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Being the first female dentist to be enrolled in the Ghana College of Physcians & Surgeons to train in the field of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery.
What is your greatest or proudest moment?
The day I took the Hippocratic oath
What is the best advice you have received?
Anyone from a demanding profession, surgery or otherwise, who tells you that work-life balance is possible is conning you. Your life will never be in balance. Something will always have to give: your work, your family, or yourself. It’s in how you integrate these things in a shifting, fluid professional and personal lifetime that you will craft your own reality. Because you know what: There is no such thing as a perfect parent, surgeon or otherwise. So there will never be any point in beating yourself up about it.
How do you find balance?
I believe that Life is about sacrifice and the only thing to balance is rest and recovery. On the last day God rested. The rest of the days you should be creating and focus on your vision, passion and goals. You should be growing. So weekends are the days I use to rest and recover. Shuffling between staying at home, outing with family & friends and fellowshiping with other Christians.
Instagram: @droyaks
Twitter: @drOyaks

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