Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Q&A with Dr. Amrita Patel | American Dental Association

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Q&A with Dr. Amrita Patel

New dentist discusses journey, mentors for Asian American and Pacific Heritage Month

Photo of Dr. Patel and her father

Mentor:  "I followed my father into dentistry, and I am blessed to be able to work alongside him! He's an endodontist, and I am a general dentist," said Dr. Amrita Patel.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in the U.S.

According to the ADA Health Policy Institute, the dentist workforce continues to see an increase in racial diversity — led by Asians, who make up 18% of the dentist workforce in 2020, up from 11.8% in 2005.

The New Dentist News spoke with several prominent Asian-American new dentists to discuss their journey in the profession, the importance of mentors and what advice they would give to the next generation of AAPI dentists

Amrita Patel, D.D.S., of Chappaqua, New York
Dr. Patel has chaired the New York State Dental Association New Dentist Committee and was a recipient of the 2021 ADA 10 Under 10 Awards.

NDN: What influenced your decision to go into dentistry? Any Asian-American mentors along the way? 

Dr. Patel: I followed my father into dentistry, and I am blessed to be able to work alongside him! He's an endodontist, and I am a general dentist. 

NDN: What does it mean for you to be an Asian-American and working in this field? 

Dr. Patel: As the daughter of immigrants who came to this country for their professional education, during a time where diversity (especially in dentistry) was scarce, it is important to me to be able to continue to help other Asian-Americans advance in this field — and their lives!

NDN: As a female AAPI dentist, what adversity have you faced in the profession, if any? And how did you navigate it? 

Dr. Patel: The most adversity I've faced was amongst the leadership of organized dentistry. Change is difficult, and change takes time. Our organizations’ leadership is not reflective of the current (and future) landscape of dentistry. Staying relevant and relatable, as one unified voice, is the way we continue to protect our profession. I have navigated this often-complicated path with the help of many, many mentors who have come before me, including Drs. Maxine Feinerg, Maria Maranga, and Chad and Rekha Gehani. 

NDN: What do you think the future holds for AAPI dentists, and other dentists of color? Why is it important to have a diverse and inclusive profession? 

Dr. Patel: I believe that we can continue to do better — in a diverse and inclusive environment — to better provide for our patients, and the members of our profession. This means being intentional with choices, both in our personal lives, and in our dental communities. Dentistry continues to have one of the strongest presences in Washington - the importance of this cannot be understated. Getting more AAPI dentists involved in grassroots advocacy is, in my opinion, invaluable. 

NDN: What advice would you give to the next generation of AAPI dentists? 

Dr. Patel: Find a mentor whose story and purpose resonates with you. Don’t miss the forest for the trees — we have a tendency to get really myopic. Think about what you want your life to look like, and then work backwards to decide how to get there. Never stop learning, and always be teachable. 

NDN: Lastly, how are you going to (or did) celebrate AAPI Heritage Month this May? 

Dr. Patel: Dr. Mina Kim put together a great AAPI piece featuring some newer dentist leaders from around the country — in organized dentistry, and in the clinical dental world!