Fresh out of dental college in Mumbai, Sameer Bhole got an opportunity to volunteer with underprivileged communities in Byculla and Dharavi through the Nagapada Neighbourhood House. It turned out to be a career-defining moment.
Describing the experience, Prof. Sameer Bhole told Indian Link, “My undergraduate degree gave me thorough grounding in technical and technique-oriented components of dentistry, but I had limited exposure to the human aspects of oral health. It was only when I worked with people from lower socio-economic backgrounds that I had exposure to social determinants and their influence on oral health and health overall. For those underprivileged, oral health and health are impacted, leading to poorer overall health outcomes.”
With interest in Preventive and Public Dentistry, Prof. Bhole sought to study health inequalities and integration of oral health with general health and vice versa.
“In the practice of health sciences, the mouth is often treated separate to the body, when in fact the mouth is very much an integral part of it,” he noted.
He soon enrolled in a Master’s degree in Preventive and Public Health Dentistry at the University of Sydney. Thus began an illustrious career across many nations, eventually returning to Australia to establish himself in the public oral health system.
Prof. Bhole has since dedicated his career to improving oral health for disadvantaged populations with a specific focus on health inequities and reducing access. He has made a significant contribution to the field of dentistry with a focus to improve access for safe and quality oral health care for the vulnerable and those at risk.
Working as the Clinical Director of one of the largest oral health services in NSW – which includes the Sydney Dental Hospital – he provides leadership and strategic direction for the provision of dental care for an eligible population.
“I am delighted with the AM honour given to me this year, but also deeply humbled,” Prof. Bhole said. “This is a prestigious award not just for me but everyone who has guided me and worked with me over the last four decades.”
He is particularly grateful for his stint in Papua New Guinea. “Those early years provided a solid foundation. My first posting was in Lae, where I was the only surgeon for a population of 1 million. I learnt a lot about preventative aspects of public health and what is required to support the people,” he reminisced.
Here, Prof. Bhole also worked extensively in the sphere of oral cancer and dental trauma. He was appointed Deputy Director at Port Moresby, moving to Singapore to teach public health and eventually moved to Australia.
As the inaugural director for oral health of the South West Sydney region, he set about creating the public dental service to cater to the special needs of the lower socio-economic groups. “That was where my career in Australia began,” he recalled.
A board-registered specialist in Dental Public Health, he has practised dentistry and contributed to oral health policy, strategy and education in several countries including Singapore, Papua New Guinea, India and Australia. He participated in Operation Safe Haven, a needs-based program for refugees from East Timor and Kosovo.
Since 2009, Prof. Bhole has also been an assessor for the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.
Prof. Bhole presently holds an honorary clinical professor appointment at the University of Sydney and is the inaugural fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons in the specialist stream of Dental Public Health.
His contribution to dental science has also been recognised through prestigious fellowships from the Pierre Fauchard Academy, International College of Dentists and Academy of Dentists International.
Besides supporting clinical training for future dentists, oral health therapists and dental specialists, he has extensive interests in academia with over 70 international peer-reviewed papers and book chapters.
Prof. Samer Bhole is also very active in Sydney’s Marathi community.
Advising fellow Indian immigrants, Prof. Bhole recommends making the most of opportunities that come your way, however small they may be.
“Australia is a land of opportunity and there are many pathways to get to your chosen destination,” he observed. “We need to learn to grab every opportunity to contribute. When I first came to Australia, I did a lot of odd jobs in retail, where the focus was on quality customer service. Those lessons proved to be invaluable.”