Name: Abhilasha Bal | Designation: Owner and Dentist | Company: Valencia Dental Center | Place: San Francisco
(July 27, 2023) When Abhilasha Bal was choosing careers back in high school she knew one thing: she wanted to be in the medical fraternity. It was the ‘in’ thing to do in India back then and she too chose to follow the path well-trodden. Currently, a successful dentist in San Francisco with her own practice, Dr. Abhilasha admits that she began enjoying her profession when she began practicing it. Yet, she refuses to be defined by her career alone.
“I am a daughter to parents who’ve been role models, I am mother to two adorable children, wife to the best partner one could ask for, I am a dentist, and I also bear the responsibility of being an educator to my patients apart from being a business owner,” she says, adding, “I also have a creative streak and sometimes wish I was an art curator, architect, gallery owner, or a ceramic artist.”
Born into an Oriya family in Delhi and raised in Kolkata and Mumbai, Abhilasha remembers moving frequently and adapting to new environments. Her father was a taxman and his job demanded frequent relocations. After studying in various school across India, Abhilasha opted to study dentistry, but admits it was more to remain in the medical field. “It was a reputed industry and helping others for a living sounded great. It was only once I began practicing as a dentist that I realise how much I truly enjoyed the profession. In fact, when we moved to the US after my marriage, I repeated the dentistry course so I could begin practicing here.”
However, the decision to re-do the course didn’t come easily. Writing entrance exams and going through the whole application process didn’t instantly appeal to Abhilasha. “I cribbed about repeating dentistry. However, I told my husband that I would give it one shot; if I didn’t get in we would consider relocating to India, my comfort zone. Unlike India, here you’ve to convince schools that you are a good fit and why you should be chosen over the thousands of other applicants. The interview panel also gives you a bench test, which involves you doing procedures that a graduated dentist performs,” she says, adding, “In India students as young as 17 or 18 are making major life and career decisions, and it’s usually herd mentality. Here in the US, since they do dentistry after graduating college, there is a more mature approach. I wanted to be a dentist in this country, because for the first time it felt like someone was interested in why I wanted to pursue it.”
After graduating dentistry from the University of California, San Francisco, Abhilasha took up part-time jobs before she set up her own practice – Valencia Dental Center in San Francisco – in 2021. Currently she has a team of 10 working with her and they’re all from diverse backgrounds and nationalities. A typical day for her involves spending time with her children before dropping off the elder one to preschool and handing over her youngest to the nanny before she heads to the clinic. “At work it’s usually a morning huddle with the team before we begin treating patients and I also catch up with my notes at the end of the day. In the evenings I ensure I spend some time with my children before settling them in bed. My husband and I usually end the day over some television, conversations or catching up on pending work.”
Given that she is running her own practice, Abhilasha says that her days can be more demanding when compared to earlier. “Each day is different with two young kids. Besides, I’m constantly updating my knowledge by pursuing various courses. Currently, I work 4.5 days a week and hope to cut it down to 3.5 days and eventually 3 a week so I have more time for my family and myself. The aim is to the business running without my presence every day.”
As a family, Abhilasha and her husband enjoy going on vacations and often also have family visiting from India. Art projects with her daughter and spending time painting after her kids are off to bed are some of the ways she loves to unwind after a long week. She also likes to sponsor education for underprivileged children and donates towards scientific research for idiopathic diseases.
As she navigates life as a young mum, practicing dentist, and business owner, Abhilasha finds succour in her roots and way of life. “Everything I do is rooted in my Indianness. Right from the way I dress, the food we cook at home to celebrating our festivals, everything helps me stay connected and I pass these on to my children. We are fortunate to have my parents and in-laws visiting us often and they bring alive Indian folklore for the children,” the Global Indian says, adding, “While I yearn to go back to India all the time, I also love my life here. I guess it’s like saying I would love to go back to the past. However, while I enjoyed my past, I also like my present.”
- Don’t hesitate to begin again if your new life demands it.
- Sometimes you don’t realise how much you enjoy something till you actually give it a try.
- Find ways to stay connected to your roots no matter where in the world you go.