Dr Sukhdeep Sandhu - Mamma Mia!

Dr Sukhdeep Sandhu set up her practice with a newborn baby during lockdown in a tilting old building. Luckily, BOQ Specialist had her back.

  4 minutes

There was a point during the renovation works of Dr Sukhdeep Sandhu’s dental practice when she was about to give up due to some unforseen issues. At home she was looking after her two-month-old baby, which is work enough for a first-time mother. On the other hand, she had recently discovered that the commercial property she had purchased had unstable foundations. The design for the practice included glass doors and windows to maximise natural light—but the new framework would not be able to handle the undue stresses of a tilting building. To make things more interesting, the renovation works derailed due to the pandemic and lockdown across the world.

“At that point, I was thinking, ‘Why have I started to set up a private practice now? It’s just not an easy job with all that is happening around me',” she says. “Then my husband said to me, ‘To be successful you need to overcome the hurdles. You just need to stick to the plan. Make sure you're not going backwards from here and the only option is to go forward. Yes, you might face more problems but there will be solution as well'.”

The original plan had been to open the clinic doors in June 2020. The odds of that happening were remote. The new reviewed plans pushed the opening date by four months, but an important factor was Dr Sandhu’s determination and drive—which got her into dentistry in the first place.

Seminal experience

Most dentists choose the profession because they fall in love with it. Dr Sandhu went into dentistry because of a particularly unpleasant experience of it.

“When I was six, my mother took me to the dentist and the dentist extracted a baby tooth,” she explains. “There was really little consideration given to me on how I was feeling about it, whether I wanted it out or not. In short, it was not a very pleasant experience. It made me quite upset and distressed about going to the dentist in the future. And that was why my dad spoke to me and encouraged me to pursue dentistry as a profession so that I could make sure that when patients come and see a dentist, they do not experience what I experienced as a child.”

It was sage advice from dad, and she did well enough in her studies in her native India to be offered a postgraduate scholarship in dentistry to a US university. But her brother lived in Melbourne and convinced her to move to Australia instead. In 2010 she cleared her ADC exam and secured her dental practising license with AHPRA. As her first dental job in Australia, she moved to Swan Hill to practise in the public sector. For the next decade while working in both public and private sectors she gained insights into all aspects of how to run a dental practice. She worked as clinical supervisor/dental manager, in a 12-chair practice with La Trobe University and in pre-clinics with the University of Melbourne. She ensured her skills and talent were on par with the latest developments and technologies in dentistry by participating in the professional development programs. It really wasn’t until just before she went on maternity leave that she started to toy with the idea of having her own practice.

“I was motivated by the limitations in terms of what I could actually offer to my patients (in terms of treatment options) while working in the public sector in particular and in the corporate private sector,” she explains. I wanted to set up my own practice where I could offer the services to my patients as they deserved, rather than just cutting corners, or compromising on the quality.”

Bumpy start

Even though she didn’t have a specific date when she would open the practice, Dr Sandhu decided to attend a CPD program on starting/buying a new practice with the Australian Dental Association. It was there she met BOQ Specialist’s Ursula Coetzee. In talking with Ursula, she had one specific question she needed answered: ‘As a female dentist who is planning to start a family soon and is motivated to set up her own practice in the future as well, what are her chances to secure a finance from leading financial organisations?’

“It seems easier for men to just do it as and when they want. But for women, it's a little bit tricky, especially when they want to have children and they want to keep progressing in their career. How Ursula answered that really impressed me. She said, ‘BOQ Specialist is focussed on understanding what your professional experience has been, what your plans are and what groundwork you have done before you make an application for finance.’ It was quite reassuring that
BOQ Specialist would be assessing the application on the basis of the talent and skill a person has to set up and run a business irrespective of our plans to start a family soon.”

That was in March 2018. By March 2019, she was pregnant. By February 2020 she was planning the practice—and had approval from BOQ Specialist.

And then came the pandemic and building issues that slowed down the whole construction process.

Silver lining

But the slowed-down timeline turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. “In hindsight, the pandemic has helped us,” she says. “We had a few options in terms of what to do with the tilting building. We could really take our time to ensure we found the best possible solution to the problem.”

She was very fortunate to have support from her husband who was now working from home due to COVID-19. “I had a two-month-old with me when I started this project," she says. "I would not have been able to do it without my husband's support.”

Finally, the doors were open to the patients in mid November and there has been no looking back since. Now her main focus is to provide the best possible care to her patients and ensure no patient has an experience she had at the dentist as a six-year-old. It is the goal of the practice that every patient walks out happy and satisfied with his or her dental visit.”


Thinking about starting or growing your dental practice? BOQ Specialist provides tailored dental finance solutions for setting up a practice.

Ready to take the next step? Contact us to find out how we can tailor a practice finance solution for you, or call us on 1300 160 160.

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