Oral Health Month

In celebration of Oral Health Month, we are proud to highlight some of our amazing alumni as part of a special “in conversation with” feature to learn more about their time at UBC Dentistry and where they are today! Our third connection is with Dr. Akash Villing, an oral surgeon in Surrey, BC, who graduated from the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program in 2013.

Can you walk us through your career journey?

I did my undergraduate degree at UBC followed by my DMD. After I graduated, I worked at a general dental practice for one year in Lillooet, BC. I went on to do my specialty training in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Washington for four years, and when I finished, I purchased a practice in Surrey.

Tell us a bit about your current work.

I’m head of oral and maxillofacial surgery for the Fraser Valley division of BC Cancer, so I typically start my days at Surrey Memorial Hospital in this capacity. I see cancer patients who have a variety of pathologies, including head and neck cancer, tumours and cysts of the jaw and various complications related to their malignancies and treatments. They’re medically complex and typically receiving chemotherapy or radiation, so they require specialized care.

Once I have completed my procedures and consults at the hospital, I head to my private practice, where I see patients for the rest of the day. Private practice is focused on the traditional scope of oral surgery, including administration of outpatient anesthesia and sedation, removal of wisdom teeth, routine, emergency and pre-prosthetic extractions, bone grafting, dental implants and management of myofascial pain.

What first got you interested in pursuing a career in dentistry?

During my undergrad I shadowed several dentists and mentors which was the genesis of my interest in the profession. When I started dental school at UBC, the first two years of our curriculum were combined with our medical colleagues, which allowed for tremendous exposure to medicine and dentistry. Oral surgery was the natural hybrid between medicine and dentistry and provided the perfect balance for a fulfilling and long-lasting career in healthcare.

What do you love most about the work you do?

My passion lies in the good fortune of waking up every day and providing a valuable service to patients. Regardless of how many wisdom teeth extractions, anesthetics I administer, or implants I place, I still find the procedures themselves fulfilling and enjoyable. As a specialist, I also have the great fortune of working closely with my colleagues in dentistry and medicine to provide support for their patients. Clinically, I work seven days a week as the work provides me with a plenitude of challenges and successes that maintain my motivation and gratitude to be a part of this wonderful profession.

Where was your favourite place to study at UBC?

I used to study at the Life Sciences Centre and the J.B. Macdonald Building. The countless hours studying and working alongside my peers and future colleagues set the foundation for my work today. This of course was challenging at the time, but hindsight allows for a true appreciation of the wonderful memories I have from my time at UBC.

What advice would you give to students currently in the DMD program?

Enjoy the student experience! It’s a period of growth and discovery. Maintain an eye towards your future, but remember progress happens too slowly to notice, and setbacks happen too quickly to ignore. Remain steadfast and focused. This is a wonderful profession that will provide years of professional and personal fulfillment.

How has UBC Faculty of Dentistry shaped where you are today?

The Faculty has shaped where I am today tremendously. I learned the importance of professionalism and collegiality from the wonderful teachers and professors I had throughout the four years. I feel honoured to call myself an alum of UBC Dentistry.

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon?

My perfect Sunday would be starting my day at work and ending my day having a nice dinner with family and friends.