Crossing the pond
Born and raised in Wimbledon, England, Upen J. Patel made the decision to move to the United States after high school. Being the very first person in his family to attend college, Dr. Patel graduated from the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (UOP).
“I knew I wanted to go into the healthcare field. Pharmacy and medicine were common fields I was aware of, but I had little exposure to the world of dentistry,” said Upen J. Patel, DDS, MAGD.
“I joined the Pre-Dental Society and spent my free time interning at several dental offices in Stockton, California. Once I stepped foot in the dental practice, I knew it was what I wanted to do forever. I immediately quit the pharmacy and medicine path and enrolled in the fast track to the Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree (DDS).
“[Dentistry] is art, science, engineering, business, entrepreneurship, teaching, psychology and medicine all in one profession.”
Staying en route
“I was born in Wimbledon, right next to the world-famous All England Tennis Club,” Dr. Patel, now 37, said. “I moved to a smaller city in California after high school when I was 18 to start college at UOP. It was a difficult transition leaving all my friends and way of life behind in Europe. However, I quickly found new friends and a new goal and passion.
“Of course, it doesn’t hurt having a British accent in America. It’s always a good ice- breaker in a conversation.”
Starting at square one
“The pursuit of clinical excellence at the highest level possible is what ultimately transforms the lives of patients,” Dr. Patel said. “When I meet a patient, I have no agenda. I just ask them what they think of their teeth, how we can work together to help them stay healthy and how to improve their smile.
“In school, we are taught to treat a tooth,” Dr. Patel continued. “In the real world, I found the most fulfillment in treating many teeth, which means restoring a smile and changing someone’s life for the better.”
Dr. Patel said that he strives to give the Ritz-Carlton effect for all his patients. This effect delves into the unspoken wishes of the patient or client. By paying attention to this type of nonverbal communication, Dr. Patel ensures patients at his practice leave feeling respected and special.
“I ask them about themselves and what they would like to know about me as their doctor,” Dr. Patel said. “After establishing trustworthiness, I explain what they can expect to happen in that particular visit so that there are no surprises.
“For those who are nervous about the dentist’s office, I tell them that we have a word in the office for those people… it’s ‘normal’.”
According to Dr. Patel, most people avoid the dentist because of four reasons: trust, time, money and fear. He said that he, “wants to help understand what their particular concern is, and how we can help.”
The Incisal Edge 40 under 40 honoree was awarded a Mastership of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), which is the highest honor one could receive in AGD, and a Fellowship of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. (ICOI).
Dr. Patel is also affiliated with the Kois Center, a center dedicated to Continuing Education for restorative dentistry, implants and esthetics.
“Through my affiliation with AGD and the Kois Center, I have been able to meet several like-minded people who do a lot of good,” Dr. Patel said. “I have been able to contribute to that good. Some day when I retire, I hope to do more humanitarian projects. I just love to help change peoples’ lives.”
Dr. Patel is also active in a monthly mastermind group with a few other medical professionals. A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help those involved solve problems and seek advice from others.
To Dr. Patel, a smile goes more than just a long way.
“Your smile is your first impression,” Dr. Patel said. “Dentistry has a systemic impact and is vital for full-body balance. Dentistry generates emotional health and improves self-esteem. In our office, the relationship we build is what allows our patients to achieve a lifetime of good oral health.”
Finding a time and place
Not only is Dr. Patel a gold medalist in dentistry, but he also excels in the world of sports. Squash, like tennis, is a ball sport played by two people in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. The players involved must alternate in hitting the ball with their racquet onto the appropriate surfaces on the four walls.
Though his life is dedicated to dentistry, Dr. Patel said that if he could go back in time, he would have loved to play for the Professional Squash Association (PSA) World Tour before pursuing dentistry.
For now, Dr. Patel says he has a good balance for his passions both on the field and off.
“I am fortunate dentistry allows me to have a flexible schedule. This way I can still play amateur tournaments around the country and Sunday league with friends.”
“It’s good to balance everything in my personal life, professional life, my friends and family, my spiritual life and my own health and fitness. Dentistry is a very hard profession to master. To succeed, you must really love it. If you start to love it, it doesn’t become just a job, but also a hobby.”