Written by: Nnamdi Chiekwe, Therapeutic Recreation Student
Interview with: Dr. Tesia Rolle, Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
Promoting Leadership in health for African Nova Scotians (PLANS) is writing a monthly blog post highlighting “Faces of Black Health”. This post highlights Dr. Tesia Rolle and her role as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). These profiles can also be found on our website in the Faces of Black Health Section.
What do you do?
I’m a dentist, defender of the oral realm.
What’s your role in your health Profession?
Education, prevention of what’s commonly known as gum disease, management of oral diseases, and restoring function through replacement of missing teeth. We also have a role to play in early detection of systemic diseases including cancer, diabetes, and others. These diseases can manifest signs in the oral cavity that, when detected early, can lead to early intervention and an improved prognosis.
If you have or feel comfortable sharing, can you explain your experiences as a Black Health professional in your field?
I’ve had tremendous support throughout my journey, and my overall experience as a Black Health professional in dentistry has been positive. This is a career that is richly rewarding and provides opportunity for meaningful interaction with thousands of people. My experiences as a dental professional run the gamut from stressful and challenging to humbling and exciting, and I have had the encouragement of my governing bodies and colleagues throughout.
I rarely express my challenges as a Black Health professional because, like many people of colour raised in Nova Scotia, these challenges represent a constant background noise that could potentially be debilitating, and I have learned to block it out. For example, I have had the unfortunate experience of being subjected to unprovoked threats and racial slurs from strangers. If this has never happened to you then you may not realize that those experiences never leave you and can impact your future interactions with strangers.
As a health professional, in my case early on in my career, insecurities would surface as I faced a room full of strangers and I wondered if the patient I called would be disappointed to have a Black health care provider. It didn’t help that a colleague of mine confided that he had a patient ask to only be treated by White practitioners. As I’ve matured in my career, I’ve actually gained a lot of confidence through my experiences with my wonderful patient population, and those insecurities no longer plague me. It’s almost embarrassing to admit that I was internalizing that ignorance, but I know that if it happened to me it is surely happening to someone else and sharing experiences is one way to help support those who are facing similar challenges.
Can you explain your experiences and ability to access health services;
What went well?
I have been privileged to have had access to quality care whenever I have required it. That said, my interactions have been primarily related to the births of my two children and my experience is limited. I will bring attention to one experience that required me to access emergency services at the hospital. There was a Black health care worker in the emergency department who I knew from the community and she treated us like family. It was an incredibly stressful time for me, and she really understood my needs and made me feel cared for. My intention in saying that is not to take away from the excellent care I received from the other team members. My point is that I felt an inherent trust and comfort with this health care provider who I knew to be culturally informed.
What could go better?
We need to see more of this inclusivity in health services in the future. There is so much turmoil surrounding access to health care at present and every opportunity for connection makes a big difference.
How have you found/finding community in your profession?
Becoming a dentist in Nova Scotia does feel like joining a family. This starts with amazing relationships formed in dental school and continues throughout the career via relationships formed with team members, colleagues, mentors, and friends met through continuing education and professional associations. I’m a member of a few study clubs that meet regularly to discuss cases and support each other. I’ve also found community through initiatives such as PLANS, Imhotep’s Legacy Academy, and the Black Student Advising Centre at Dalhousie. All of these programs exist to support Black learners and in doing so, they provide networking opportunities for Black health care professionals.
I’m located at Nova Dental in Lower Sackville!