Mark Sutherland (DDS'02)

A day in the life

Mark Sutherland (DDS'02)

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There are new challenges in taking over a dental practice, including updating it and training new staff. It's been hard work, but so worth it—every day we have fun.

Wearing different hats

“Where do I begin?” says Dr. Mark Sutherland, an alumnus of Dalhousie’s Faculty of Dentistry. “I’ve had many wonderful experiences that have taught me great lessons and allowed me to meet great mentors.”

While getting his Bachelor of Science (BSc) at Dal, he lived in Howe Hall, working as a residence assistant and implementing a peer tutoring program. “Residence is a very important part of the Dal undergrad experience,” he says. “It was my home away from home.”

Working in residence also taught him the importance of time management—a skill that came in handy later in the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program. “The first year was a wonderful blur,” he says. “We had 15 exams at Christmas the first year. I was used to five! It was sometimes easy to lose focus.”

“But learn good organizational habits in undergrad and you’ll be fine,” Dr. Sutherland adds. “Get help early on from the faculty—they’ll be there for you.”

He credits not just the faculty, but also the staff “who ran things behind the scenes": “A school can have all the money in the world, but if it doesn’t have good, competent people, the teaching will suffer—but that’s where Dalhousie shines," Dr. Sutherland states. "I had several professors over the years I was lucky to have and whom I thought very highly of.”

After graduating, Dr. Sutherland did a mentorship with Dr. Dan Macintosh, who still teaches at Dal. For three more years, Dr. Sutherland did locums and associateships. “It was so important to my career development to meet different colleagues and gain perspective on the profession,” he says.

Then in 2006, Dr. Sutherland took over an existing dental practice. “I truly think dentistry is the right career for me,” he says. “I chose to become a dentist to work with people. And I get to wear different hats: sometimes I’m more of a psychologist for nervous patients, while other days, I’m an artist, looking at the makeup of a patient’s smile. Still others, it’s about running the business,” he explains.

“Don’t be scared to learn and try new things,” Dr. Sutherland advises dentists-to-be, “but do your homework. Find out if new products have been tested well both in the lab and on people—it’s your professional duty.”

And to students disappointed if they don’t get into Dal’s Faculty of Dentistry on their first application, Dr. Sutherland advises: “Keep trying!”