Dentist from India completes three month implant dentistry study program
Drs. Sharma (right) and Subhash were part of a dental team from Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital that provided care to some of India’s poorest citizens.
“At Loma Linda, you may think that what you’re doing doesn’t have immediate or visible results,” says Ashish Sharma, BDS, a dentist visiting from India. “But you’re doing the Lord’s work, and what you do has an impact.”
Dr. Sharma relates a story about LLU SCOPE, which his mother, a secretary in an Adventist hospital in India, brought home from work to read. It was in the 1980s, and he and his sister were young children.
“We’d take turns,” he recalls, “playing ‘page tag,’ quickly opening SCOPE and putting our hand on a page. It was a kid’s game and whatever was on that page was ‘ours.’ We would study the pictures—the landscaping was so green and we marveled at the pictures of the neat, beautiful buildings. We would look at each of the people who worked in the offices and wonder about them. It was then that I decided I would visit the Loma Linda campus someday.”
And he did. Dr. Sharma just completed a three-month course in implant dentistry in the School of Dentistry. “At the dental school I attended in India,” he says, “only one professor performed implant surgeries. And the students didn’t have the opportunity to study implant dentistry. While in the School of Dentistry, I’ve attended lectures, observed procedures, and read hundreds of pages in the literature.”
He is convinced of God’s direct presence and power in his life. “I knew,” he says, “that it would be almost impossible to be granted a visa to travel to the U.S. After I’d stood in line for seven hours, I was questioned—‘what can you say that will convince us that you will return to India?’ ‘I will go wherever God wants me to go.’” The official repeated the question, and he gave the same response. “Finally,” remembers Dr. Sharma, “she asked to keep my passport and when I returne
Dr. Ashish Sharma (center), a dentist from India, recently completed a three-month program in implant dentistry at LLU. With him are Drs. Subhash Rao (left) and Vidhyasagar Gompa.
d to pick up my paperwork, I had been granted a five-year visa with unlimited entrance to the United States. I was amazed—as this is unheard of.”
During his studies in the School of Dentistry, Dr. Sharma heard the name “Leif K. Bakland.” He thought, “That’s the name of one of the authors of one of the three textbooks we shared in dental school,” and then quickly dismissed the thought. What were the chances that it could be the same Dr. Bakland? Toward the end of his stay, Dr. Sharma happened to walk by an office—and noticed the name, “Leif K. Bakland, chair, endodontics.” He immediately asked to meet Dr. Bakland—and it was the same person. (Dr. Bakland is now working on a new edition of the book, Endodontics.)
When he returns to India, Dr. Sharma will continue to work in the dental clinic at Ruby Nelson Memorial Hospital (RNMH) in Jalandhar, in north India. He reopened the dental clinic there two years ago.
“After arriving for work straight out of dental school,” he recalls, “I found everything in disarray. The clinic was closed and the only equipment was a broken mirror, a bent explorer, and a lantern [a flashlight]. I was discouraged and I asked God, ‘Is this really where you want me to be? If it is, then send one patient to the clinic each day while we’re painting and getting the clinic ready to see patients.’”
And during the month that the clinic was being readied, one person each day came to the door asking, “Are you the dentist?”
Today the clinic, with one chair, is a busy place. And every year eye and dental teams from RNMH travel to the interior of north India, 40 kilometers away from the state capitol (Lucknow), to a place called Borabanks.
There they provide free vision and oral health care to patients in one of the poorest areas in India for one week. “We work from 6:00 a.m. to midnight or later and provide screenings, oral hygiene care, extractions, and dental health evaluations.
“God has opened an opportunity to work and witness for Him in a Hindu-dominated society, with RNMH being the only Christian team invited to participate along with other non-Christian teams,” he says.
One cannot meet Dr. Sharma without hearing numerous stories of God’s presence in his life.
When he was a dental student, an important test was scheduled on Sabbath. If he didn’t take the test, he would have to repeat the entire year.
Every day, Dr. Sharma went to the president of his school to ask permission to take the test on a different day because of his religious beliefs. And every day the president refused his request. Then one day Dr. Sharma told the president, “This is the last time I will ask about the test. I’ll be praying for you.”
Dr. Sharma went to church the next Sabbath, telling the Lord, “I know you will have something important for me to do during the extra year of dental school I’ll be taking.” As the congregation was singing, a friend came and asked him to step outside. “Your God is real,” his friend told him. “I know that, but what do you mean,” asked Dr. Sharma. His friend handed him a piece of paper—the test had been rescheduled for a Monday.
Dr. Sharma later learned that there had been a state-wide meeting of university presidents. Though the president of his own school did not attend, he had sent an item to be considered—that Sabbath tests never be changed for anyone because of their religious beliefs.
After the item was brought up, one of the presidents called his son, who was one year ahead of Dr. Sharma in dental school. “Will your classmate, Ashish Sharma, really give up a year in his studies because of his beliefs?” he asked his son. The answer was yes.
The president then went back to the group. “Our constitution,” he emphasized, “allows for freedom of religion. And we must honor this young man’s religious beliefs.” And the test date was changed.
In a final story, Dr. Sharma relates how his father became an Adventist.
Dr. Sharma’s father was 6 years old when his father (Dr. Sharma’s grandfather) left the family to return to Pakistan. Dr. Sharma’s grandmother was Christian and his grandfather was Muslim.
Dr. Sharma’s father was convinced that it was because of his mother’s faith that his father deserted them and because of this, he hated Christians. So when he heard that Adventists were planning to hold a religious series in his town, he decided to go and throw stones to break up the meetings.
But when he saw colorful slides being shown about creation and Jesus, he decided to throw stones on the final day, five days later.
When the final day of the meetings arrived, the pastor asked if anyone had children who would like to attend to school. He wanted to go but his mother had no money to send him (she was a single mother working as a housekeeper).
She didn’t want to disappoint her son and went with him to meet the pastor. She offered the only thing she had of value—her wedding necklace—to pay for his tuition. So Dr. Sharma’s father attended school and later became a Seventh-day Adventist.
Dr. Sharma has a message for the students attending Loma Linda University. “Don’t limit God’s power that is available freely to you. He longs for a person who will depend absolutely and completely on Him. He will see you through, no matter what the circumstances. A complete and delightful surrender to God and His will is the beginning of the most exciting journey and adventure in life. Don’t let the glitter and glamour of this world so blind you, that you may miss out on heaven and on miracles here on earth.”
By Nancy Yuen