Raj Rattan, MBE

Raj Rattan

I was born in Tanzania in East Africa, the eldest son of a senior police officer and a teacher. When I was 7, we moved to England.  My parents, me and my younger brother lived first in Chalk Farm until my parents moved to Mill Hill. My first memory of UK is arriving at my uncle’s house after a long, long journey (we travelled by ship) thankful for home-cooked food. Another vivid memory is looking out of my bedroom window and registering what I thought were tiny bits of paper floating but it was actually snow!

We settled well into life in England, my father joined the civil service, and my mother continued her teaching career. They’d taken a bold decision to move to the other side of the world for their children’s future; sacrifices were made which you appreciate when you get older. But it worked out and we enjoyed our new life in Mill Hill and later, Hendon.

I stayed in London for university, studying dentistry on the advice of my aunt who suggested I’d enjoy the combination of science and the practical side. I was also influenced by a friend who was already studying dentistry.  General practice was my calling. Throughout my career, I always placed great emphasis on trust and the importance of continuity in that professional relationship which is why I remain firmly committed to family practice. My business partner of 40 years is the same person who influenced me to do dentistry – a friend since the age of eight! Newly qualified, he invited me to join him as a partner in a dental practice in Oxford and a few years later, I expanded to additional practices.

After almost a decade in full-time practice, I incorporated part-time teaching following in the footsteps of a long line of teachers in my family. This led me to develop a year-long training programme helping new dentistry graduates kick-start their careers. I became the Associate Dean of Dental Foundation Training, the NHS training scheme introducing graduates to general practice in a protected environment. Law also interested me, so I started working one day a week for an organization specializing in dental legal matters.  This portfolio of part-dentistry, part-teaching, part-law meant I’ve never felt bored or unfulfilled in my career – the variety kept me motivated. For 20 years I enjoyed this familiar rhythm mixing the different aspects of my profession and did some consultancy work for the NHS and in the private sector, including a stint as a Policy Adviser to the Department of Health.

Magic. When I was around 9, my uncle showed me a trick – the one where the coin disappears from under a handkerchief. I was mesmerized. I went to the local library and took out a book on magic tricks with the sole aim of impressing my uncle. I got hooked on it, loving the reaction when I made the impossible seem possible. Years later, while at dental school, and, by complete coincidence, one of my patients was a professional magician who suggested I visited the Magic Circle, which happened to be just by my dental school building. I became an associate member and have been a full member of some thirty years. I’ve re-discovered my love of magic over the last few years and I’m as enthusiastic as ever! I am a student of the art and a performer – there is so much to learn in terms of technical skill and performance.

Writing is another childhood passion I’ve come back to later in life. During the Summer holidays, I would write science fiction stories on my father’s manual typewriter. Two short ‘horror’ stories of mine were picked up by Capital Radio and broadcast for their late-night slot. I’ve continued writing, having collaborated on several dentistry books with friends and colleagues – the most recent of which is due to be published this year on dental law and ethics. I’d like to think I’ll go back to fiction writing as I enjoy the craft of storytelling.

I developed an interest in Philosophy later in life and signed up to a part-time degree course a couple of years ago. It has been a joy to study, and I have learned so much from our tutors but also from others in the group. I’m now in the middle of writing up my dissertation – that is challenging!

Today, my work is centered in the dentolegal field, and I am Dental Director at Dental Protection Ltd – part of the Medical Protection Society which is an international indemnity organization. It is fascinating work and there is an education element – I have been very fortunate to have lectured extensively across the world are various conferences in my current role.

Quick-fire Q&A with Raj:

  1. What 3 words best describe you?  Hardworking, Fair, Reflective.
  2. If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?
    Focus on the destination but remember to enjoy the journey.
  3. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
    Marrying my wife!
  4. Which person (dead or alive) would you most like to invite to dinner? Aristotle the Greek Philosopher
  5. How has age strengthened your advantage? It has given me confidence and contentment
  6. What inspired you to join Circle Square? The vision and the people.

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