Zaki Kanaan might have been a banker if it wasn’t for an embarrassing incident as a small child. But banking’s loss in dentistry’s gain. In this week’s show, master of implants Zaki talks Payman through his early move from war-torn Beirut to London.
Zaki talks life at boarding school and later Guy’s, and explains how fate appeared to play a guiding role in his development as a dentist.
Prav couldn’t be here this week, so Payman single-handedly steers the conversation over wide-ranging topics.
“Life is like sliding doors. The film where you either enter the tube and your life goes in one direction or another. Life, for me, is like that.” – Zaki Kanaan
In This Episode
01.45 – Early years
14.42 – Good cop/bad cop
21.25 – On implantology
24.53 – Losing dad
28.32 – Chairman of the board
32.29 – Best bits
41.48 – Love and marriage
48.55 – From London to Weybridge
52.16 – On teaching & travel
01.01.49 – What motivates Zaki Kanaan?
01.03.11 – Legacy
01.07.10 – Mentors
About Zaki Kanaan
Zaki Kanaan achieved a Masters Degree from Guy’s and St Thomas in 2001 and went on to complete diplomas in sedation and hypnosis. He also became a Licentiate of the Faculty of Homeopathy.
He has pursued an interest in implantology which saw him become the first UK dentist to carry out the All-on-4 procedure on live TV.
Zaki is past president of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) and London Dental Fellowship and currently sits on the board of directors of the Association of Dental Implantology UK.
He also sits on the editorial board for the International Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry and is former editorial consultant for Dental Implant Summaries.
Zaki is a prolific figure on the international lecture circuit where he regularly delivers training on cosmetic and implant dentistry.
He has scooped a selection of top awards including UK Dentist of the Year2012. In 2015, Zaki was recognised for his outstanding contribution to dentistry at the Private Dentistry Awards. He is now on the awards’ judging panel and regularly features in industry lists of the UK’s most elite and influential dentists.
Zaki: To young dentists, I would say life is like sliding doors. The film where you either enter the tube and your life goes in one direction or another. Life, for me, is like that, because if my mom didn’t have that chat with my dad, we would have been in the Middle East and I would have not been a dentist and I would have ended up… If I didn’t have that chat in the lift with Richard Palmer, I wouldn’t have been where I am. If I didn’t do Newland Pedley Prize, he wouldn’t have thought this guy is good and I wouldn’t have been accepted on the MSc. If I didn’t get all those knockbacks from the interviews to get into private practise, where I thought what’s the quickest thing I can do, diploma in sedation, I wouldn’t have been in that lift. Everything you do leads to something else.
Speaker 2: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Payman: So, Zaki, nice that you came in. Unfortunately, it’s just me today, no Prav.
Zaki: Yeah. I was looking forward to meeting Prav.
Payman: Have you not met him before?
Zaki: I have.
Payman: We go back a long way, all the way to VT, and I remember at the time, even, [inaudible] were pretty ambitious VT. It’s a bit interesting actually, what I remember about you and what you remember about me. I remember you being quite an ambitious guy.
Zaki: Do you want me to say what I remember about you? Yeah, ambition, I suppose everyone needs to be a bit ambitious, don’t they?
Payman: Yeah, but out of the 12 people or whatever in the group, I felt like you stood out as being ambitious. I don’t think at the time you were talking about implants.
Payman: No, I remember you saying, “I want a multi-surgery clinic.” The funny thing is, you didn’t open a clinic for years and years after that. But, let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born? Where did you grow up? What kind of a kid were you?
Zaki: I was born in Beirut. My dad, back then, had the choice of… He was working in a bank in Lebanon. He had the opportunity… Two choices, either to go to London and start working in the bank that wasn’t even set up yet, back then in the 70s, or, just, to take the easy route and go and work in Amman in Jordan. He chose the easy route. He said, “No, I’ll go to Jordan. I don’t want to go and set up a new bank in the UK,” and he chose Jordan. My mom, at the time, said to him, literally, the night before we were going to fly to Jordan, or a couple of days before… she said to him, “Listen, there’s so much opportunity you hear about in Europe and all that in London.” Actually, my parents got married in London. They had to elope, but that’s another story. She said, “Let’s go there. If it doesn’t work out, we’ve always got this option.”
Payman: How old were you at the time?
Zaki: Three. So, we came to the UK when I was three years old.
Zaki: He just looked at her and said, “You’re absolutely right,” and that’s what we did. Two days later, he phoned up and told his bosses at the time and said, “Actually, I’ll give London a go.” We never looked back.
Payman: Do you remember?
Zaki: I remember-
Payman: Your first day in London?
Zaki: I do remember London, but I don’t remember Beirut much.
Payman: Oh, you don’t remember Beirut at all?
Zaki: Yeah. The only things I remember from Beirut were the times, all the-
Payman: There was a lot of trouble.
Zaki: Bombings and-
Payman: Which year was that?
Zaki: We came ’76.
Payman: It’s the middle of the civil war.
Zaki: Yeah. So, there was a lot of… I remember the sounds, and my parents have photos of us… whenever the bombing came and we had to either go to a shelter or lock yourself in the house. We’d hide in the bathroom. We have photos of me and my sister with my mom, literally, curling up on the floor of our bathroom, just to hide from all the sound and everything. So, I remember the sounds from those days, but I don’t remember anything else from Beirut. But, I remember our first flat when we came here and where we stayed and all that. Yeah.
Payman: Where was that?
Zaki: Marble Arch.
Payman: The same one you-
Zaki: No, we rented when we first got here, just to suss the area out. It was a small flat. My sister was two, I was three. Literally, every time we moved or bought another flat, it was in that area. My parents still have a flat in that area.
Zaki: They just got used to it. That’s where I was brought up, basically, in around Marble Arch and Mayfair and that area, yeah.
Payman: Then, as a kid in school, were you a swotty kid?
Zaki: I don’t think I’m a swotty kid. I was never a swotty kid, but I always seemed to have pass all my exams-
Payman: Hard worker?
Zaki: Yeah, I used to work, but nothing excessive. I wasn’t super intelligent. I wasn’t back then and I’m not now. But, I seem to get through the exams and somehow get through anything that was put to me.
Zaki: But, I wasn’t swotty. I wasn’t a geek or anything like that.
Payman: So, what do you remember as a kid? What were your highlights? Were you a sporty kid? What kind of kid were you?
Zaki: Yeah. I was quite sporty, but not in the mainstream sports. Not rugby. I was okay at all those things. But, racquet sports, badminton and squash, and that sort of thing.
Zaki: I used to love that. Tennis was the weakest one out of them. But yeah, I used to love badminton, squash, all the other… table tennis, all that sort of thing.
Payman: We’ll have a game upstairs now, we’ll see.
Zaki: We will. I have one at home, so-
Payman: Me too. We’ll see how well you do. All right. Do you remember when you decided to do dentistry?
Payman: What was the story of that?
Zaki: I like the sciences. I remember, at my careers day… GCSE, I got an A in French. I did French a year early. I got an A in French. My sister went to the [lycee] so I was-
Payman: Like my kids.
Zaki: Yeah. I was all right at French. Funnily enough, my parents sent her to the lycee when she was three, or four. Then, they put me in an English school and said, “Oh, boy has to go English school, girl goes to French school. Then, they said, “Wow, she speaks fluent French, let’s put Zaki into French school.” I went there when I was older, maybe, about six or seven and my French wasn’t good enough, thank God. Because, otherwise, I would have ended up in French school. So, I stayed in English. So, my career’s advisor basically said, “You got an A in French, A in Spanish, an A in Arabic, English, you need to do languages.” I just said, “Well, what am I going to do with languages?” He said, “You could work for the United Nations, you could be a translator, you could”… I just thought, what am I going to do with my life with that?
Zaki: Languages is good to have, and it’s very useful, but it wasn’t a career. I liked the sciences. That was my thing. I said, I want to do the sciences. Then thought about medicine. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a doctor, but my dad didn’t want me to do it. So, he just spoke to me and he said, listen, why don’t you become a banker like me, do business, something like that. Something general that you can find your way. I didn’t want to do that. I had a bad experience that put me off banking when I was much younger, and I said, there’s no way I’m doing banking.
Payman: What does that mean, bad experience?
Zaki: So, when I was about 9 or 10, he took me into his bank. Now, if you Go to Kensington High Street, there’s a store Massimo Dutti.
Zaki: That was my dad’s bank. Literally, that corner plot was… it was called Arab Bank Limited. I used to get picked up from school. We had to a driver back then, that was with the bank. He picked me up from school, we went and picked my dad up from work, and, sometimes, if I’m early, I’d go in, I’d sit on his desk in his big armchair, swinging around. I just saw this red button under his desk, and I didn’t know what it was. I was just messing about on his computer and stuff. So, he went to get his coat and whatever. So, I press this button, nothing happens. It wasn’t one of those buttons, like a click button, it was just one that went in.
Zaki: And, that was it. Thought nothing of it. Anyway, he gets his coat, we’re walking out the door, and it was, literally, like those movies, the doors opened and police cars came from everywhere. Not with guns, but almost… as a kid, I thought they were holding guns at me.
Payman: It, literally, scared you so much you didn’t want [crosstalk 00:09:09]-
Zaki: All these police cars came and they’re asking my dad, was there a burglary? My dad just says, no. Then, literally, one minute later, I was just standing there-
Payman: It clicks.
Zaki: Imagine, five, six police officers and my dad, everyone’s face just turned around and looked at me and I went bright red, didn’t know what to say. So, that put me off banking.
Payman: It would have been interesting. You could have done so many things around business. Medical and science, did you have anyone in the family who was a dentist or doctor?
Zaki: No, not at all. Not a single-
Payman: It was off your own back, you were saying, I want to be a doctor.
Zaki: Not a single person. I just knew I loved biology and physics and that sort of thing, chemistry.
Payman: Which school were you at?
Zaki: I was at [Dulwich] College.
Payman: Oh, yes.
Zaki: Yeah. I was at boarding school as well. I didn’t need to be, but, funny thing is, I actually said to my parents, I wanted to be a weekly border because it’s not far. We were living around Marble Arch area, it’s not far, but I was too lazy to carry my bag for sport every day. So, I asked them to be a weekly boarder. So, I’d come back home on Friday and go back on Sunday night. Yeah. You know what? It was the best times for me because the people I… it’s like a family, boarding school.
Payman: Boarding school, some people love it, and some people hate it. Do your kids go to boarding school?
Zaki: No, that was a big debate with that.
Payman: Would you?
Zaki: Well, I think it depends on the child because, for me… and also the age. I know some people put their kids in when they’re seven, which I think is too young. But, I went in at 13, and best years of my life. 13 to 18 at boarding school. It was nice because it was weekends, I could go back. I’d have my Middle Eastern friends that I’d hang out with and go clubbing and stuff. Remember the Henry J Beans days? You know those days.
Payman: Yeah, man.
Zaki: Yeah. So, I loved it.
Payman: How old is your oldest now?
Payman: This is what I mean, if he was in boarding school now, that would be… My oldest is coming up to 13, I’m already aware that we’ve only got another three or four or five years with him. We’ve only got another two or three years where he’s paying any attention to us.
Payman: So, if you ship him off to boarding school… ship him off’s the wrong word… If he goes off to boarding school now, you’ve lost those years with him.
Zaki: Yeah, there was a big debate with my wife, Dominique. I said, I want him to go… I’ve got two boys. I want them to go at 13. Not before, I wasn’t even thinking before, but she just said no. I said, “Why?” She goes… Exactly, the reason you said, “I want them around.” When they’re 18, they can go off. I want them… you know?
Zaki: So, it’s a big debate and, actually, boarding schools so expensive now anyway. I was, “Okay,” when I saw the fees. I backed down pretty quickly. But, no, they’re happy where they are now. I wouldn’t change it actually. I think it’s good being a day boy. Yeah.
Payman: Then, you decide dentistry. You applied to all London places?
Zaki: No. I applied-
Payman: There was only three in London at the time, wasn’t there?
Zaki: Yeah, I applied to Kings and Guy’s, and I applied to, actually, more outside. I think it was Manchester, Liverpool.
Payman: So, why did you decide on Guy’s?
Zaki: Well, I actually decided on Kings first, because one thing I hated about Guy’s, when I went, was the 30 floors. I just thought every single day. When I went for the interview, and when I went to look around, I was waiting ages for that lift. I thought, if I have to do that several times a day, it actually put me off. I don’t know, I can’t remember what it was, I actually didn’t like the Kings Campus either, Denmark Hill and all that.
Zaki: I got an offer at both, and, in the end, I just chose Guy’s. I don’t know why. I just liked the location more-
Payman: What were you like in dental school? Did you have a great time? Well, going to dental school in the same town as you live, for me… by the way, I tried to do that. I applied to Guy’s and the London-
Zaki: I know you ended up in Cardiff.
Payman: Ended up in Cardiff because I didn’t get the grades, as it happens. But, I was really happy, now, in retrospect, that I left home for university. But, at the time, as a kid that I was, I definitely didn’t want to leave London. I was a Londoner, and I wanted to go out with my buddies and all of that. But, did you end up spending more time with your existing friends, or did you really get into the university?
Zaki: So, no, I actually didn’t get into the university life as much as I should have. That’s one regret I have. I think, definitely, if my son, even if he was in the university next door to where we live, I’d tell him to stay in the halls or something, which I didn’t do.
Payman: Oh, you lived at home.
Zaki: I lived at home.
Payman: [inaudible 00:14:03].
Zaki: Yeah, it was a massive error. But, you know what, I lived behind Selfridges-
Payman: I would have done the same. If it was me, I would have been the same because I loved my life as a 17 year old. I thought I was the bee’s knees. I had everything I wanted.
Zaki: Yeah, I had my car, I had everything done for me. It’s, just, a bit of a mistake, actually, because I… and don’t get me wrong, I went out, I was in the bar with everyone and all this but not as much as I should have.
Zaki: So, that’s a bit of a regret but I’m still very friendly with all those people at Guy’s to this day. But, yeah, I wish I was there more.
Payman: At Guy’s. What kind of a student were you? Did you take to it like a duck to water?
Zaki: Yeah, I did. The thing with dentistry is that, if you don’t like it, you are a bit stuffed. If you don’t like dentistry while you’re studying, you’re, what am I going to do? But, I liked it. I never ever thought, no, this isn’t what I want to do. But again, you’re probably going to ask me, how were you at uni in terms of, were you a swot. So, I got through all my exams. I was never the brightest guy in the year. I wasn’t the bottom of the year either. I just got through all the exams. I didn’t fail any. I passed everything first time and that was it, just by doing, maybe, a little bit above average work at home, got through.
Payman: It’s an interesting thing, when you look back on your year now, did you think the people who were top of class are the top dentists? I don’t think so.
Payman: Some are, by the way.
Zaki: They’re probably going to listen to this, so I’ve got to be careful. No, honestly-
Payman: We were talking, what does it take to be a great dentist? What are the key skills? They’re none of the ones that get tested in college, really.
Payman: The key skills are humans skills. Like, soft skills.
Zaki: You learn that afterwards. A lot of what we did, whether it’s clinical and non-clinical, what you learnt and what you did at uni, is very different to when you leave.
Payman: What advice would you give now, someone who’s in undergrad?
Zaki: The main thing is, you have to like it. You have to have a passion for this sort of thing.
Payman: You actually interview as well, don’t you?
Zaki: Yeah, I’m there in a couple of weeks.
Payman: Would do you look for?
Zaki: As an interviewer, you can either be like Simon Cowell, a Mr. Nasty sort of thing.
Payman: Yeah, you try and put people [inaudible 00:16:31].
Zaki: I’m Mr. Nice Guy. I, sometimes, interview with Dominique.
Payman: Oh, really.
Zaki: It’s multiple mini interviews now.
Payman: Oh, really.
Zaki: So, I’m in one booth and then she’s in the next. I often make a joke and say, she’s a bit stricter than I. I’m Mr. Nice Guy, I want everyone to pass. So, I suppose, I’m not the best person for the job. Yeah.
Payman: Is it the same at home? Is she the bad cop and you’re the good cop?
Zaki: Oh, yeah.
Payman: With the kids?
Zaki: Yeah, you know Dominique, but she’s very… I couldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s probably like that for a lot of people you’ve interviewed. We qualified together, we studied together, we qualified together. We should be at the same level in terms where we all but you get married, and, inevitably… this might be a bit cliche, or I don’t know, anti-feminist, I suppose, but she took a step back, she looked after the kids. Her career took a step back, that allowed me to continue and do the BACD stuff that I did and be on the board for 10 years and become president. That’s allowing me to sit on the board of the ADI. All these things take time out of your family time, work time and all that, and I couldn’t do it without her.
Zaki: You said you were ambitious even back then when you were younger. You thought I might have multiple practises, multiple surgeries. It’s hard enough. I go into my practise, and it’s a small practise… I go in and she does everything. I go in like an associate. I do my work-
Payman: It’s her practise more than yours, right?
Zaki: Yeah. I do my work, I leave, I don’t get paid, she pays herself, but she runs it. She hires, she fires, and it’s the same thing at home. A lot of a lot of us couldn’t be where we are now without them.
Payman: That’s a team. I was talking to Jenny [Pinda] this morning and asking her, is it harder to be a woman than a man in dentistry? She didn’t seem to think so. She doesn’t have kids. Kids, in the end, are going to slow down a career, for sure. But, for me, dentistry is one of the best careers for a mother.
Zaki: It is.
Payman: Because, you can do part-time. The relationships with the patient and so forth. But, you’re right.
Zaki: I lecture, actually… sometimes they do careers days, BDA do one and some others, where they get a dentist and they get a doctor… they get various people in healthcare and each person gives like an half an hour lecture to sixth-formers. Some of them come with their parents. The case for dentistry is compelling. The parents come up to me, saying, my son or daughter really wanted to do medicine, but after listening to you, they want [crosstalk 00:19:34], or they’re thinking about it.
Zaki: So, the case is, like you said, it’s such a flexible job, and it’s a really nice sort of… if you’re into medical, it’s a great profession to be in.
Payman: Do you reckon either of your sons are going to-
Zaki: I don’t know.
Payman: Would you like them to?
Zaki: I don’t know. I wouldn’t put them off if they said, look, I want to do it. I’m not going to say no. Definitely, dentistry is very different now to how it was when we qualified. A lot of people say it’s not a nice profession to be in anymore and there’s so much litigation and you’re always worried when GDC… all those sorts of things. But, I still think it’s a great profession. I’m still glad I’m in it.
Zaki: Whether I’d encourage my kids to do it, I don’t think I’d say, I want you to do… you know. But, if they wanted to do it, I wouldn’t stop them. But, I’d be happy if they wanted to do business and something broader that they could find their way.
Payman: It would be a massive advantage, though, to them, with both of you.
Payman: I think about this all the time. Does it make sense or doesn’t it make sense? This question of, push them. No, I don’t want to push anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do. The other thing comes along of, maybe, you want your kid to do something grander than being a dentist?
Payman: If such a thing exists.
Zaki: Yeah. If you said to me, what your preference is? Dentistry is very… it’s a narrow field. Like I said, if you don’t it, you are a bit stuffed, you’ve got to like it. I see a lot of people that just do it because that’s all they can do. That’s all they’ve been taught. It’s hard to just change to something left field. Some people have done it, but it’s hard. So, I’d prefer them to do something much broader that gives them the opportunity to do various things, and then they can find their way.
Payman: You do so many different things. You work as an implantologist in lots of different practises. That roaming-
Zaki: Yeah, peripatetic.
Payman: Yeah, is that what it’s called?
Zaki: Yeah. I used to do that. I don’t do that… not much anymore. But, funny story, is that, when the recession kicked in 2009 and I’d meet a lot of my friends that did implants, and they’d be, yeah, it’s a bit slow, it’s really hit us and I’m not doing that many, how about you? I’d be… I was busy as hell. I was, “No, it’s great, it hasn’t affected me at all.” The difference was, is that they sat in one room in one location in one clinic.
Payman: That area-
Zaki: That area, yeah. Whereas, with me, I got off my ass and actually found the work. A lot of people said, Oh, yeah, do you like what you do, going around, whatever. Like, you know what, at least I was busy, at least the money was coming in, and I made lots of connections and networks. Then, we opened our practised up, I started reducing all that. I didn’t want to travel so much. Back then, I used to even go up to Scotland. I used to do all on fours.
Zaki: Yeah. Even, Fairlie, [inaudible] up there in Cherrybank, when I was… we go to Gleneagles every year. We’ve got one of these timeshare things up there. Even, once, I was there for a week, she’s, can you come over?
Payman: I was just going to ask you though, you visited lots of practises, you can see lots of different ways people work, what are some of the takeaways? What are some things you learned that you then put into your own practise?
Zaki: Well, one thing I learned was, the bigger the practise, the harder it is. It’s, obviously, just common sense, but it was exponentially harder because you’d have to keep everyone busy and you’d have lots of staff turnover. It just seemed a lot harder. On the face of it, people look at these practises from the outside and think they’re running smoothly and whatever. However, when you’re on the inside, it’s not always like that. That’s why we did something small.
Zaki: So, when there’s a recession, when times aren’t great, or there’s less patients coming in, I don’t have to worry. I still remember, shortly, after setting up my practise with Dominique, my dad got ill. I had a phone call from my sister. I was actually at a BACD Board Meeting. I had a call, she said, “Zaki, you got to come right now.” I, literally, took the next flight out. I was away from our new clinic for seven weeks on the trot. All I was thinking about is, God, what’s going to happen? I’m the one doing the high-end implant treatments, thousands of pounds, and I’m not there. The nice thing was that the rent is low, it’s a small practise, there’s not a huge monthly expenditure on staff wages and all that. There is, but it was manageable.
Zaki: Now, if I had a much bigger set up… and I remember talking to several people, and they’re, you know what, you’re so lucky, you’ve done something small. Whilst, you say I was ambitious and wanted to open up multiple surgeries, that’s my comfort zone. I’m happy like that. I’m happy, also, working and placing implants for other people, which I still do to this day.
Payman: Tell me about when your dad was ill? Where was that?
Zaki: He was in Amman, in Jordan. December, we have a BACD retreat, the two-day retreat that we always do just to plan the year ahead. Yeah, my dad was a smoker his whole life until he was around mid-50s, where he actually had a heart attack while we were on holiday in South of France. He had a triple bypass then, and the doctor said, he’ll have about 18, 20 years max after this. So, when he got to mid-70s, in my mind, I was thinking his heart would go, but, actually, what it was in the end, was lung cancer, which was missed. He was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, just fibrosis of the lungs. So, whenever he had a symptom of coughing or whatever-
Payman: Autoimmune thing.
Zaki: Yeah, it was just idiopathic. They didn’t know the cause. He had difficulty in breathing but he was carrying on as normal. But, the problem is, when you get diagnosed with something, every time you cough or… Oh, it’s your fibrosis. So, the cancer was missed. I remember I got really upset about this, that he went to his GP, my mum told them that he was coughing blood last night, oh, it’s his fibrosis. Now, all I remember from dental school when you learned medicine and all that, if there’s blood in your urine or stools or coughing, it’s serious. You need to… and they didn’t, they just said it’s the fibrosis, and it was missed. They said he’s got a week or two and he lasted, maybe, six or seven weeks, which is why I was there for that long.
Zaki: Yeah, it was a tough time. It’s funny, when you lose someone, you realise what you’ve lost, and you think, I wish I did this, I wish I said that, and all of that. So, tough time for me and my sister and my mom. But, yeah, life goes on.
Payman: The regrets you’re talking about. Do you mean, things you wish you’d said in that six week period or things you wished you’d done?
Zaki: Things I wish I’d done. We had a fantastic relationship with my dad all along. But, there’s always something-
Payman: Regrets are a feature of grieving.
Zaki: Exactly. There’s always something [crosstalk] I wish I did this, I wish I did that. I wish we went out for… I was going to say, I wish we went out for dinner more, but my dad was a-
Payman: A foodie.
Zaki: He would have gone out every night to a restaurant. He used to go to Nobu every other day. Nobu, Zuma, Chinese.
Payman: Sounds like a real [inaudible 00:27:39], your dad.
Zaki: Yeah. He really was. He loved that sort of thing. Every summer, we’d go to South of France and he loved it. He loved that life, going out and restaurants and stuff. Yeah.
Payman: Do you feel now that he’s gone, more responsibility with regards to your mom or…
Zaki: Definitely. My dad was a banker so my mom never had to-
Payman: Take care of paperwork and things like that.
Zaki: Never. She never had to pay any bills. It was all done by him. So, yeah, when my mom is here, I look after her and do all that side of things. When she’s in Jordan… my mom just goes back and forth, which is what my parents used to do when he retired. Half the year here, half the year there. My sister would look after my mom in Jordan because she lives there.
Payman: She lives there right now.
Payman: [inaudible] about BACD, ADI, why are you the kind of guy who ends up on these boards? Do you enjoy that?
Zaki: You know what, I do. I wouldn’t be doing it, because when I finished the BACD presidency, why would you join the board of something else and do the same thing in a similar organisation?
Payman: But, what is about it? Is it knowing what’s going to happen before it happens?
Zaki: No, I just love being part of something. I love-
Payman: Contributing to-
Zaki: Yeah. I love contributing. I love teaching. I love imparting-
Payman: Your experience.
Zaki: My experiences over the years. I just love that sort of thing. A lot of people, even, think that we get paid being on these things, we don’t. It actually reduces our pay because it’s time out of work, time out from family. So actually, you’ve got to want to do it. It’s not because you want to be president of something. You don’t go in there and say, right, I’m going to start because I want to be president. I never thought that when I first joined. You just want to be part of something, and I really enjoy it. It’s like another family, BACD family or ADI or whatever. It’s just something I enjoy.
Payman: I think, being a dentist, one of the things that we all suffer with, is that Four Wall Syndrome. It’s one of the reasons I stopped doing dentistry. I was young and stupid, really. But, one of the reasons I stopped doing dentistry was, because I thought, was my whole impact going to be in these four walls, and four miles around the practise. I felt like, I got to do something bigger than that or something. I could have done 100 practises, right? But, at the time, I wasn’t thinking that way.
Payman: But, the question, I’m sure you enjoy going out to an ADI meeting and talking to people and whatever it is. But personally, I feel like I’m an outsider kind of person. I don’t enjoy those sort of meetings and preparing for them and talking in them and so on. So, what is it about you? How come, when we were in VT, there was 11 other guys and us… how come those other 10 are drilling, and you’ve gotten teaching, you’re doing the ADI thing… what’s this London fellowship thing, by the way? What’s that about?
Zaki: London Dental Fellowship. London Dental Fellowship is just an old organisation that, basically, a group of dentists set it up. There’s two things, London Dental Study Club and the London Dental Fellowship. London Dental Study Club used to meet on a first Tuesday of every month at the Saville Club. Then, as people got a little bit older, a couple of them veered off and started the London Dental Fellowship for the older dentists. In the end, it just became too similar but separate organisations. All it is, is that you meet six times a year, every month at the Saville Club. You have a three course meal, a speaker is invited to give a lecture so it counts as CPD. But, the main thing is, apart from learning a little bit, just the networking and being around other like-minded dentists and stuff. But, yeah, that’s-
Payman: You’re the most connected dentist I know. You really are though.
Zaki: I know it seems like that.
Payman: You definitely know more dentists than anyone else I know.
Zaki: The reason being is-
Payman: It’s the social animal.
Zaki: Yeah. The reason being, like you said, dentistry is boring, otherwise. If you’re just in a room with four walls and-
Payman: Some people are [inaudible] dentists, aren’t they? They love that. By the way, I’m sure, being an implantologist, you are that cat, too, right. But, different things, get us in different ways, don’t they?
Payman: What do you enjoy the most? You enjoy the patient piece? The clinical piece? The teaching bit? The president of the board bit? Travelling and teaching?
Zaki: I’ll tell you something, a little bit, which I’m not sure if I should say, but you said about the patient bit, about the building up rapport. The one thing I love about doing implants is the rapport. Is that I like going in, placing the implant, and then leaving, and that’s it. Then, someone else restores or I restore. I got a distinction in orthodontics, finishing dental school, so I thought I was going to be an orthodontist. Two things that put me off that. One thing was, back then, there was no such thing as adult orthodontics. It was kids. So, I thought, can I go through my whole life treating children? My whole life. I love kids, but I couldn’t do it the whole time. So, that was the first thing.
Zaki: The second thing was, it was this every month for a year or two or three, I’d have to see the same patient. Look, I like building rapport, but it was that sort of thing, every month you see the same person and it was making chitchat. It was too much. That’s what I like about implants, is that it’s far fewer appointments. I love the patients and all that. But yeah, that’s not the thing. I like doing clinical dentistry. I like them coming in and you transform things which, I suppose, a lot of dentists say.
Payman: No, not everyone says that. Some people say the treatment planning bit, is what really gets them, some people want to actually drill. But, implant work can get hairy as well.
Zaki: Definitely, yeah.
Payman: Speaking to Andy [Moore 00:34:14], he was saying, he does 750 implants a year, and, yet, he still needs to sleep early the night before he does a big case and he still got to have his wits about him.
Zaki: Yeah, definitely.
Payman: For me, it takes a bit of a… again, it’s a funny word for it, adrenalin.
Zaki: The funny thing is, if tomorrow, I had a whole day of patients, whether it’s single tooth implants or a full mouth case, or grafting or whatever, it doesn’t faze me, I’d be fine with the next day. If I had the next day of root canals or… I’d be sweating the night before.
Payman: Because, you’ve become an expert at it now. But, there was a time, wasn’t there? You chose to go into that surgical bit. I was scared of blood as a dentist.
Zaki: I didn’t think of implants at all. So, the story is, I finished dental school, I did VT and I was applying for… I wanted to do private as everyone does. I just thought, let me get a day a week or somewhere private. I applied to so many places, I got knocked back every single time. They just looked at me, they’re, you just qualified, you’re only a year out, you’ve got no further qualifications. So, I, basically, just thought, what am I going to do? I thought, the easiest, quickest thing for me to do, was to get a diploma in dental sedation. It was basically one day a week for six months at Guy’s hospital with David Craig and Mike [inaudible 00:35:50]-
Payman: Just to get something-
Zaki: Just to get a few letters. Yeah, just to get a slight difference to everyone else that qualified at my time. So, I did the six months. I got the letters. I kept on applying and went for interviews. Then, I started getting phone calls to say, I heard you’ve just done this diploma. If I give you a job, would you do the dentistry on your patients, but would you sometimes do some sedation for me? I was, yeah, of course. That was my foot in the door to get into private practise. I got phone call after phone call, saying, oh, you’re doing sedation for so and so, could you come and do it for me? I’ll offer you one day a week. That was my way in.
Zaki: So, it’s the best thing I did. I did a diploma in sedation shortly followed by a diploma in hypnosis. Because, I was just fascinated by… I wasn’t sure if I believed it. I don’t like doing the weekend course or whatever. I like to get a diploma or something or learn a lot about the subject, which is why I did an MSc in implants. I didn’t want to, just, do one of these-
Payman: That is the right way to do it, isn’t it?
Payman: The people I know who’ve done the MSc, seem to be the ones who-
Zaki: What I was getting at is, the reason why I went into implants was, actually, while I was doing my diploma in sedation, I bumped into Professor Richard Palmer, who’s now retired… he taught me as an undergrad. He said, “Oh, what are you doing back here?” I said, “Oh, well, I’m doing a diploma in sedation.” He said, “What are your plans for the future?” The good thing about Guy’s, is that you could have a proper conversation in that lift because it was-
Payman: Such a long way.
Zaki: It’s a long way. So, we had a full-on conversation in the lift. I said to him, I’m thinking of going to the Eastman to do an MSc in [inaudible 00:37:40], crown and bridge. He said, “Well, you already know how to do that. Why do you want to do the same thing?” I just said, “Well, I want to do an MSc. And, secondly, I’ll just get better at it.” He said to me, “You know what, you’ll get better at crown and bridge, by just doing it in practise. You know how to do it, you’ll get better. Why don’t you think about doing implants?” I said, “I don’t know, it’s surgery”, and, like you said, “blood and all that.” It was not on my radar.
Zaki: He said, “Are you going to go through your career with referring every single patient that you see with a gap, whether it’s one tooth or more or whatever, to someone down the road, for them to do the implant and to get all the money from the implant. And, every single case you’ve got to refer out, why don’t you do it?” Anyway, I went home and I thought about it. I thought, actually, you know what, he’s right. It’s going to open up a whole new avenue for me to be able to do. In the lift, I said, “Look, I qualified ’96”, and this was ’98 when I was doing the diploma. I said, “I don’t have FDS, I don’t have anything. I’m going to have a diploma soon. But, I don’t have any qualifications, I probably won’t get accepted.” He said, “You never know, just apply.” Wink, sort of thing.
Payman: He had an MSc to fill.
Zaki: Yeah, probably. Back then, it was expensive at the time.
Payman: The best thing he could have done for you, right?
Zaki: But, it was oversubscribed so I applied and I got in.
Zaki: So, that was my foot in the door.
Payman: When did you go from scared of blood, and I would really love this? Was it during the course, was it afterwards?
Zaki: Okay, so, the reason why he liked me is because, at Guy’s, there was something called the Newland Pedley, [Madeline] Prize. There was a lot of prizes that students could enter in their final years. But this one, I suppose, is the most prestigious one because what it involved was, you had to write a 10,000 word thesis. You also had to treat a very complicated case that involved multiple disciplines. It had to involve dentures or crown and bridge or surgery or root canals, several different things. So, I remember Bernard Smith at the time… I think it was him, yeah. He said, “If you can treat this case for this prize, I think you’d do well.” So, I looked at it, it was crown lengthening. Imagine, as a student, doing surgical crown lengthening, because this guy ground the hell out of his teeth, and involved crowns and it involved dentures, bit of perio, involved quite a few things. He said, “If you can pull this off, you’d get it. I wasn’t even thinking about it at the time.
Zaki: So, I used to spend hours in the lab. I still remember, all my mates would go down the bar, and they’re, come on, Zaki, come, and I had to finish the lab work.
Payman: You did all the lab work for it as well?
Zaki: You do the lab work yourself. All the lab work was done by you. I did crowns, I did my own denture.
Payman: All of that work, or just on this case?
Zaki: No, no, just this case. If you’re going for this prize, you had to do the lab work.
Payman: Bloody hell.
Zaki: I used to stay till eight o’clock at night, and all my mates drinking in the bar. There was so many times I gave up… well, I was about to give up, and someone would come in… the guy who won it the year before me was James [Invest 00:41:11], fantastic dentist. They’d come in and people would see you, the year above, and say, stick with it. If you get it, it’ll be good. Luckily, I stuck with it, and I got it. Richard Palmer was one of the examiners.
Payman: That’s how he knew you.
Zaki: So, the sort of lesson in life is, that you’re always going to meet people who you’ll meet later on in life and he remembered. He thought, this guy’s got something. I suppose, it was that chance meeting in the lift while I was doing a diploma in sedation, and it was the Newland Pedley, so one thing leads to another.
Zaki: Yeah. That was it.
Payman: Very, very true. Tell me about the first time you met Dominique? Was she in your year? Was it first year?
Zaki: Yeah. You know when you don’t do biology or chemistry-
Payman: An extra year?
Zaki: No, she did an extra week.
Zaki: So, she had to just get a bit of an orientation or something. So, she was there a week before me. So, when I came in, she was there for a week. She had met people already. So, when I go into my freshers week, I saw this girl and she knew everyone. She was smiling with them, laughing, joking and all that. I thought she was the year above. I thought she was older. It wasn’t love at first sight or anything if that’s what you’re thinking, but it was just, what a fantastic girl. She knew everyone already. Then, at Guy’s, because there’s 100 students per year, they split you into groups of 10. I was K… and O. She was Dominique O’Leary. We were in the same group. So, we practised injections on each other, cleaning, hygiene, all that. We’d practise on each other. She actually became my best friend in terms of just friends. We never dated while we were there.
Payman: For the whole five years?
Zaki: For the whole five years.
Payman: Oh, really?
Zaki: Yeah, we never ever… we were just friends. But, she was my good friend. If I wanted advice about girls or something, I’d asked her. She knew me backwards. Yeah. That’s how we met.
Payman: So, when did it go from friends to friends with… Yeah.
Zaki: So, what it was, is that, you know when you’ve seen someone for five years and dentistry is an intense degree-
Payman: So, this was after [inaudible] now? VT, was that when you…
Payman: Oh, really.
Zaki: So, it was during VT, when I thought, I’ve seen this girl every day of my life for five years. All of a sudden, she’s gone. She went down to do VT in Brighton and I was in Kent, Northfleet. Do you remember? Anyway, so I thought, actually, I miss this girl. So, I gave her a ring, months into VT. I went and said, can I come and see you, and went with a friend as well. Went down and visited her. I don’t know, that’s when I realised, actually, I do like this girl, and that’s when things started.
Payman: How long after that did you ask her to marry you?
Zaki: Well, qualified ’96 and we got married in 2002, engaged in 2001. So, I suppose, started dating ’97. I can’t remember when I actually proposed but it must have been 2000. Something like that.
Payman: Dominique’s half-Irish.
Zaki: Yeah, her dad’s Irish. She’s an O’Leary and her mom’s Iraqi, actually.
Zaki: She’s more in touch with her Iraqi side.
Payman: Okay. So, you asked your parents or you told your parents? Well, how did that go?
Zaki: Yeah, when I started thinking, actually, this might be the one, obviously, in the Arab culture, you speak to your parents and say, look, what do you think? I told my dad, I still remember vividly… my dad was Muslim. He said, “No, I don’t think she’s the right one.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I prefer you to marry a Muslim girl.” I said, “But, why, mom’s Christian?”-
Payman: Maybe that’s why.
Zaki: Yeah, maybe. So, he said, “No, my preference is”, and you know. Actually, you do what your dad says in that Middle Eastern culture. What your dad says, you do. I didn’t question it, I just said, “Okay.” I remember, I went out with Dominique that night, and I told her, I said, “I really like you, but I don’t think we can go that way. But, I’d still like to go out with you.” She just looked at me and said, “Get out.” That was the first and only time I ever saw Dominique cry, or had tears in her eyes. She’s got very nice green eyes, and I saw her well up, and I left, and the whole way when I was driving home, I made a promise to myself… I was gutted, and I made a promise to myself that I never ever want to see her cry again, or have tears in her eyes. And, touch wood, she never has.
Payman: What did you do next? Did you tell your dad, forget it, I’m doing it.
Zaki: No, I went back, I was just upset. My mom, day in, day out, for that next week, she said, “What’s wrong?” I said… I spoke with my dad, not my mom. She said, “What’s the issue?” I told her. She said, “He said what?” I said, “Yeah, he said, he preferred me to marry a Muslim girl.” She goes, “After what we’ve been through?” Now, what my parents went through… my mom was Christian, my dad was Muslim. He loved my mom at university and he wanted her but the Christian side, her family, weren’t happy. They said no. To the point where she actually set him up with one of her friends and they actually got together and all this. He kept coming back saying, “I want you.” He even got engaged and married for a very short time.
Payman: What do you think was going through his head then?
Zaki: I don’t know.
Payman: Was he living out his duty to-
Zaki: I don’t know what it was. So, in the end, my parents, actually, did get married. They had to come to London and they had to elope, get married here.
Payman: Back there, there’s no civil ceremony.
Zaki: Yeah. So, they got married here. So, having run away to London, back in those days, to get married, and then he’s saying no to me, I didn’t get, and my mom didn’t get. So, in the end, she talked him round. The funny thing was, is that, he ended up loving Dominique, as much as my sister, as much as his own daughter. He made sure she knew it, because he knew he… I think his mistake was that he wanted me to marry someone that was, maybe, same culture. Actually, Irish people are very homey. They have that tight family-knit community. That’s what he wanted, it wasn’t the Muslim-Christian thing.
Zaki: But he said, Muslim. When we spoke about it later, that’s what it was. She’s very much like that. She’s very in touch with the Middle Eastern side and all this. He made sure that he told her all the time that, I love you like my daughter, and everything was fine after that.
Payman: Tell me about your week. Now you’ve moved out of London. How does that feel? From a central London guy. Where are you now?
Zaki: When I went from living at home, behind Selfridges, to Fulham, I thought that was far enough. So, when I had to move to Weybridge, that was… It’s bad to think but my son… The teacher said to us, do you want us just to choose London schools that are suitable for your son or should we choose somewhere… we said, “No, choose somewhere outside but not too far.” They said, St. George’s College in Weybridge would be fantastic for him. So, we took him around all the schools, St. Paul’s and Kings, Wimbledon and all that. Then, we took him to St. George’s College, and he loved it. He saw 100 acres of land. Out of all the schools, immediately, looked at us and said, “I want to come here.” He thought, at the time, that we’d just pay and he can get in. We said no, you got to pass an exam. So, deep down, it’s bad to say this and I hope he doesn’t listen, but I thought, I hope he doesn’t pass to get in here because I wanted him to stay… well, I wanted to stay in London.
Payman: He will listen to this, you know?
Zaki: He probably will. But, he passed. We did 11-plus and he got into a few and he chose St. George’s. It was a bit of a shock to think, oh God, I got to leave, but, you know what, I actually love it now, because, as you know, there’s more space and all that, and I love living there. It’s a bit of a hassle with the commuting, but it’s not too far.
Payman: Much bigger place and all of that.
Zaki: Yeah, a little bit bigger.
Payman: It must be. In London, we’re so squashed, aren’t we? We’re so squashed, we don’t realise how squashed we are.
Zaki: Yeah, look, we had a five-bed house in Fulham, which, when we moved, I said to Dominique, I’m keeping this because, as you know, in London, once you sell, you can never buy because it just gets, exponentially, more expensive. So, I said to her, I’m keeping the house, because, in 10 years time when they finish school, I think I’m going to come back. So, we kept it and we rent it out now. But, actually, you know what, I can’t go back because-
Payman: Once you spread out-
Zaki: Once you’ve got the size, and you get used to… I like the lifestyle there. You can’t go back to having a smaller place. Yeah, I think I’ll probably sell it.
Payman: What do you miss the most?
Zaki: London. It’s just that ease of, just, staying out till midnight and not thinking, is there a train to go back or having to catch a cab back or whatever.
Payman: What about things like restaurants and things? Are they good ones out there? Not enough. When I lived outside London, that was the thing that used to bother me. Not enough.
Zaki: There’s a lot of nice gastropubs. When we first moved there, every Sunday we were trying a different… roast beef and all that sort of… I love that. But yeah, you can’t compare London. But, we still go out. It’s half an hour on the train. At night, when there’s no traffic, it’s a 35-minute drive. It’s not bad. So, we still go out for dinners.
Payman: It’s a nice area, man. It’s a nice area.
Payman: I was there recently, actually.
Zaki: You should have called me.
Payman: Yeah. It was our anniversary, I didn’t want to call you.
Payman: Tell me this buddy, if, say, your kids says he wants to be a dentist, what advice would you give him regarding career? Would you tell him to go into implants? Do you think implants are a good way to go?
Zaki: Yeah, definitely. I’d say to him, now, that there’s adult orthodontics, I’d say orthodontics is good. Dominique loves doing orthodontics. She’s not a specialist but that’s what she likes to do. She got a bit disillusioned, actually, with just doing general dentistry. She went on Anoop Maini’s course, and, God bless him… she went on his Six Month Smiles course at the time. She did that and she came back and she said, that’s what-
Zaki: Then, she became a Six Month Smiles mentor and, all that, and she found her mojo again. She loves doing Invisalign and braces and stuff. But, yeah, I’d tell him to do something like that. I don’t like endo and that sort of thing, but just ortho, implants or general restorative work.
Payman: Tell me about when you got into whitening? It was surprising. [inaudible] surprising because you used to do thing in Selfridges, right?
Zaki: Yeah. Selfridges, was great working there. We worked there. It was only open for three years, but it was fantastic.
Payman: You and Chris [Haw 00:53:33].
Zaki: Well, it wasn’t Chris Haw to start with. Sorry, it was [Aura 00:53:40], owned by Julian Perry at the time. He then sold to [Dentix 00:53:43], and then it went on to James [Holland 00:53:46], and all that. But, when it sold to Dentix, Chris Haw was clinical director of dentists. So, his course, which is a fantastic course that every young newly qualified dentist should do, by the way… If anyone wants advice, to do his course because it’s a very nice, broad, well-researched, well-structured course that I recommend every new graduate to do. But, at the time, we were his guinea pigs because when he was starting to do the course-
Payman: He started in Dentix, didn’t he, teaching the associates?
Zaki: Teaching the associates. Since, we were just bought by Dentix, we did his course, which was obviously much smaller.
Zaki: Yeah, so that’s how it started.
Payman: But, then, getting into whitening as a teacher?
Zaki: This is the thing, a lot of people think that, why is someone with an MSc in implants doing whitening? It’s just two things that are far apart. But, what it was, remember in 2008 when hygienists and therapists were allowed to do teeth whitening, there was no courses.
Payman: That’s right. [inaudible 00:54:50].
Zaki: Exactly. So, the hygienist that started working for us said, there’s no courses out there for us. So, I said, Well, look, I’ll train you. I said, look, I’m not going to just train you. Get some of your friends and she got together five or six hygienists. In our practise, we had a screen, I did a lecture for them. Me and Dominique did a hands-on you course of, even, how to make the trays-
Payman: Suck down.
Zaki: Yeah. Not as good as your tray.
Payman: Cheers, buddy.
Zaki: How to make the trays, how to put it on models, how to do the whitening, A to Z of whitening, and they loved it. Then, their friends start saying, can you do a course for us? We thought, actually, we could do business out of this. So, we started K2 dental seminars. We started doing a lot of courses for hygienist, hands-on courses. Then, we were working with Discus Dental at the time which was, as you know, Zoom and all of that. Discus Dental then got bought out by Philips. Philips knew nothing about teeth whitening and I thought the courses were going to stop. Because, we used to do our own courses as well as all the courses for Discus Dental. But, then, we stopped our courses because it was so busy with Discus. I thought that would fizzle out. We’re going to stop because we used to do our own courses and as well as all the courses for Discus Dental, but then we stopped our courses because it was so busy with discus, and I thought that would fizzle out.
Zaki: But then, got a phone call from Philips to say, could you do the courses for us because they literally knew nothing about teeth whitening. That’s how it started. So, I started doing all the courses and lecturing for Philips, and actually-
Payman: Still teaching hygienists, or had you moved on to dentists by now?
Zaki: The whole thing was set up for hygienists but, all of a sudden, people that… even consultants in hospitals, who were so experienced in crown and bridge and doing restorative and occlusion and all that, knew nothing about teeth whitening. So, some of them started doing the course as well. So, it became hygienists and dentists. Then, it just continued.
Payman: You’re at the Enlighten office now. Is it as good as the Philips office? I’m joking. Don’t answer that question.
Zaki: The Philips office is a bit bigger.
Payman: We don’t do tickets to Wimbledon either.
Zaki: That was a nice thing. They had a box at Wimbledon and a box at Royal Albert Hall.
Payman: It was a weird thing when Philips bought Discus, man, because I thought… this is a massive brand, right? So, on its own, it’s a good enough reason to buy it.
Payman: Because, it was a huge brand.
Payman: But, I got a feeling it had something to do with the fact that they’re light bulb manufacturers, and Zoom is a light.
Payman: I thought, back in the day, before was in business, I thought these sort of decisions were highly researched. But now, as you get further on, you realise, a lot of stuff happens because of this sort of thing.
Zaki: It wasn’t the light. I thought the same as you, but it was, just, they wanted something-
Payman: The sales team or something.
Zaki: They’d go to these dental trade shows that you go on, and they just had toothbrushes. They just thought-
Zaki: Complimentary. They actually bought Discus Dental, which was not just whitening, it was impression material… a whole load of things. They sold all those off and just kept… they bought it for the whitening. They just saw that it was a good fit and that was it.
Payman: So, you carried on working with them all that time. How long was that for?
Zaki: It was meant to be a one year deal, one year contract, and, actually, it went on surprisingly, because I was actually on their payroll… I kept thinking year-on-year, I’d have a meeting with Mary [Cotton] at the time… she was in charge of… between the dentist, she’d be the link between us and the company. Every January, we’d meet and have brunch. Every time, I’d think, she’s going to say, that’s it. It went on for six years. So, it was good. It was good while it lasted. But, I’ve cut back from the lecturing side because my son’s doing GCSEs now and you need to spend more time with them.
Payman: Lecturing takes it out of you. Not that I’m a lecturer but I hang around a few lecturers. Then, the nature of it is weekend work. It tends to, just, do the family side in.
Zaki: Yeah, I used to see you on social media… you’d see all these guys, yeah, I’m flying off here, I’m flying off there, and I thought… before I started lecturing properly, I thought I want a piece of that. I wanted to travel around and the thing is, you start doing it and, as you know, I used to do a lot of it, but then you realise it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. The pays never enough. You could earn more, probably, working doing your day job. By the time you left your family… there was times where my two kids, my two boys, would, literally, one would hang on to each leg, when I’d say, guys, I’m going off tomorrow morning. They’d say, not again. When they hold on to your leg and you look down, and you start realising, actually, you got to be at home more.
Zaki: So, it’s glamorous when you don’t do it, and it’s nice… every now and then I accept a nice South Africa or something that I’ve never been to. It’s lovely, and you meet people and you’re saying, how do you know so many people? That’s how you know. But, there gets to a point where you need to actually calm down and I’m at that stage now where I’ve cut all that out. You need to be more with your families, better work life balance.
Payman: Do you work five days a week as well?
Zaki: I do, Monday to Friday, don’t do weekends. I used to do a one-year implant course teaching, which was literally Friday, Saturday-
Payman: Oh, you don’t do that anymore?
Zaki: No, because, again, for the same reason, Dominique would say, oh, in September on that weekend, can we do whatever and I’d be, look at my calendar, implant course. Then she’d say, oh, March, that weekend. I’d be, implant course.
Payman: That’s me with Mini Smile Makeover.
Zaki: Yeah. The thing is, by the time we do other… That was just the implant course. By the time you lecture on teeth whitening for Philips… and you attend courses because learning never stops-
Payman: You’re gone more than you’re there.
Zaki: You look at your year and you think, how many weekends have I actually spent with my family? I used to do it with [Kori] and [inaudible 01:01:32]. It was a great course-
Payman: Feedback was very good from that course.
Zaki: Yeah, I love teaching. I love doing that. But yeah, well, something’s got to give. So, I cut that out and, actually, work-life balance was restored after that. So, I couldn’t do it for a long time.
Payman: What would you say motivates you now? What gets you out of bed?
Zaki: My kids. You do all of this for them, really? Because, I do worry about how my kid’s going to afford a flat? What job are they going to get? So, I’m doing everything I do now for them. What gets me out of bed is I still, actually, really, enjoy what I do.
Payman: I remember asking you once, I said to you, if you had a billion dollars, what would you do every day, and you said I’d still include some element of implantology.
Zaki: Yeah, I love it. A lot of people say, what’s your exit plan? What’s your exit strategy?
Payman: You want to just keep going?
Zaki: When do you want to retire? A lot of people say, yeah, I want to retire at 55 or whatever. I wouldn’t do five days a week but as I get older, I’ll always do two days a week, even when I’m in my 60s or whatever. I just enjoy it. So, I can’t see myself retiring fully. I think with my dad, I saw that he worked every day and then one day he just… at 68, I think it was, he just stopped. So, it was full week to nothing. I don’t think that’s good. I’d taper off and I’d always have my hand in there at least two days a week.
Payman: Prav’s not here to ask his famous question, but I’m going to ask you, what would you like your legacy to be? What would you like people to say about you once you stop?
Zaki: Look, the things that you want to be remembered for… obviously, you have the family side. So, you’d always want to be remembered for being a good husband and a good father to your kids. A good role model. So, all of that, I’d love to be remembered as being a good sort of family guy. Yeah. So, that’s one thing. I’d also love to be remembered for being a good clinician. You hear a lot of people that have now retired or are not with us anymore… Yeah, he was a fantastic dentist or fantastic educator, like [inaudible 01:03:59]. He was one of those, and Mike Wise and all this, he’s retired now.
Zaki: So, you’d love to be known for being a decent clinician. I’m not saying I’m at their level by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d like to think that, hopefully, people would see me as, actually, Zaki, was one of the decent dentists out there. So, that’s the other thing. Hopefully, along the way, you’ve also inspired some people to find their passion in dentistry, whether it’s encouraging them to go into implants or to go in a certain direction. Hopefully, along the way, I’ve achieved that. So, I suppose, those three things.
Payman: Nice. Interestingly, the definition of being a professional is, what you do when people aren’t looking? You know, [Depesh 01:04:55], who does the [inaudible] for us? His associate passed away, unfortunately. He’s 40-something. He says that, now, he sees his patients. He says the quality of the work is just superb, absolutely superb work. That notion of, this cat wasn’t a teacher or… no one outside of his patient group knows him, particularly, but he was telling this wonderful work when no one was looking. It’s a wonderful idea, isn’t it? It’s a wonderful thing.
Zaki: There’s a lot of those out there.
Payman: Of course.
Zaki: A lot of people that we know that are on the lecture circuit or high-profile-
Payman: People we don’t know, right?
Payman: People we don’t know who are amazing.
Payman: Then, someone like Andy Moore, yeah, not high profile at all, really. I asked him to lecture for us about 15 years ago, and he said, it’s just not me. I don’t want to do that.
Payman: But, putting the quality in.
Zaki: Yeah. No, he’s a top dentist. I know him. But, yeah, he likes to keep a low profile, and people do what they enjoy. I enjoy lecturing and all that. I enjoy going to functions and stuff. I love meeting people, that’s how you’re saying, how do know so many… I love networking. If anyone wants a bit of advice, it’s, just, surround yourself… there’s a term where they say like-minded. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
Zaki: In a way, yes. But, you shouldn’t surround yourself, just, with like-minded people, surround yourself with-
Zaki: Diversity, and people that are higher achievers than you.
Payman: To inspire you.
Zaki: People that are at a different level to you, as in, they’ve achieved the knowledge-base. People that you can tap into their experience and their knowledge, not like-minded like you. Otherwise, it gets very, well, how are you going to progress? What are you going to get from them? I always say surround yourself by people that you aspire to be like or that you are motivated by?
Payman: Tell me about some of your mentors. Prof. Palmer.
Zaki: Yeah. I don’t think I had-
Payman: By the way, a mentor doesn’t have to be someone who’s literally your mentor. A mentor can be someone whose book you’ve read. Who would you say are some of your people that inspired you the way you’re talking about?
Zaki: Yeah, look, my dad, definitely. Professor Palmer. Someone, anyone who, like you said, doesn’t have to be a mentor that guides you-
Payman: Day to day.
Zaki: Yeah. But, someone who’s actually given you that nugget of information to steer you in a certain direction. Richard Palmer was one of those and, obviously, my dad, so I don’t think there’s been one person. A lot of people say, oh, yeah, he was my inspiration or he taught me everything I know. For me, it was just-
Payman: For me, my VT boss, [Nick Mahindra 01:07:59].
Payman: Made a massive difference in my direction. First boss is sometimes… sometimes does that.
Zaki: Yeah. No, I didn’t have that during VT or whatever. But yeah, just people along the way. When I give these lectures to sixth-formers, or to young dentists, I always say life is like sliding doors. The film where you either enter the tube and your life goes in one direction or another. Life, for me, is like that, because if my mom didn’t have that chat with my dad, we would have been in the Middle East and I would have not been a dentist and I would have ended up… and, also, if I didn’t have that chat in the lift with Richard Palmer, I wouldn’t have been where I am. If I didn’t do Newland Pedley Prize, he wouldn’t have thought, this guy’s good, and I wouldn’t have been accepted on the MSc.
Zaki: If I didn’t get all those knockbacks from the interviews to get into private practise, where I thought what’s the quickest thing I can do, diploma in sedation, I wouldn’t have been in that lift. So, everything you do, leads to something else.
Payman: It resonates with your kids, you’re always trying to protect them from pain. But, actually, pain is what defines them in the end.
Zaki: Yes. Yeah.
Payman: It’s an interesting, weird thing as a parent, you always try to mollycoddle them in a way. But, actually, when you look back in your own life, it’s the bits that were really painful or difficult that actually-
Zaki: It moulds you-
Payman: Moulds you into the character that you are.
Zaki: Yeah, yeah.
Payman: It’s been lovely having you, man. I’m sorry about Prav today, but it was a last minute emergency.
Zaki: Understandable. I’m flattered that you-
Payman: It’s been an enjoyable conversation-
Zaki: Inviting me.
Payman: Of course. You’re a lovely conversation.
Zaki: Thank you very much.
Speaker 2: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Prav: Hey guys, and thank you for listening to today’s episode of the Dental Leaders podcast. A vision that myself and Payman had over two years ago now. If you have got some value out of today, just hit the subscribe button in iTunes or Google Play or whatever you’re listening to. Let us know in your comments what you actually got out of the episode because we love sitting back and reading those reviews. It really does make our day.
Payman: It’s a real pleasure to do this. It’s fun to do, but I’m really humbled that you’re actually listening all the way through to the end, and join us again. If you got some value out of it, please share it. Thanks a lot.