Dr. Harinder Dhanju Founder President, Pacific Oral Health Society

Harinder Dhanju, Founder President, Pacific Oral Health Society

When Harry opened his dental clinic in Surrey in 1998, he realized that many of his patients were either single parents, on income assistance, or on old age pension and unable to afford regular dental treatment. As a former clinical assistant professor at UBC Dentistry, he knew that students had a difficult time getting real life experience with patients and saw incoming international dentists that were unable to gain valuable Canadian experience.

He felt strongly that to progress the community he lived in, it was important to step in and help. In 2010, he formed Pacific Oral Health Society which is a socially responsible non-profit platform were dental professionals can learn and practice while providing patient care at a significantly discounted rate.

Programs take place at the Pacific Oral Health Centre in South Surrey which is affiliated with UBC Faculty of Dentistry. Today, they have 20 members on payroll, plus 8 dentists, 20 dental hygiene students on rotation, and 6 post-graduate students who are specialists and attend with the head of the UBC Dentistry department. They also run the BC Oral Cancer Prevention Program as a second home-base for the Fraser Valley, seeing 300+ oral cancer screening patients annually at no charge.

Harry is also the Founder Director of Indo Canadian Dental Association.

Birthplace: Amritsar, India

Came to Canada: 1996

Highest Level of Education: Premedical and Dental College in Punjab; I challenged the Canadian national dental exam and became a clinical instructor at UBC; Master of Advanced Surgery at Pacific Implant Institute working closely with late Dr. Carl E. Misch.

Favourite Past-time: I play golf and love to travel – I’m currently planning to go for the National Geographic Antarctica trip.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Both of my parents were highly educated so they pushed for higher academics – they wanted me to be a doctor. I became a dentist which was the happy medium.

Toughest professional decision:

As a practicing dentist in Amritsar, I wanted to go for further education which required me to move out of the country, leaving my family behind which was scary. My wife Jaspreet is also a dentist, she supported me and together we decided to pursue our education in Canada.

How do you deal with loss or negativity?

It’s always challenging when you start a venture, but if you have knowledge in your specialization and discipline to continuously work hard then nothing can stop you. It’s important to speak the truth and always stay on ethics.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I was distracted by luxuries that my parents provided because we could afford it, or I would have started my formal education sooner. Family obligations overtake personal growth opportunities, and you can’t get that time back.

What does the future look like?

I’m proud that our team at POHS has built a non-profit system which is self-sustaining. I want to ensure the ship steers in the right direction prior to passing it to the next generation to carry forward our mission. We are growing our membership base of professionals for future expansion to other parts of BC.