Selflessness breeds an ability to keep going, reflects Dr Vinay Raniga

Selflessness breeds an ability to keep going, reflects Dr Vinay Raniga

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Dr Vinay Raniga for her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

Dr Vinay Raniga is a Public Policy and Government Affairs Consultant for {my}dentist, the UK’s largest corporate dental group. He is a practicing dentist, completing his training in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Northwick Park Hospital, part of which he was redeployed to serve in the Covid-19 ICU. Vinay is the founder of Dentify, an educational company which has trained over a thousand dentists in clinical governance, situational judgement and leadership. He is an offer-holder for the Master of Public Policy at the University of Oxford in the class of 2021-22 and has a keen interest in serving his community by shaping policy, engaging in politics and philanthropy.

Q

What affect has the Covid-19 crisis had on dental care in the UK?

A

Covid-19 has a disastrous effect on dental care in the UK. Before the pandemic hit, Healthwatch England reported that 85 per cent of dental practices in the UK were closed to new NHS patients, with the problem being exacerbated in the South-West, East Anglia and the Northern “Blue Wall” constituencies.

With dental practices being shut during the first wave, appointments have been cancelled and postponed, there have been horrific stories of patients in pain self-treating and secondary care waiting lists have sky rocketed. The ‘Journal of Clinical Periodontology’ also announced that Covid-19 patients with gum disease are 4.5x more likely to need a ventilator, 3.5x more likely to be sent to ICU and 9x more likely to die. Access to oral care matters and we must approach is holistically with other non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

There are most simple, cost-neutral policy solutions to solve this access problem, however. In the long-term, we should reform the NHS dental contract and expand the number of dentists who train in the UK. In the short-term, we should utilise the benefits of Brexit and recognise select qualifications of non-EEA dentists from countries such as India, who has an oversupply of highly skilled, English-speaking dentists who would make up the shortfall in the NHS.

Q

How would you best describe your relationship with the UK and India?

A

Identity fascinates me. Growing up in west London, I am proud to see myself as British, but recognise my Indian heritage. This becomes evident to me when I travel to India and my sense of humour is lost to my friends who grew up in Mumbai, but that may just be my inability to tell jokes well.

Like many, I feel as if I am a “living-bridge” between the two countries (three if you count my heritage in East Africa where my parents were raised). I know my friends feel this way too. We sing the British National Anthem or hymns with pride but also take solace in our Indian spiritual heritage. We grew up understanding the humour of ‘Monty Python’ or ‘The Inbetweeners’, but still enjoy watching Bollywood films. We may support England in the football but are torn between England and India in the cricket! Identity is a complex subject matter. In our integrated world, I believe it’s one to discuss openly as it can be the foundation of deep political, economic and cultural ties between our two nations.

Q

What have been the lessons you have learned during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown?

A

I have been serving in the ICU at Northwick Park Hospital throughout both waves of this pandemic. I have learned three lessons:

1. If your intention is aligned to serve, there is a deep well of resilience that you can tap into: selflessness breeds an ability to keep going and helping others that I did not know existed. Working in the frontline has taught me how to develop resilience.

2. Nurses are superheroes: I’ve never seen an ICU nurse complain at Northwick Park. They just got on with the job, worked hard to help people and really were the backbone of reuniting sick patients with their families.

3. Isolation causes severe mental health issues: I believe within the next few years we will see the mental health consequences of these necessary lockdowns. Being isolated from your loved ones, regardless of the technology available, has been tough for me, but been worse for others with pre-existing conditions. The NHS must be ready to deal with this challenge.

Q

What do you think the ‘new normal’ will be in a post Covid-19 world?

A

Over 100 years ago, the Spanish Flu was the pandemic the world was facing. It was no wonder that after it subsided, we had the “roaring twenties” which changed Western culture forever. I believe we are on the verge of something similar.

The new normal may be cautious, with stricter measures on hand-hygiene, social-distancing and the wearing of face coverings, but it will also bring us together as a society. We need two things: a memorial for those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 as a sign of respect, but also a celebration of getting out of this pandemic due to the ingenuity of our scientists and government in rolling out a safe vaccine in rapid time.

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive “In Conversation” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist catches up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.

*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.

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