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International Women's Day 2022: Celebrating Women in Dentistry

Posted Mar 8th, 2022 in 2022, the wire, thought leadership

In recognition of International Women's Day, we spoke with our partner Dr. Rachel Navaneelan, to discuss how she became an inspirational woman in dentistry and a pillar in her community. 

dentalcorp Partner since 2018, Rachel is currently principal dentist at Dr. Rachel Navaneelan & Associates in Cornwall, Ontario

Rachel and her husband, Dr. Christy Navaneelan, lived in Ireland, where she practiced dentistry for eight years. Realizing that they could provide a better life for their children in Canada, they relocated to Cornwall, Ontario where they could live in a small community and establish a dental practice with a focus on developing more personal relationships with patients. 

When she first moved to Cornwall, Rachel felt intimidated in the dental community as the only female dentist and a woman of colour. "Through hard work, a lot of sacrifices, and with the support of the amazing dental team I work with every day, we built the biggest practice in Cornwall," she says. "It's important to make your own decisions and pursue your dreams, and I'm fortunate that I have a very supportive husband who gave me all of the encouragement I needed." 

After nearly three decades in dentistry, Rachel remains passionate about enhancing patients' smiles, and places great value on compassionate care and being part of a community. "Changing a person's smile and seeing their confidence grow is very rewarding," she says. "Helping people out of pain and providing comfort is one of the most fulfilling things one can experience."

Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Rachel's sense of community is deep-rooted. The fallout from the tragic 2004 tsunami left hundreds of children orphaned and homeless. Rachel initiated a charity auction and garden party held in her backyard to support the affected children, which she turned into an annual event with 80 percent of the of the proceeds going to help children in her local community, and 20 percent going towards projects in Sri Lanka.

Determined to pay her success forward, 16 years ago she founded Rachel's Kids, a charity with a mission to provide comfort, assistance, and aid to children who are terminally ill, live with a disability, or are dealing with a debilitating disease. "Rachel's Kids really is my pride and joy.  With the support of our community, we have been able to renovate the pediatric ward at our local hospital to provide a calm and uplifting environment for the children receiving care there. We're now also involved with the children's treatment centre that provides therapy to sexually and mentally abused children," she explains. "And there’s additional involvement now through the local woman's shelter providing aid and support to the children who have left an abusive home with their mothers."

While there is no doubt that Rachel has proven herself as a strong female leader in her community, she understands that there's still room for growth when it comes to gender equality. " I recognize that there is still a need for women to be treated equally and be given the same respect and support, she says. "We’ve come a long way, but there still is a lot to be done."

When asked how important it is for women to support each other, Rachel offers, "Women who have achieved success should support and encourage other women who are struggling to climb that ladder. I strongly believe that women can help one another achieve that.”

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