By Lillian Leptos

When Amir graduated in 2014 with a blazing ATAR score and a Premier’s blue in Mathematics with a perfect score 50/50, we all knew that he was destined to make his mark in life. During his school years at WRSC, he always had a love of maths and science. That, and his interest in dentistry, seemed to channel him into a dental career, but with one week to go before university preferences closed, he made a dramatic choice and changed his form. 

With a love for working with numbers, he put as his first preference Bachelor of Commerce at The University of Melbourne. His plan was to become an actuary and use his mathematical skills to design risk profiles for insurance companies. But life has a way of throwing curve balls at people and after three months in the course, Amir realised that the course and career was not a good fit for him.

His plan was to use the pathways program to transition over to a general science course. A very successful student, Amir never imagined there would be any problem but his application was rejected, plunging him into the shock of self-doubt for the first time in his academic life. Amir rebounded with a fierce determination to put his head down, stick with commerce and get the sort of results that would help to muscle his way into the science faculty and then transition into dentistry.  

He chose commerce subjects with transferable skills and content that were not only prerequisites but would also prove useful in the science course. While he was successful in his studies, to get into dentistry he still needed to pass the gruelling six hour medical entry exam. 

For those of us who know Amir, it was no surprise that he aced it and was offered a place in both dentistry and medicine. Amir resisted the lure of medicine and the high social status and income that it promised. He made a choice based on his own passions and his desire for a career with a better work-life balance. As a child, Amir admired the work of his own dentist and the way that his skill could make a patient’s health and life better. 

As soon as Amir began to study dentistry, his thought was “I’ve found my home”. Dentistry offered a general course with an opportunity for training in a range of specialist areas. Each specialist area takes an additional three years. Amir will have been undertaking university studies for seven years after finishing the general dental course, so he is champing at the bit to put study behind him and get into professional practice. 

“After a few years of broad professional practice, I may return to study and go down the specialist track,” he says.

“For the time being, I’m focussed on getting a wide range of professional practice in a rural setting. I want to perfect my craft and develop my life skills”. 

As with most Australians, Amir was affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns. He was in his third year, a time when he could expect to be working in a range of specialist clinics. These were cancelled and replaced by specialist online seminars. While the clinics would only have had some low stakes challenges in terms of patients and their conditions, the seminars allowed the dental students to address a range of more challenging scenarios. It seems for Amir, life is about recognising opportunities and making the most of them.

For Amir, his uni years were a time for exploring a wide range of interests and types of people and experiences.  His time as treasurer of the dental society reminded Amir that he still had an interest in some aspects of the commerce course he initially began. He thinks he might at some stage go back to uni to further those studies.

 Amir is humble about his extraordinary achievements. He shuns the spotlight and is happier to credit his friends, his teachers and his school for launching him on his path. 

“There were schools with better track records, but for me WRSC was the ideal place,” he says. “My teachers encouraged, supported and lifted me. I still remember the thrill I felt when as part of the year nine Inquiry subject my friends and I spoke to an audience of 500 people at Federation Square Edge. 

“We talked about global poverty and our individual desire to make a difference. The audience, including the Australian Of The Year, rose up to give us a standing ovation. Supporting me were also a wonderful cohort of students. Andrew Younan, Kevin Kapeke and Aftab Merchant were always there. 

“It was a really positive friendly rivalry, and we still keep in touch.”

As Amir makes his way through life he takes with him the values, skills, knowledge and friendships that his school years have armed him with.