24 November 2020
“Peoples smiles are important to them,” Dr Ruaridh McKelvey of BEAM Orthodontics told senior pupils at Kilgraston, “orthodontics is definitely a growth sector.”
Via Zoom from his company’s recently extended designer clinics in Dundee, Dr McKelvey was speaking to pupils in the latest of the School’s Women in Business lecture series: “Mainly, I want to emphasise the importance of taking every opportunity to learn from your seniors and peers at every point through life.”
With a trademark splash of humour, Dr McKelvey described studying dentistry at Glasgow University, where he was known by contemporaries as “Mr 51%,” doing just enough to pass exams!
Despite this label, Rhu sealed his BDS in Dentistry, heading-off to a practice in Chester which saw a year of “lots of drilling and extraction.”
But further study called, taking him to Warwick, Derby and Bristol’s famous Dental School, where he saw some “heavy duty facial reconstruction” dealing with jaw surgery on patients suffering trauma from, among others causes, cancer and traffic accidents: “It was swashbuckling stuff,” explained Rhu, “and, briefly, I considered becoming a full-time surgeon.”
Achieving parts One and Two of his Royal College of Surgeons Fellowship, it was time to make definite career choices. But, deciding to concentrate on Orthodontics, Rhu moved to Exeter for a further three years, ultimately leading to his RCS M.Orth.
“This was a full-time post-grad course – combined with an MSc. – specialising in Orthodontics,” Rhu told pupils. But it was a tough time in the young dentist’s life: “We had teaching one day a week in Bristol, combined with attending patients in Exeter the other four days, then lots of homework on top.” As if this stint in the South West wasn’t busy enough, Rhu also managed to fit-in being a member of the Army Reserves. “I look back on it now and just think “phew, how did I do all that?””
Having qualified as a Specialist Orthodontist it was time to make some firm plans for the future.
“Basically, I had been continually learning and training for twelve years,” he explained, “I was thirty, so it was time to make some long-term decisions.” But, before settling down to a “proper job” Rhu had the opportunity to indulge his soldiering hobby with a 6 month deployment to Afghanistan.
Returning from the heat of the dust, Rhu was offered more traditional locum work in Edinburgh, “It was great to be north of the border again and I was lucky to fall under the wings of the great orthodontists at Edinburgh Orthodontics” and started doing market research into a location for a new Orthodontic practice.
The pin in the map landed in Dundee and he has never looked back. Initially, a surgery was rented to build-up a client base, before buying a building and starting hugely-successful BEAM Orthodontics in 2007. “It was a very steep learning curve,” he told girls, “I knew literally nothing about being a property developer, marketer, employer, sales director etc. etc. We started with myself and three nurses and now employ 25 staff, serving 1600 patients.”
The moral of the story was definitely to pursue a career that makes you happy. “Dentistry is a broad church,” Rhu emphasised, “there are many varied way to be a Dentist and it’s the same with Medicine, Law, Engineering, Design, Accountancy etc. I always tell people, ‘dare to be different’. You don’t meet many unhappy Orthodontists.”