DR Dania Loy Jones is committed to making the lives of people in the deaf and special needs communities much easier.
The 25-year-old dentist told All Woman that as a child she knew she wanted a career in medicine and dreamt of becoming either a paediatrician or veterinarian, before settling with dentistry.
“I have always been fascinated with the teeth, to the point where I could recognise people by just their smiles, not having to see pictures of their faces. But I never liked my own teeth. I wasn't comfortable with my own smile growing up, and I knew that it hindered me from doing a lot of things. It held me back if I was supposed to participate in something like singing at church,” she said.
“It wasn't until after getting braces that I realised that this really affected me and my whole persona changed. From there I said if I went into medicine I wanted to be able to provide people with that confident smile to improve their self-esteem.”
And so, after leaving St Andrew High School for Girls, Dr Jones enrolled at The University of the West Indies, Mona, where she pursued a doctor of dental surgery degree. It was while in her final year that she began interacting with deaf patients, as part of the curriculum involved learning sign language, the deaf culture, and providing the deaf with dental services at The UWI Dental Polyclinic.
“It was a different experience but sign language wasn't new to me as I was exposed to it growing up. However, this had a greater cause, and I realised that though I became competent in sign language it really was about being able to help the deaf with ease. They were happier realising we understood what they were saying without them having to write everything and that joy was unexplainable,” she said.
Today, Dr Jones is one of seven dentists serving Dental Associates in St Andrew, and is one of three that is able to communicate through sign language. Through this skill, she has seen great improvements in dental care among the hearing impaired.
“What I realised is that when we are unable to communicate freely with them they shy away as they sometimes feel we can't tolerate them. The result of that is no longer, for example, just a small cavity, but a problem that gets worse because they stay away. Once sign language becomes the norm for not only dentists, but every health care provider, we will see improved care. The good thing is that all students who graduate from the dentistry programme at Mona have to be competent in sign language as it forms a huge part of the curriculum,” she said.
She added: “When I see deaf patients now it makes a world of difference. They are able to communicate their emotions, needs and wants comfortably. I remember one patient who was so excited when I treated her, she videotaped it and told everyone. Communication is key.”
Apart from being able to communicate with the deaf, Dr Jones is a stickler for equality for that community and in general, those with special needs.
“It is very important to me that everyone is treated the same way and it is something we need to improve on. There is a space for them and I hope that in the near future things will be put in place to ensure everyone is treated on the same level. When we lack in this area, what happens is that people don't seek care. We have to ensure we are not indirectly discriminating,” she said.
Dr Jones is also an advocate for outreach, a love she developed in high school and has carried through to her adult life.
“Back in high school I did hours at the Jamaica Cancer Society and the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. At UWI we had to do dental outreach and that opened my eyes to the reality locally. We went into many places and saw needs in communities all over the country. There are places without access; places where people have to travel elsewhere because the one clinic has no appointment dates left. So dental care takes the back burner as these are usually poor areas. I want to be part of that solution, so I ensure that I go out to community health fairs and through my social media pages @drdanialoyjones, I educate the masses with a little fun and humour so dental health will become a priority among all, as some see it alongside optical on their health cards and choose optical all the time,” she said.
She also dedicates her Wednesdays to The UWI Dental Polyclinic where she helps students preparing for final exams to make their workload a little easier.
In her spare time, Dr Jones, also a trained dancer, can be found hanging with her family and friends, worshipping at the Grace Missionary Church, or trying new adventures — skydiving being an example.
She is also heavily dependent on her Christian faith and subscribes to the scriptural text that she can do all things through Christ and she is ready for anything and equal to anything.
“That scripture is saying anything that comes my way I am going to go at it full force because I am capable of doing it; I have the potential. The greatest things are on the other side of fear. When I was younger I was very fearful as I was bullied at prep school, timid, and didn't speak much, but greatness is inside. And while at St Andrew High I got that push to tap into the potential I had within,” she said.
The dental surgeon also hopes to one day create a dental hub with all dental related services under one roof, but presently, she hopes to continue inspiring others
Her advice: “Approach each day with a new pair of eyes, as an opportunity to learn and always be humble, hungry and the hardest worker in the room.”