Graduating as a dentist, Amarjit Singh Khambay was convinced that Asians from his home town of Southall needed educating about oral health.
He believed so strongly in the need for an overhaul in the way that Asians feel about dentistry and its place in their lives, that he went ahead and did it.
The result is a large dental complex in Southall comprising several wings, including a teaching college.
Born in Dar-E-Salaam, Tanzania, Amarjit went to school in the Punjab and in Southall, at a time when racism was rife and the National Front stalked some of Southall’s streets.
On starting his dental education at London University in 1973, Amarjit founded the Anglo-Asian Odontological Group.
While there, he also established the University of London Sikh Society. In 1976, he established the British Sikh Student Federation and arranged its first residential conference at Oxford University. After Amarjit finished his studies, he was inspired to set up a “Peoples’ Practice” based in the Punjabi community. The challenge was demanding.
“I wanted to be a general dental practitioner in Southall (Little India), but all that people wanted from a dentist was extractions. I wanted to re-educate them; offer preventative treatment and alternatives to extractions. I was only 25, so it was a challenge to get our community to take notice. It had to be done subtly, so as not to offend the elders.”
After graduating in 1977, Amarjit, with the help of family and friends, turned a derelict house into a fully operational practice called The White House in 1980.
35 years on, the White House has one of the largest NHS contracts with NHS England in North West London. “Our temple’s giani (priest) was the first patient and blessed the practice,” he recalls.
The dental practice initially grew through friends and family referrals. The White House was also the first practice to start an Emergency NHS Service covering London and the Home Counties.
Amarjit likes to promote education whenever possible. In 1994 he set up the first specialist centre in the UK; the state of the art, Sterling House dental specialist education and referral centre, next door to The White House.
Throughout his life, Amarjit has always been passionate about helping his community and aiding charitable causes.
In 1997 Amarjit became a founding trustee of the Sikh Welfare Research Trust, which this year was granted Special UN Consultative Status. This charity supports the NGO, the Sikh Human Rights Group and Gurseva, that takes vans into UK detention centres and supports two orphanages in India. It also supports the Sikh Consultative Forum.
But the cause closest to Amarjit’s heart is the Drug and Alcohol Action Programme (DAAP), of which he is a founding trustee. This has transmuted into the First Step Foundation (FSF), for which Bobby Grewal was the first fund raiser (see last week’s issue about Bobby Grewal’s Walk Full Circle, currently underway in India). Amarjit says, “alcohol is a problem for Punjabis in the business community, so in 2016 I want to establish a culturally appropriate rehab centre for Punjabis.”
Sterling House Dental Centre has been accredited as an outreach centre by Warwick University. In 2014, when Sterling Dental College was established, a collaboration started with the world’s largest private university, BPP. Sterling Dental College is a service provider for BPP University.
The college has state of the art equipment and smart teaching rooms where live procedures are transmitted to India via high tech cameras strategically placed all over the college. Artificial demonstration heads are utilised on dental chairs for teaching purposes. Several Indian universities with numerous dental colleges have started links to obtain teaching of a high standard from Sterling Dental College.
It seems that now, the various institutions and charities have a momentum and life of their own. Coming up is a large fund raising ball organised by the Sterling Dental Foundation (of which Amarjit is the founding trustee) at the London Hilton Metropole on 28 November 2015. This will be in support of Bobby Grewal’s Walk Full Circle, for which ABPL publisher/editor CB Patel is also a generous trustee.
The event will start with a drinks reception, canapés, live music, and a four course meal. There will also be a live video feed from Bobby from Chennai, as well as Bhangra dancing and entertainment. Bobby is walking 2,600 miles, the equivalent rate of a marathon a day, raising money for good causes. Sterling Dental Foundation supports Bobby and Gt. Ormond St. Hospital wholeheartedly.
Amarjit has always been passionate about helping his community and aiding charitable causes.