(INTERVIEW) Dr. Zia Yew Loo -Dentist-

Brynn OngAspiring Dentists, Health Science First YearLeave a Comment

Dr. Zia Yew Loo is a NZ registered dentist working in Kaitaia. He graduated from Otago University- Dentistry School in 2014 and has been providing his excellent dental services in Dunedin, Wellington and Vanuatu. He has very wise tips and advice for aspiring dentists. Enjoy the interview!

Why Dentistry Dr. Loo?

I have always been a very “hands-on” person- I want to do something related to surgery and human anatomy but I dislike studying lots. So, between medicine and dentistry, I thought dentistry has the perfect balance of hands-on skills and study. Oh! not to forget that there is the lifestyle and income aspect as well! It is genrally possible to work 4 day week ( approx 30 hour week) and earn a decent income on par with most full time jobs. Dentists generally have fixed working hours and are fairly well-paid for our time. A common misconception is that once you are a dentist, you cannot do anything else. That is false, you can further your career in alternative pathways such as forensic dentistry, maxillo-facial surgery, public health, dental entrepeneur, etc.


How Did You Get into Dentistry?

Like everyone else, I did Health Science First Year (HSFY) and got accepted to Otago University Dentistry School (FYI Otago Dental School was ranked the top 10 dental school in the world). The process was fairly straight forward- good HSFY grade and excellent UMAT scores. Then came the big interview- did lots of preparation, calmed my nerves and answered the questions carefully.



How Did You Study for HSFY? What Are Your Top Tips and Advice?

Back in my time, I attended all the lectures, studied from lecture slides + notes from seniors and did practice questions. Relatively standard. My advice?

  • First, understand yourself- what type of learner are you?
    • Visual? – use flashcards/ diagrams/ drawings
    • Text? – use lecture slides, write down notes
    • Audio? – download and listen to podcasts
  • Secondly, have good time management
    • Design a study timetable and stick to it
  • Thirdly, find a source of motivation
    • Have a study group- encourage each other to study (some peer pressure is healthy)
    • Remember!- your friends will often compare exam results and sometimes it can be discouraging and toxic
    • So, have a de-stress method- it is only a short one year. If stress is getting into you, you need to de-stress ASAP

The most difficult subject was CHEM191 for me. Too much small details and formulas to learn.

For those who are looking to do HSFY next year, apply for halls of residence. It will set a proper, conducive environment- friends, residential assistants (RA), tutors and more importantly prepared meals. I went to Toroa College which was a bad mistake- it was basically like flatting but more expensive.

*Dr. Loo got 88% GPA + 80% UMAT percentile for HSFY for those who are curious*

Dental Procedure


Now The BIG Question- How Was The Interview? What Questions Did They Ask?

Before the interview, I seek out to students who were already doing dentistry and collected as much information as I could. See, if you really want to do well, you have to be initiative; go out and ask people. I did many practice runs with friends, learned self-calming methods and during the interview I tried to “exude” an intelligent vibe (dressed smartly, talked professionally etc.) I felt I was lucky because my interviewers were nice and breezy, but the preparation that I did definitely helped.

Interview Questions

  • Why dentistry?
  • What do you think a dentist do?
  • Scenario questions
    • If you are halfway through dental school but realised you lost the passion for dentistry, what would you do?
    • * I thought this was an interesting question and asked what he answered*
    • His answer: I would quit dental school. If I were a patient of a dentist who are not passionate about their work then I believe the dentist will cause more harm than good. If they are no longer passionate, they will be disinterested in their important role and are more prone to making mistakes. Better to quit ASAP than causing damage to patient and yourself.
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?


  • Each questions that they ask usually have a hidden meaning.
    • For example: when they ask “how would your friends describe you?”. Its not so much about your friend’s opinion of you, but more- how you evaluate your personality based on your friend’s descriptions
    • Each answer should be followed by a quick story. A story tells the interviewers that you have experience in dealing a particular situation and they tend to remember you better! Stories make you unique and personable and you will stand out when they go through hundreds of interviews
    • Obviously, there will be questions that you don’t have actual, real-life stories to relate to. So you need to get creative- write a list of potential questions and create interesting stories for them. Therefore when the interviewers ask the questions, you have a reservoir of backup stories to use.
  • Be presentable!
    • Dress well- put on a well-ironed shirt and pants
    • Have good body language- kind but firm tone, good eye contact and not fidgeting

Be calm. Always. Skydive 2011.

How Was UMAT?

*Dr. Loo is a UMAT veteran, he has done it 3 times now- 2009, 2010 and 2015. He scored an average of 80th + percentile in 2009 and 2010. Let’s hear what he has to say*

In my opinion, UMAT is a really good tool to assess a student’s logical, problem-solving and reading skills. BUT, it still needs a lot of refinements. That is why UMAT format has been changing very frequently. Personally, I feel section 2 is too ambiguous and very subjective. It is a bias section to begin with, as most answers are based on western’s perception of emotions. Other cultures like Maori and Pacific Island have different perspectives and therefore I believe UMAT section 2 is flawed. Section 1 and 3 are more objective and does a good job in achieving its purpose.

For the first two UMAT exams, I prepared well. I did MedEntry questions and practice, practice, practice. MedEntry definitely helped with my UMAT exam. Interestingly though, my MedEntry scores do not reflect my actual UMAT results- I tend to score lower in the actual UMAT exams. However, it is different for everyone.

My advice?

  • Start early and be consistent
    • When you do UMAT practice, best to start early and be disciplined
    • The benefit of resources such as MedEntry will depend on how you utilise the resource
    • In 2015, I was slack and that reflected on my UMAT results- 50th percentile
  • There are many tests around the world that is similar to UMAT
    • Google them and search for more practice questions
    • *I think Dr. Loo is referring to GAMSAT and others*

Dr. Loo is a travel enthusiast. Japan 2015

How Was Your 4 Years in Dental School?

Overall- satisfying and rewarding. Each year in dental school is different. Year 2 involved adjusting to the new subjects, year 3 involved passing exams, year 4 and 5 required hard work for good results to increase chances of getting a job. However, the 4 years were definitely not as stressful as HSFY.

It was a small community as we had less than 100 students. We became very close to each other, helped and supported everyone.

How Has Your Experience As a Dentist Been So Far?

Fun and enjoyable. Great lifestyle, stable income, constant close contact with the community and friendly colleagues.

I was a dentist in Wellington for the first half of 2015, then moved to Kaitaia and I have been here ever since. Being in a rural area like Kaitaia meant I got to see a different part of the country and a different way of living.  I got to be part of the close knit community and really enjoyed serving them. Also, the amazing beaches and warm sunny weather has won me over for sure.

Some of my cool and memorable experiences as a dentist include my work in Vanuatu. I spent about a month providing dental service to the villagers, learn their cultures and work while travelling in Vanuatu. Doing this kind of mission made me realise how lucky Kiwis are in terms of dental health.

Future-wise, I hope to open my own clinic and start a business. Not sure about the location yet at this stage.

What Are Your 3 Top Tips and Advice for Students Wanting to Do Dentistry?

  1. Make sure that when you choose dentistry, financial stability isnt your top and only reason. Because if it is, you will not last long in this field and you wont be as good a dentist as you should be, which is pretty much doing the world of dentistry a disservice.
  2. Talk to other real life dentists, shadow them- know what you are in for before choosing dentistry.
  3. Find a good life motto or philosophy for loving dentistry- When you find it, live by it, you need it for you to keep going especially for when the times get rough and you feel like calling it quits because no job is ever that perfect.

The Ship Dentist

Dr. Loo, that was very useful and informative. I am sure that the readers appreciate your input. All the best and keep in touch.

Sure, thank you for the interview!

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