We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. India Collier and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. India, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
I truly believe work life balance is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping your sanity on a day to day basis. Self-care is at the center of this balance for me now, but it is something that I didn’t always prioritize. I have incorporated saying no to things I don’t want to do and focused on making time for things that serve my health and my passions. I struggled a lot with this when I first started my professional career, and by no means was this an overnight success. I am an orthodontist by profession, but I have been an artist my entire life. I have an extreme passion for both of these areas, so when I began my professional career I struggled with finding a balance and taking time for myself to indulge in a little self care, which for me is painting. I was used to creating custom paintings here and there as I went through dental school and residency, but I always considered it just a hobby. Friends and family kept asking me about taking my art career seriously, and I finally took the leap when I finished all of my studies and professional training as an orthodontist. When I graduated in 2017, I created an LLC for both my orthodontic business and my art business as I prepared to enter the working world. There were some definite bumps in the road in the beginning with finding a good balance. I felt like I was always working and my passion for creating art pieces was falling behind. I was also recently married and I didn’t want to overcommit to my businesses and let my personal life fall behind. Slowly but surely I was able to navigate both and find a good balance that allowed me to work professionally and still paint on the side. Just when I felt like I found a good balance, I became pregnant and gave birth to my daughter in 2019. Life as I knew it changed in so many ways and all things regarding my art business took a pause while I navigated motherhood, returning to work and finding a family balance. Once my daughter got into a predictable daily routine, I was happily able to reintroduce painting back into my life. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it until I completed my first project after almost a year. As many aspects of my life changed, painting also looked completely different than what I was accustomed to previously. What used to be my painting room was now my daughter’s nursery. I got bumped into a corner in the dining room, but I was able to make it comfortable and still feel productive. Long gone were the days of sitting down, finding my creative zone, and painting for 8 hours straight. Now, painting happens in 2 hour spurts while she is napping, or in the evening after she goes to bed. As life would have it, just as I was finding this new version of balance, along came COVID-19. Just like most of the world, I found myself at home full time with my husband and may daughter. As an orthodontist, I am unable to work from home so I was left with a lot of down time for almost 9 weeks. I immediately knew I needed to find a release and something to break up the monotony of quarantine, and painting was my answer. I found a new excitement around being able to focus on my art business while I was out of work in regards to my in-office job. This time allowed me to really explore creating more ways to make prints of my art. I love creating custom pieces, but they take a lot of time. I was able to research and find lucrative opportunities to take advantage of selling art in different ways. I always want painting to feel fun and relaxing, so I also learned how to start saying no to art commissions that aren’t fulfilling to me. At the end of 2020, I had a tough job decision to make. I was working 4-5 days a week and knew I was planning to leave one of my partial job opportunities. I prayed, planned, and finally decided to take that extra time to stay at home and focus on my family, since my daughter was still at home and had not returned to daycare yet. It worked out beautifully, and now I am in office 3-4 days a week. The other days I am able to help at home and take advantage of this time to focus on my art business as well. The beginning of 2021, as crazy as it has been already, is truly the first time I have felt a complete work life balance. I am extremely fulfilled with my orthodontic career and the practice I am working in now. I have never been happier to have an extra day or two during the week to spend with my daughter and refocus on my art business and new art projects. I get asked all the time how I am able to do it all and manage being a wife, mother, multiple business owner, artist, friend, etc. Sometimes it feels like a whirlwind, but I am intentional about finding balance so I can pursue different passions of mine. I built my work schedule in a way that works for my family, my career and my art business, which luckily doubles as self-care for me. There is never a perfect day, and I’m sure life will continue to throw unexpected challenges my way, but being intentional about my time and is key to balancing all of the puzzle pieces of my life.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My road to becoming a Board Certified Orthodontist, and only the second black resident to graduate from my orthodontic residency program was definitely a windy one. I became interested in dentistry over the years as I grew up around the dental office, hanging out after school before gymnastics while my dad was finishing work, or stopping by on the weekends. When I began my studies at Spelman College, I declared Biology as a major with a pre-dental track to satisfy my interest in science and art, and carve a path towards dental school that seemed achievable. I knew I had to take the DAT and I began preparing in the best way I knew how at the time. I made a study schedule during my spring semester of my Junior year and took the exam the following summer. I submitted my applications and waited for good news. I kept waiting and the good news never came. I received a rejection letter. I did not get into dental school the first time I applied and I was crushed by it. I felt very ashamed, sad and defeated when I first received the rejection. I was watching my classmates and close friends get acceptances to medical and dental school, and I was embarrassed to say I didn’t receive the same. I had to shift my focus to a backup plan and figure out what I had to do to become a stronger applicant. I knew my grades were sufficient, but I needed to increase my test scores on the DAT in several areas. I still had to finish my Senior year and study extremely hard to increase my scores, which I did. I gained acceptance to Medical College of Georgia, College of Dental Medicine on my second try and I couldn’t be happier. During my gap year, I worked in my dad’s dental office and really expanded my dental knowledge and assisting skills. By the time I was ready to enter dental school a year later, I was a little nervous since I had been out of school for an entire year that I may not be as competitive and my knowledge may not be as fresh as those coming right out of school. I set a goal to try my best and give it all I had. There were very little distractions in Augusta and I could really focus during the week and devote all my energy to dental school. I completed my first semester with a 3.96 and I knew moving forward Spelman prepared me to do exactly what I needed to do to excel in any environment. There was a large part of me that wanted to prove that my previous denial would not define me, so I worked hard to play the game and reach the top to prove them wrong. I knew I had to work twice as hard to prove that I was just as worthy of my spot as the rest of the class, and that’s exactly what I did. I joined the admissions committee, I founded a new student organization, Operation Smile, and serves as the president of the chapter for several years. My third year in school I solidified my interest in Orthodontics and decided to specialize, which would require another application process. Orthodontics is a very competitive specialty, but this time around I felt confident since I worked hard to gain a spot at the top of my class. I applied to only two programs, and I was accepted into my first choice. Upon graduation from dental school, I stayed in Augusta for an additional 30 months of training. After completing my training, I endured additional exams and case presentations to become a diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics. Out of roughly 200,500 Dentists nationwide, only 3.3% of them are Black. Out of roughly 10,700 Orthodontists, approximately 3000 are women, and only 300 are Black women. I am one in 300. I recognize the tremendous opportunity I have as a black orthodontist to give back and pave the way for the next generation of dentists, so we are no longer such a sad statistic. I made a commitment to make time for mentoring and to help share the knowledge I was exposed to while on the admissions committee. I knew Spelman prepared me well and helped me get to where I am today, which is why I feel such a strong passion towards helping mentor the health science students there. I work closely with a group of Spelman dentists that are all committed to making sure these beautiful young women have the resources they need to succeed. Mentorship matters so much. Representation matters equally. Not only does it matter for Black women, but we need the same for our Black men. We need the same for all minorities. I challenge you to take a look at your life and reflect on ways you may be able to reach back and help those coming after you. It could really change someone’s life. It could be the difference between getting into graduate school the first time or getting a rejection letter like I did. It is our responsibility to share our experiences and share our knowledge to better the next generation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When I have a girlfriend or my sister come in town, we usually have a few things planned. As soon as she hits the runway, I will already have plans to take her to Pappadeaux! This is often our normal routine when my sister comes to town to visit. We may have to wait, but it is always worth it for a good Friday night dinner. Saturday, brunch it Atlanta is a must! Poor Calvins or Henry’s are my two go-to favorites for a Saturday brunch. Poor Calvin’s has a menu that is sure to be satisfying, as well as one of my favorite sangrias. If we do Henry’s, we will be sure to get a table outside, where we can people-watch in midtown and enjoy some mimosa (and chicken fingers and fries for me!) If the weather is nice, we may walk over to Piedmont park for a day of fun and relaxation. I usually keep some blankets in the back of my car for an unexpected trip to the park. There’s nothing lime enjoying some nice weather, having some girl talk and listening to some music (and of course, more people watching.) Pre-COVID, Saturday night fun would look like a good dinner, and anywhere that could turn into dancing at the end of the night. A few favorites are MJQ and the Sound Table. Sunday is another opportunity for a good brunch, but we love hosting at our house so we may whip up some brunch right here at home. We live 2 blocks away from the West side beltline so I always like to suggest a walk over to explore and get some fresh air. There are several breweries, restaurants and you guessed it….more people wathching! There is an ice cream shop which I will always suggest, and recently there has been a Sunday pop up shop with local artists, jewelry makers and more! We would walk back home, enjoy the rest of our Sunday on the couch catching up before her departure. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to dedicate this shoutout to my amazing family, and specifically my husband, Ben. He has been my biggest fan since we started dating in college, and has continued to support me every step of the way. He has been by my side as my best friend, cheerleader, and partner through 7 years of post-graduate education, and continued as we grew our family over the last few years. He has loved unconditionally, and encouraged me in my highest and lowest times of my life. He is the best father and husband I could ask for, and truly makes me feel like his equal. We have built this success together, and I am forever grateful. I recently received a card from him for our anniversary that read. “Never above you, never below you, always beside you.”- Walter Winchell. Thank you for forever being by my side Ben.
Instagram: @IndiaLinsey / @bendia.blog / @ilc_canvas_creations
Linkedin: India L. Collier