We Are Ambitious: Rania Ataia
November 15, 2016

Rania Ataia         

Dynamic Dentist                   

The first thing non-Muslims might notice about Rania Ataia is her hijab — the head scarf traditionally worn by women of Muslim faith. Hijabs, often made of lovely colours and prints, aim to cover a woman’s hair for modesty for religious and cultural reasons; in Arabic, hijab means “cover.”

Rania says the hijab is “a part of my identity.”

She’s of Muslim faith, obviously, and of Syrian ethnicity, but born and raised in the cosmopolitan city of Abu Dhabi (UAE). In 2010, Rania, a dentist by profession, moved to Canada, sponsored by her new husband, Tammam Kbeili, who came to Canada as an international student and is now a leader on Vancouver’s tech scene as founder of CodeCore. They met while he was visiting Abu Dhabi. “His roommate [at Dalhousie University] in Halifax was the fiancé of one of my friends,” she says.

After they got married, Rania was excited to come to Canada, and re-establish herself as a dentist here. But she was aware that it was a challenge for internationally trained professionals like herself to start practising in licensed professions in Canada.

“I knew that it would be hard,” she says. “After arriving in Canada, it took me from June 2010 to March 2013 to relicense as a dentist.” 

Although she had studied dentistry in English, and passed the Canadian dental equivalency exam without having to go back to university, the Canadian system limits the number of internationally trained dentists accepted per year. “There might be hundreds of foreign dentists, but only a few get [their Canadian credentials],” she says.

Today, Rania is pleased with what she’s achieved working for two dental clinics, one in the Guildford area of Surrey, one in Vancouver. “I work two-and-a-half days in Surrey and two-and-a-half days in Vancouver.”

She also feels fortunate that the dental practice she works for in Surrey lets her support the recent community of Syrian refugees with access to dentistry services.

“People are very nice here,” she says. “Surrey is very multicultural and my experiences have been good so far.”

One day, Rania hopes to perhaps open her own practice, but with two young daughters at home, aged two and four, she is going to hold onto that ambition until they are in school full time.

“My husband already has his own business and is working long hours. So I’m going to wait a little bit for the kids to grow up more; I need him to help me more with the kids,” she says with a laugh.

Rania is happy with her life as a busy Canadian working mother today. As she drives between her clinics, you might find her singing along to the gravelly vocals of her favourite singer, Vancouver native Bryan Adams, and when finished with a long day of work, she will come home and play with her beautiful daughters.

Rania’s life as an ambitious and caring professional, wife and mom reads like the ultimate Canadian success story — hijab or no hijab.

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