Foreign-trained dentists in limbo as board questions degrees

Some foreign-trained dentists on the cusp of becoming certified to practise in Canada say they've been thrust into limbo — and in many cases, deep into debt — after the profession's Ottawa-based examination board determined their credentials from an Indian university no longer pass muster.

Graduates of Magadh University in India paid thousands to take Canadian equivalency exams

The offices of the National Dental Examination Board of Canada are in a rented suite on the second floor of the British High Commission in Ottawa. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Some foreign-trained dentists on the cusp of becoming certified to practise in Canada say they've been thrust into limbo — and in many cases, deep into debt — after the profession's Ottawa-based examination board determined their credentials from an Indian university no longer pass muster.

In July, the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB)​ contacted applicants who graduated from Magadh University in Bodhgaya, India, to inform them that they could no longer continue taking the certification exams.

We passed all the exams, paid all the fees. This is not fair.- Rahul Monga, Magadh University graduate

"After a thorough review and investigation, the NDEB has determined that it can no longer verify credentials from Magadh University because there is not sufficient reliable information about the authenticity and validity of the documents," the board's Jennifer Sponchia wrote.

Some applicants received the news as they were studying for the exams, while others had already passed them and were waiting to be certified.

'It has been torture'

Magadh University​ graduate Sumit Joseph, 41, arrived in Canada with his wife and daughter in 2015. The NDEB initially accepted his documents and Joseph paid to begin sitting a series of equivalency exams.

One clinical examination alone cost $7,000 dollars, and study guides and equipment cost him thousands more.

Now there's no promise he'll be able to practise in Canada.

"It has been torture, I would say. In one word, it has been torturous," he said.

Sumit Joseph was trained at Magadh University in India, and practised dentistry for 10 years before emigrating to Canada. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Joseph said there's been no communication from the NDEB since July.

"There should be more transparency. I should know what is happening," he said.

In the three years he's spent preparing for the gruelling equivalency exams, Joseph has worked nights in a Walmart warehouse and as an Uber Eats driver.

"I would never tell anyone I'm a dentist. You tell them you're a dentist [and they'll say], "You're overqualified." And you won't get a job," he said.

$50K in the hole

Edmonton dental assistant Amanpreet Panaich, also a graduate of Magadh University, is staring at a $50,000 cavity in her bank account.

"I have put everything into this exam. This is not right," she said.

Attempts by CBC News to reach officials at Magadh Univerity were unsuccessful.

In a statement to CBC, an NDEB spokesperson said the board is "committed to continuing its investigation in the hopes that it will be able to confirm the authenticity of the documents from Magadh University."

The spokesperson said the NDEB is reaching out to the High Commission of India in Ottawa and to dentistry officials in India to try to establish the authenticity of documents from Magadh University.

MP intervenes

It's not clear why the board allowed applicants to proceed so far into the examination process before questioning their credentials.

Rahul Monga said his dental degree from Magadh University was "verified" by the NDEB in 2012.

Over the next six years, the Canadian citizen paid $9,600 in examination fees, only to be told in July his credentials were in doubt.

"We passed all the exams, paid all the fees. This is not fair. It was [the NDEB] that verified the documents," the Edmonton resident said.

In August, Monga's MP, Matt Jeneroux, tried to get answers from the NDEB, but has not received a reply.