Dr. Ali is interesting, committed and down-to-earth. Dr. Ali’s first name is Waseema, which means “beautiful”, but she is modest and says that it is the “female version of handsome”. Her story contains some wonderful ironies. Although born in England to Guyanese parents, and then raised in Scarborough, it seems that Dr. Ali was fated to wind up in Stouffville from an early age.
As a child, Waseema knew that she wanted to be a dentist from the age of six. Her family bonded with a family dentist in Scarborough named Dr. Sheldon Lazier. In high school, Waseema volunteered in Dr. Lazier’s office and he later became her mentor.
Waseema attended one of the oldest and much acclaimed dental schools in the United States— the Howard University College of Dentistry. Traditionally, Howard University (HU) was an institution focused on the education of African Americans, and is still largely dominated by blacks, yet Waseema is neither black, nor American.
“At that time (24 years ago) there was no Google, and I partly relied on positive feedback from alumni that I knew. Growing up in Scarborough, I had never had to think of race as a defining trait. While HU was a huge culture shock at first, both my studies and living in D.C. were a wonderful experience.”
Dr. Ali graduated in 1998. She had established herself in Washington D.C. and worked with the team dentist for both the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards and was often called upon to be present at the games in the event of an emergency. “The hockey arena was too cold and I got dirty looks when I’d cheer for the Canadian teams. I eventually realized that I preferred basketball over hockey.” However, Dr. Ali couldn’t break ties with home. By 1999, she was regularly commuting back to Ontario to work part-time for Dr. Lazier.
“As for basketball, I eventually became better acquainted with the team. After I moved back to Canada, the team extended an invitation for me to have dinner with Michael Jordan and a few other famous players at a restaurant downtown when they came to Toronto to play against the Raptors. What an experience!”
By the time Dr. Ali started commuting internationally, Dr. Lazier had moved his practice to Stouffville and opened the patient-focused Stouffville Family Dentistry. He became one of the first “modern” big dentistry offices in Stouffville and established a good practice here.
Things changed for Dr. Ali after September 11, 2001. She lived in the District, not far from the Pentagon. “These were scary times,” she says. Her mail was regularly irradiated, delivered brown and crispy because of the anthrax scare. “It hit close to home. I grew lonely. I was by myself. I no longer felt safe.” Dr. Ali came back to Canada permanently, leaving the 500-mile commute behind. About 7 years ago she became a partner with Stouffville Family Dentistry and assumed full ownership in 2014.
In recent times Dr. Ali has accomplished some major self-growth goals. Many of her patients and some peers had been going on mission trips to the developing world. She felt the draw but had postponed acting upon it until this past summer.
“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m scared of deep nature. Bugs, reptiles, and flying things are not part of my comfort zone.”
With 46 other volunteers, Dr. Ali and one of her daughters (Safiyah) went to the Dominican Republic with giant bags overflowing with dental supplies, to join the Bright Island Outreach (BIO) mission that was headed by two Dominicans. This wasn’t the “March Break” version of coastal Dominican, but rather a six-hour trip beyond Punta Cana to the Samaná Province along the north coast of Dominican. At one-point en route the driver of the bus had to unload all passengers in order to traverse a gap in the road safely. They stayed in a resort which offered thatched huts that had one courtesy wall and night creature-emitting curtains elsewhere.
The temporary clinic was a large, thatched hut with many work stations. Despite working 10-hour days in hot and sweaty weather and lacking some of the conveniences of their dental operatories back home, the volunteers were able to complete nearly 700 dental procedures on 232 patients. Dr. Ali didn’t get beyond her phobias of the wilds but plans to embark on another mission.
In June of 2018, the much-loved Dr. Lazier retired. Dr. Ali has been spending time getting to know and developing new relationships with Dr. Lazier’s patients. “Having been with the office for 19 years, I have seen some of the younger patients through their journeys to adulthood and having families of their own. Similarly, I enjoy hearing about other patients’ adventures as they welcome grandchildren or great grandchildren into their lives. ” stated Dr. Ali. “We are a group of people that really enjoy what we do and hope that our patients enjoy their experience. I try to book a little extra time with patients so that I can get to know them better and hopefully they feel that they are among friends.”
Dr. Ali and the Stouffville Family Dentistry are accepting new patients. Some may not realize that they are in the same building as the IDA in Downtown Stouffville. There is plenty of parking to the rear of the building.