Our Journey to Canada
Meet Dr. Elena Kalmantis, a proud Greek-Canadian. Elena has an Honours Degree in Science with a major in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Windsor, and graduated in 2012 from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. Elena is passionate about her family and her Greek heritage, dentistry, giving back to her community, interior design, and event planning. Recently, she started a dental blog @drkalmantis where she shares dental information and oral health tips. While reflecting on her family's immigration story this is what she had to say:
“I was inspired to pursue a career in dentistry because of my grandfather. He was an amazing dentist and I always admired his dedication, determination, and perseverance. My grandfather graduated from the University of Athens in 1951 and practiced dentistry in Greece for a few years. Hoping for more opportunities for himself and his future family, he and my grandmother made the brave decision to immigrate to Canada. They came to Montreal with no family or friends, and with an education that was not recognized. Looking back at his journey, I cannot imagine what it would have been like immigrating to a new country, with nothing, and starting all over. Shortly after coming to Canada, my grandfather applied to McGill University’s School of Dentistry and was accepted! Going through dental school, for a second time, was different. He was faced with balancing his academics while also financially supporting his family by working odd jobs, such as washing dishes and selling encyclopedias door to door. I think back to my experience in dental school, where I had no time or energy for a job while also going to school and wonder how he was able to balance it all. His perseverance and the sacrifices he made for his family, is something that I admire immensely.
Following his degree, he opened a practice in Montreal. After 20 years at this location, he decided to move his family to Toronto. He built a new practice, starting once again from scratch, this time located on “The Danforth.” Within a few years, his practice in the heart of Toronto's Greektown was thriving, and he was very well respected by his patients. He was not only a skilled dentist, but a wonderfully sweet and gentle person. I may be a little bit biased because he was my grandfather, or as we affectionately called him, "Papou", but he really was the best! To this day, I love hearing the great stories his former patients share about Dr. Karayannides.
Sadly, my grandfather passed away when I was in my 3rd year of dental school. On my graduation day, my grandmother gave me his Ontario Dental Association 50-year gold pin. I cannot tell you how special it was being presented my Doctor of Dental Surgery degree while wearing his pin. I felt him there with me - almost like he was passing on his legacy. I know that I have some very big shoes to fill and am nowhere near the amazing person he was!
When I feel like life or work is hard, or that things are just getting in the way of my long-term goals, I think back to his story. MANY people share a similar story of coming to a new country and enduring various obstacles. Stories like my grandfather’s make me incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that I had and still do have. I worked extremely hard to accomplish my goals and get my dental education, but I would be lying if I said I had a whole bunch of crazy obstacles in my way. I have so much respect for people who work hard, overcome obstacles, and follow their dreams! One of the things that I have learned from my grandfather, is that if you want something badly enough you need to push through, persevere, and give it 110%! In the end, those challenges make us stronger!”