Bright, young things

Nurturing the young talent of their students and preparing them for a demanding career is the responsibility of the UK’s 13 dental schools. Each year, around 700 new dentists graduate from them, and the teaching they receive helps ensure that patients continue to get the high quality of care they deserve.

Over the next few months, Dentistry is going to get to know more about the owners of some of the freshest faces taking part in dental education today. We’ll find out what the burning issues are for thecurrent crop of students, what their hopes and fears are for the future and get to the bottom of what life is like at dental school in 2006.

Here we’re kicking things off by getting to know more about the newly elected president of the British Dental Students’ Association (BDSA), Yogesh Wadher. He’s in his fifth year at Barts, London and provides us with an insight into what it is like to be a final-year student, the president of the BDSA and what his hopes for the future are.

So, why did you choose to study dentistry at Barts?

I wanted to be a health professional with the influence of science and medicine, and in a profession that would be constantly changing, hands-on and practical. Dentistry combines all these things and seemed like the perfect choice.

I wanted to study in London as I found the city very exciting. I also wanted to study at a school with small class sizes and with a community feel to it. However, I think the clincher was the open day. I knew I wanted to spend five years working in a very supportive, yet competitive, environment and the open day convinced me that Barts and London would offer me that.

How do you see your career developing?

When I finish studying, I will do vocational training for a year. Then I would like to work in a hospital as a senior house officer (SHO) and maybe go on to specialise in restorative or periodontal dentistry.

I don’t think nine-to-five dentistry is for me and it would be great to go to another country and work out in the community. In the future, I would also like to do some NHS work as I feel that is an important service to provide. However, there’s great scope in dentistry to make a lot of money and people may not be motivated to provide NHS care. Sometimes the amount of money people can make as a dentist disturbs me.

What does the BDSA do?

The BDSA is set up and run by students for students. We voice the worries and concerns of dental students on a national scale to organisations such as the British Dental Association (BDA) and the General Dental Council (GDC). We also organise events such as the BDSA Sports Day and BDSA Conference, which gives students the opportunity to meet other dental students.

What issues are currently preying on the minds of dental students?

There are lots of issues that students are worried about including the increase in student numbers, the lack of dental academics and the new NHS contract. Students are also concerned about the phasing out of electives at certain universities, the increase in student debt and the introduction of a second year of vocational training.

So, is now a period of great change in the industry?

Definitely. Everyone is unsure about what will happen in the future, especially the final-year students. There is great uncertainty about how dentistry is changing and no one seems to have a definitive answer. You can talk to someone and think that you understand what is happening and then, maybe a month down the line, it has all changed again.

How would someone go about getting involved in the BDSA?

Every university has two BDSA reps, just ask one of them what it is like, and if it is something you want to get into put yourself forward for the position. Hopefully you will then be elected via your dental student society elections.

You have to attend meetings twice a year at the BDA headquarters in London where we discuss topical issues regarding dentistry and being a student. Members of the BDSA executive committee are elected at the AGM held at the BDSA Conference in February every year.

Why did you want to be part of the BDSA?

Through my time on the committee I realised that there is more to dentistry than just my marks and what goes on at the London dental school. I thought the problems we had in our school were exclusively ours. Then I realised that everyone has the same problems too. I liked meeting people around the country and I thought that maybe I could try and change things.

Do you find it difficult juggling the demands of your final year with that of the BDSA presidency?

My presidency will run until February of my final year, so it will be busy. When you are in the fourth and fifth year it is difficult to try and juggle it all but it depends on your motivation. The people that get involved with the BDSA are usually motivated to make some kind of change. They don’t have to get involved but they choose to and that’s what makes it such a good organisation.

How do you feel about your finals?

At the London schools there is a lot of pressure on you to fulfil your requirements. People feel a lot of frustration about not being able to take their time over certain things because they are constantly being pushed to do certain quotas in order to be signed up to do final exams.

I think it’s a double edged sword and the method has good and bad points to it. I see university as a time when I want to learn and take my time, but in reality when you get out there you are not going to have that luxury and if you don’t push yourself you are going to get a big shock. So, maybe it is the right way to do things.

Finals are very daunting, but the way that my dental school has set it up is quite nice because we have time between our written and practical exams. We sit our final written papers in the November of our final year and then we have our case presentations in June, so it gives you plenty of time in between.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced on your course?

My biggest challenge was getting through the first year and setting myself up for a five-year degree. It is tough meeting new people, being thrown into the university study routine and being away from home all at the same time.

And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given as a student?

To enjoy student life as much as you can because they are some of the best times of your life and you’ll never have those days again when you eventually start work. Another good piece of advice is to always make sure you’re up to date on your prosthetic work.

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