Bristol’s Mr President tells all

It’s all change at Bristol Dental School, with alterations to the curriculum in place and plans for expansion on the horizon. So far, these have resulted in an increase in the number of students being accepted onto its Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) course, rising from 55 to 88.

Until 2008, a period of redevelopment is going on at the Bristol Dental Hospital site. The aim of this is to increase dental chair numbers, extend the Clinical Skills Laboratory and improve the teaching facilities for the benefit of its current crop of students.

Other plans in development include the opening of two new teaching outreach centres. These are being set up to help increase the amount of exposure that undergraduates get to patients during their time at dental school.

The impetus for these changes can probably be traced back to 1999, when an unfavourable government review of the dental school’s teaching programme saw the institution plunge straight to the bottom of the dental school league tables.

Since then Bristol’s teaching staff have been working hard to rebuild its reputation and their efforts certainly seem to be paying off. For instance, in 2001 the school won a five-star rating for the research work it was doing from the Research Assessment Exercise.

In light of these changes, Starting Out decided to find out more by talking to Adam Radford, a fourth year undergraduate and Bristol’s student president. We asked him about the school’s expansion plans and what he thinks the future holds for him.

Why did you stand for student president?

At the time there were a lot of reasons. With all of the changes going on at Bristol there were a lot of things that I wanted to make sure the students had a say in, for example the building of the new common room, bar and the expansion of the clinics.

I am also quite a sociable person and becoming student president is a really good way to meet people from the years above and below and the staff as well.

How are all these changes making students feel?

I think for my year it is an exciting time as we can see that we will reap all of the benefits of the changes to the site. The increase in student numbers is a positive step forward as obviously the country needs more dentists. However, it does worry us that the student intake each year may get too big for the facilities that we currently have, so I feel it’s important for the university to control the numbers.

Bristol dental school has a very friendly atmosphere, do you think it will stay that way?

For the four years that I have been here it has always been a very friendly and informal school. Because of its size you are able to create a really good atmosphere and have lots of contact with the other years. I think with the increase in numbers the year groups may become more divided but I still think the school will retain the nice feel it has.

What made you choose Bristol dental school?

Some of my family live in Bristol so I have been coming to Bristol since I was young. I always liked the city and made the decision a long time ago that this is where I wanted to go to university. I am a bit of a country boy so it was very important to me that I studied in a city that I liked.

What made you decide to study dentistry?

I like working with my hands and I also liked science, so I put them together and dentistry seemed like a good choice. From there I did some work experience and really enjoyed it. As a result, I was pretty sure I had made the right decision.

Coming home from work every day knowing that I had helped someone also appealed to me, and I liked the fact that it is a safe job – people will always need dentists and therefore I won’t have to worry too much about supporting a family in the future.

What aspect of dentistry do you enjoy the most?

Oral surgery is my favourite. It is very all or nothing and focused – there is a problem and you have to deal with it. I also enjoy endodontics because I think it is clever.

What do you see yourself doing when you qualify?

I would like to do GPT for two years and then maybe come back to Bristol and do a Senior House Officer (SHO) post. I think I would like to do hospital work in the future and follow the oral surgery. I also want to do my MFDS, but beyond that I am not sure.

Is there anything that worries you about the future?

The new contract seems like it is shifting people more towards private practice. I think in my lifetime the UK will become like America and fully private. I think that this would be a shame because the most vulnerable people may not be able to get access to the best treatment.

How would you sum up your time at Bristol?

It has been the best time of my life. The subject is really interesting and I enjoy it a lot more now I am on clinics. The other students and the teachers are really great too. They say that Bristol has the highest retention rate of its graduates and I can see why – it really is a lovely place to study and live.

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