How many roads?
Over the past few issues we have established that there are many different options available to dental graduates. However, what we haven’t looked at are some of the more obscure avenues within the healthcare profession that you may decide to pursue.
Of course, you may want to store these pathways in a little box marked ‘things to do in later years’ and that’s okay. It is, however, important that you know what’s out there, in case you want to take advantage of the many opportunities available in the future.
Most students will be aware that they are required to have professional indemnity cover before they start to practise dentistry. However, what you may not have considered is the option of a career working for one of the indemnity organisations. One of the roles of these organisations is to provide expert guidance and support to members who are in difficulty. To do this they have specialist dento-legal advisers, a group of experienced dentists with legal expertise who have been trained to be there for its members 24-7. It is clear from glancing at the list of advisers working at any of the indemnity organisations in the UK that they are a pretty illustrious bunch.
Clearly experienced dentists, they don’t give the impression that this is a position that any recent graduate can walk into. However, if it is something you think you would like to do, it may be worth looking into this aspect of the profession a little more closely to prepare for a time when you may be ready to be considered. Make contacts within the industry and show interest; a career as a dento-legal adviser can be combined with some time in practice, and can therefore give you the perfect balance between treating patients and helping colleagues.
Glued to re-runs of CSI? Fancy being involved in the world of law and order? While it is unlikely that the life of a forensic odontologist resembles the mystery and intrigue of a popular American drama series, it is a very real career prospect for dentists. Forensic odontology is a branch of forensic medicine and, in the interests of justice, deals with the examination, handling and presentation of dental evidence in court.
Your work could include: the identification of unknown human remains through dental records and assisting at the scene of a mass disaster; age estimations of living and deceased persons including neo-natal remains; analysis of bite marks found on attack victims; the identification of bitemarks in substances such as foodstuffs; the analysis of weapon marks, the presentation of bite and weapon mark evidence in court as an expert witness, and the assistance in building up a picture of lifestyle and diet at an archeological site.
Since 1984 there have been recognised postgraduate courses in forensic odontology and there is now also an MSc qualification in forensic odontology available. The British Association of Forensic Odontology (www.bafo.org.uk) has an up-to-date list of odontologists willing to undertake casework and the police hold a similar list on their national computer.
While the very mention of these words may turn off many graduates, there is a chance that this area of the profession may appeal to some. And why shouldn’t it? It offers the chance to influence government policy, represent your peers and do something about all the things people complain about.
To begin with, your career in politics will largely consist of attending committee meetings, and like any good politician you will have to do your time dealing with smaller issues before getting your teeth into larger areas of policy. However, these committees can be a valuable training ground for bigger and better things to come and are not by any means a poor substitute for the more high-profile positions.
In fact, for some people specialising in a particular area provides the political dimension their career has been missing and they don’t wish to go any further. For those that have got the desire to go to the top there are options like the General Dental Council, the British Dental Association and the NHS. Who knows, you could even progress to chief dental officer – the sky’s the limit.