This month the Peninsula Dental School’s original cohort of students will complete their first year of dental training.
The 62 students began the BSc course in September 2007 and beat more than 100 other applicants to the places on offer. But what is life really like at the UK’s newest dental school? And is a course populated by university
graduates offering something different to the normal dental school experience?
The Peninsula was a collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth and was the first new dental school for 40 years. It was officially opened in March this year by Ben Bradshaw MP, but its creation was announced in January 2006. Since then staff have been busy creating a non-traditional, community-based curriculum under the leadership of Professor Liz Kay who is dean of the school. The first group of students began their training in Plymouth on the University of Plymouth campus while purpose-built facilities are being developed in Devonport, Exeter and Truro.
By the time they reach their third year, these students and the years below them will be training across the South West.
‘There are lots of differences between Peninsula and other dental schools,’ says Professor Kay. ‘Of course I’m not criticising any other school, it is just that we
have had a clean slate to work from here, which is tremendously exciting.
‘For example, we have been able to construct an entirely evidence-based education programme because there is so much more of that kind of information around now. We are also a primary care-based school, which is a significant departure from the norm.
‘Most dental schools are working under a different system, so students are learning on patients who have been referred in by general dental practitioners who are unable to treat them. It makes it very difficult for students to treat such
complex patients and gives them a distorted view of what general dentistry is going to be like.’
Another key difference between Peninsula and other UK dental schools is that they only accept graduates onto the four-year course.
‘Our students are fantastic and so different to school- leavers,’ explains professor Kay. ‘They are enthusiastic, hungry to learn, and bring so much to the table which is invaluable in an enquiry-based learning programme like ours.
The first years have even set up a debating society and one of their topics was the NHS contract. When I was a first-year student I wouldn’t have had a clue about contracts, which shows just how well-read and keen they are.’
She admits that the course is ‘clinically intensive’ and brings with it a lot of exposure to patients. In fact, students begin their clinical training on day one
in a simulated clinical environment and progress onto proper clinics after just six months.
‘We want them to treat real people from the beginning, giving them total holistic care just as if they were in general practice. Then later on in the course they will be exposed to the specialties,’ she explains. ‘This means that when they walk out of those doors they will be very good at – and love and understand – the job that they are going to do instead of being a graduate who finishes dental school wondering what general practice is really like.’
And has looking back on the past year made Professor Kay firm up her plans for the future?
‘My aspiration is that in four to five years, practitioners will be crying out to have a Peninsula graduate work for them – that’s when we know we have cracked it.’