A metamorphosis

There is definitely such a thing as a typical day in so much as I can be sure that it will start early and finish late. I left at 6.30am this morning and, as I live on the Isle of Wight, my day starts each morning with a ferry ride across the Solent, an experience that can vary according to the weather.

My first meeting at 8.30am was the daily discussion with all the staff about the order of the day. This morning, I had one-to-one meetings with three members of staff and an impromptu meeting with a student – they know I will always make time to see them.

Between meetings, I caught up with some emails and, in the afternoon, I observed our clinical examination programme. Tonight, I’m representing the university at a school governors meeting back on the Isle of Wight and I hope to be home by 9.00pm.

Having being the head of School of Professionals Complementary to Dentistry SPCD since it opened, I took on the director’s role in January 2010. The Dental Academy is a brand new, purpose-designed facility to train final-year undergraduate dentists alongside dental care professionals.

It developed out of the work we did to prepare a bid for a dental school in 2007.

We were disappointed when the bid was ultimately unsuccessful but, with the determination of a hugely creative and resourceful team and support from our partners at King’s College London Dental Institute, the Dental Academy was born.

We’re proud that it’s the first of its kind in the country and it’s generated a lot of excitement. One of the first things we did was to invite the local dental community to come in to see the facilities that resulted in significant professional interest. We’ve had significant local media coverage and have already attracted a good supply of patients.

At any one time, we have more than 100 students studying with us, which makes it a lively place to work.

Our courses are designed to lead directly to employment opportunities in a variety of settings, including independent general practice, corporate dental practice, specialist periodontal practice, the NHS and in hospitals and health promotion services.

I have lots of interaction with students. I get to see the students on a regular basis and teach a number of subjects across the programmes. It’s a friendly and open environment and I see students all the time around the building. I’m always bumping into them in the corridor that links the original building to the new extension, nicknamed ‘the mouthwash corridor’ because of its pink glass panels.

It’s a good way of saying ‘hi’ and catching up with them informally. We capture and respond to student feedback at weekly practice team meetings, through the formal teaching evaluation process and through the student/staff committee process and I meet regularly with all of the course representatives.

We receive patient feedback via a survey twice a year and by actively encouraging comments and feedback in a book held at reception, all of which helps us to reflect and improve upon what we do.

The new purpose-built facility has given us the space to realise our approach to training dental and DCP students together in teams – just as they would work together in practice. 
A dental student, acting as the team leader, refers patients to dental hygiene/therapy students within one of the four practices and they all learn from each other.

A practice meeting is held every Friday for students and staff to come together to review their patients and individual cases, etc. Our facility has nearly doubled in size, so we’ve recruited a number of additional clinical supervisors and tutors, dental nursing, administrative and technical staff. We have an excellent team of some 60 staff.

Societal values are very much at the heart of study here. We target the ‘hard to reach’ communities and our community-based activities include taking a dental bus out to schools and even providing treatment for children visiting from Chernobyl.

We teach our students to see their roles as health promoters and to work very much in partnership with the patients who use the services, encouraging them to take responsibility for their oral health.

We want to learn more about the needs of local people.  For example, we’re currently undertaking survey work and initially targeting young males and school-aged children.

My email inbox gets very full, very quickly and I try to keep up with email traffic when I’m on the move. I inevitably start many emails with an apology for the length of time it has taken me to come back with a reply. Amy Fullick is the school administrator and looks after me and the clinical directors. She is very talented and highly organised – she makes my day-to-day working life manageable and she is absolutely invaluable.

Evening meetings and events are a normal part of the role. For example, this week I have evening commitments on four out of five nights, including an overnight trip to the University of Kent where I’m an external examiner.

I think you have to be organised in this kind of job. I like to be methodical and I’m a great list person and have two whiteboards in my office covered with things to do. When I need to order a third, I’ll know I’m in trouble!

To relax, I do two aerobics and dance classes a week as I find it’s a great way of relieving stress. I love reading and I’m known as ‘bookworm’ to my family and friends. However, nothing beats a hot bath, candles and a glass of wine.

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