Chatting with the chairman: Eddie Scher
Diana Spencer talks to Eddie Scher about dentistry being in his blood, becoming vaccinators and the future of the NHS.
Diana Spencer (DS): Why did you choose dentistry?
Eddie Scher (ES): That is a relatively easy question to answer! My grandfather was professor, dean and founder of Cork Dental Hospital. He had four sons – all dentists, two with medical degrees as well.
My father became professor and dean of Cork Dental Hospital. So, it wasn’t that there was no choice. I felt it in my blood that this was what I wanted to do… genetically passed down so to speak!
Some of my earliest memories are of playing in my dad’s laboratory in the basement. I actually managed to make my first set of dentures at the age of 10!
DS: What excites you most about the business/practice of dentistry?
ES: I think that it’s the people I treat; we need to like people to practice dentistry. I gain the greatest enjoyment from rehabilitating people who have lost their dental function.
Thinking further about it, the thing that excites me most in dentistry would be the second consultation. When I have all the information in front of me, I understand the patient’s needs and desires. Then I work with that patient to create the best possible plan taking into account all issues. For instance, the patient may have medical issues that preclude a requested treatment plan.
I love doing the surgery and really enjoy the end results, but really the second consultation is my thing!
DS: Tell us about your culture fix… How do you unwind?
ES: My favourite TV programme is The West Wing and I loved Line of Duty – especially: ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey!’
The academic side of my life (ie, teaching and travelling to teach) is like a hobby for me. I do read a lot, but it has to be something that takes me out of my own world, like John Grisham or Robert Harris. Also, I love listening to audiobooks, especially when I’m driving.
I play golf (badly), tennis and enjoy skiing. I love the walk in the park; it is great to walk the dog. I have four wonderful grandchildren, all under five, who keep Belinda my wife and I very busy!
DS: What advice would you offer an upcoming dental student?
ES: The best thing to do is to go for varied house jobs and work in a practice. Then, before settling down, consider doing a specialty. Don’t leave it too late when family commitments might spread you too thin.
DS: Why should dental students join Alpha Omega?
ES: Basically, we raise money for charity by selling a high standard of education. The opportunities for networking, meeting more senior colleagues, asking advice and making connections are invaluable. Especially for those just starting out on their careers.
We value our relationship with Health Education England and all the dentists coming from there at the start of their careers.
DS: How do you see dentistry in five or 10 years?
ES: The last lecture that was held on 25 May by Alpha Omega really addressed how I feel we are going to move in dentistry – paperless and totally digital. My practice is already like this. Sadly, I believe that the corporate bodies will take over much of the field, so there will be fewer individual practices.
I would like to see implants allowed on the NHS. When I was president and a member of the Association of Dental Implantology (ADI), we fought hard to convince the government that for each edentulous patient we should give two implants under the NHS to stabilise the lower denture. This should be the right of every edentulous patient in the country.
It’s very sad that the NHS won’t even consider it, even though the long-term health issues for those living on a poor diet will cost the NHS far more in the long run.
DS: What’s been your greatest challenge to date?
ES: I’ve asked my wife Belinda permission to say this, but really, it was the personal grief at the death of my first wife 24 years ago. However, my boys and I are massively fortunate and blessed to know Belinda, who has looked after us all for the last 20 years.
On a topical note, becoming involved in the vaccination programme has been a real challenge. We had an opportunity to give something back and many of my colleagues have volunteered.
It is my belief that dentists should be involved in giving all kinds of vaccinations. We are in an ideal position to do this, as we see more of the population per year than anyone else.
I believe that one day we should have a portal on our systems via the NHS to be able to vaccinate (eg, flu jabs) when patients come to see us. And dentists would be paid for this.
On another note, I don’t see NHS dentistry lasting long term, maybe just for children and the elderly.
DS: What’s been the worst/most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
ES: Back when I was first a principal, a young lady I was treating under sedation asked: ‘Why can’t I have the handsome dentist next door instead of this old fogey!’ Oh dear!
DS: Who was your mentor?
ES: It must be my dad Leslie Scher, professor of prosthetics at Cork Dental Hospital. The way he treated patients was an art form. He taught me so many things, but most importantly respect for the patient as a whole being not just a dental problem.
The reason I went into implants was when I was student in 1971 and standing and watching my father treat an elderly edentulous lady. He said: ‘If only’. In other words, if only she had two canine roots that he could root treat and put precision attachments on to stabilise her lower denture and thus change her life. The first time I heard the sentence ‘this patient lives on mashed potatoes and gravy’ was from him in Cork.
When Brånemark came along, in 1986, I was totally enthralled about this modality of treatment and travelled the world attending hands-on courses and endless conferences to learn about it.
My father, who died in 1990, was very pleased and proud about this. Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to see me become a professor, but he saw me just starting to teach. And in 1987, I was a founder member of the ADI and went on to be its chair, then president in 1991 and then became an honorary life member in 2013.
DS: What’s your main piece of advice for someone setting up their own surgery?
ES: It goes without saying – get a good team around you and purchase the best equipment you can. Look to the future and be prepared for the changes that will be and are to come, especially in the digital area.
One other piece of advice would be to buy the property you are working in if possible.
DS: Any regrets?
ES: No regrets… the four-month lockdown taught me that I love my hobby, which is dentistry, and that I have no intention of giving it up!
Professor Scher will be hosting a webinar titled ‘Thinking it through: the wonderful art of treatment planning’ on 22 June at 7.30pm.
For further information, visit alphaomegauk.co.uk/our-events.